Digital technology is changing the way we move around. Apps make it easy for us to find ways to get around by public or private transport, for example by connecting us to a driver at a push of a button. With these digital and business innovations a debate has emerged on what rules apply—and which don’t. This debate has made it up to the European Court of Justice in a case involving Uber.
Is Uber an information society service, a transport service or both? What are the concrete implications of one qualification or the other? The answer to these questions could have implications that extend far beyond Uber’s activities.
On the 23rd of March, CCIA held an expert seminar to discuss the questions before the Court of Justice (C-434/15), and their implications for the regulation of mobility apps, collaborative economy services and ultimately the Digital Single Market.
The seminar was an opportunity for Benoit Lebret, Partner at Gide Loyrette Nouel (and advising Uber on EU regulatory matters) to provide details on the Spanish proceedings that gave rise to the preliminary questions, and to explain that Uber clearly meets the criteria to qualify as an information society service, as an online service connecting riders and drivers.
The lawyers amongst you will want to know that this means providing the service (1) “at a distance”; (2) “by electronic means”; (3) “at the individual request of a recipient of services”; and (4) “for remuneration”. In Uber’s case there is a clear distinction between the online service (the app) and the underlying transport service it facilitates (the car).
Damien Geradin, Prof. of Competition Law and Economics at Tilburg University, presented his article entitled “For a facts-based analysis of Uber’s activities in the EU: Addressing some misconceptions”. As with other online services, Uber connects drivers and riders, and should not be confused with the transport service it facilitates.
He went on, explaining that Uber did not need to be considered as a transport service for Member States to regulate it, as long as regulation is justified and proportionate and effectively meant to protect public interest. This was an opportunity for him to lay out principles that should guide regulators to design regulations effectively serving public interest purposes, and that are detailed in his article.