They need the authorisations stipulated by State legislations

FACUA welcomes the conclusions of the EU Advocate General about Uber: drivers must have a licence to operate

Maciej Szpunar states, in his legal opinion, that the company is a transport firm and therefore does not benefit from the principle of the freedom to provide services as 'information society services'.

FACUA welcomes the conclusions of the EU Advocate General about Uber: drivers must have a licence to operate

FACUA-Consumers in Action welcomes the conclusions of the European Union Advocate General Maciej Szpunar about the Uber platform made public this Thursday. Szpunar states that the company is a transport firm, and therefore, must have the authorisations and licences required by State legislations to operate.

Szpunar's legal opinion, requested for a preliminary ruling of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) that confronts the taxi professional association Asociación Profesional Elite Taxi versus Uber, is not binding. Judges of CJEU have to rule now about the case.

Uber, says Szpunar, "cannot be regarded as a mere intermediary between drivers and passengers". Their service cannot be defined as an information society service: "Instead, the service amounts to the organisation and management of a comprehensive system for on-demand urban transport".

FACUA agrees with the interpretation of the EU Advocate General and says that, since the platform is who offers, manages and charges the service to consumers, it's Uber who has to get the corresponding licences and offer the guarantees needed for a fair service provision. Also, it's responsible of not breaching consumer rights and answer to them if there is any irregularity whatsoever.

In 2014, the professional association Elite Taxi, that represents taxi drivers from Barcelona, sued Uber for unfair competition before the Commercial Court Number 3 of Barcelona, Spain. They argued that Uber is not entitled to offer the UberPop service in the city. This association of taxi drivers denounced that neither the company nor the car drivers providing the service have the authorisations and licences required under the city of Barcelona's regulations on taxi services.

The court decided then to refer a number of questions to the CJEU concerning the classification of Uber's activity, since the company says they are not a transport company, but offer a service (intermediation through web platforms or mobile apps) of the information society and therefore do not require the corresponding transport licences.

Szpunar believes that Uber offers a composite service, since part of it is provided by electronic means, while the other part is not. Nevertheless, these two parts of the service are not economically independent, and the provider "exercises decisive influence over the conditions under which" the non-electronic part is provided, "so that the two services form an inseparable whole". "On the contrary, that activity exists solely because of the platform, without which it would have no sense", says the Advocate General.

Uber, Szpunar points out, "controls the economically important aspects of the urban transport service offered through its platform", since it imposes the previous requirements which drivers must fulfil in order to pursue the activity, financially rewards drivers who accumulate a large number of trips and informs them of where and when they can rely on there being a high volume of trips or advantageous fares, controls the quality of drivers' work, which may even result in the exclusion of drivers from the platform and determines the price of the service.