Does Uber provide transport services or is it a digital service platform linking customers to drivers?

A recently published opinion of the Advocate General of the European Court of Justice in the case of Professional Taxi Drivers Association v Uber is likely to have an impact on the provision of digital services.

The case, yet to be decided by the Court, is the first at European level concerning the legal definition of the delivery of services through electronic platforms.

The case involves complex arguments in deciding whether Uber provides transport services or digital services as a platform linking customers to drivers, in other words, an information society service. The Courts decision will determine which set of regulations apply, either local taxi rules or EU directives on information society services and electronic commerce.

This is the crucial statement by the Advocate General who states, “A service that connects by means of mobile telephone software, potential customers with drivers offering individual urban transport on demand, where the provider of the service exerts control over the key conditions governing the supply of transport made within that context, in particular, the price, does not constitute an information society service”.

The outcome of the case will have impact on many giant electronic platforms providing similar services, for example, Airbnb and the food delivery services of such companies as Deliveroo. The business model and profitability of many large companies depends on the result.

It will likely decide whether electronic platforms offering legal services are themselves digital services and so, are not bound by national regulations. It could open up the market to unregulated legal advice.  This cannot be in the interests of clients.

 

May 2017

 

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