By David Meyer
April 10, 2018

Europe’s top court has ruled against Uber in the ride-hailing company’s battle against French regulators. The ruling means a French court was within its rights to fine Uber a couple years back for running an illegal transport service.

It’s the second recent anti-Uber ruling from the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), which said in December—in a case involving Spain this time—that Uber is a transportation company. Uber has consistently argued that it is a technology platform, a status that would allow it to bypass regulations imposed on its rivals in the traditional taxi business.

Back in 2016, a French court hit Uber with a $900,000 fine for running an illegal and unsafe transport service with drivers that were not properly licensed. The fine specifically related to the UberPop service, which uses regular people as drivers, rather than professionals.

The French court said Uber had broken the 2014 “Thevenoud law,” which says chauffeured services run through an online portal have to return to a base between fares, and that they can’t use apps to find customers.

The case made its way up to the CJEU, where Uber pushed for the French judgement to be struck down on a technicality—when EU countries draft laws that affect digital services, they are supposed to first notify the European Commission, and this did not happen with the Thevenoud law.

One of the CJEU chief legal advisers subsequently urged the judges to rule against Uber. The court does not always follow the advice of its advocates-general, but it usually does, and that’s what happened on Tuesday.

Again, this was a matter of Uber’s status as a transportation company, rather than an “information society service,” coming back to bite it.

“Member States may prohibit and punish the illegal exercise of a transport activity such as UberPop without having to notify the Commission in advance of the draft legislation laying down criminal penalties for the exercise of such an activity,” the CJEU said.

Uber issued a statement in which it noted that the ruling “related to peer-to-peer services which we stopped in 2015.”

“As our new CEO [Dara Khosrowshahi] has said, it is appropriate to regulate services such as Uber and so we will continue the dialogue with cities across Europe,” the company said.

This article was updated to include Uber’s statement.

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