The European Union's Court of Justice ruled today that Uber is a transport company - not a digital company, as the company had argued. This means it will have to comply with EU and national legislation in force for the transport sector.
Portugal’s government, still dithering over what applicable legislation will placate the transport union ANTRAL, will allow Uber to operate its desirable service to the benefit of Portugal’s users and now has a definition of the service category to work with.
Portugal’s long-awaited regulations to cover Uber and other ‘gig economy’ transport service providers do not have to treat the company as a taxi service , but must bear in mind the European ruling that it is a transport company, not just an web-based intermediary.
Regulatory proposals have been kicking around the government since March this year with govenrment keen for the problem to go away, An added complication was Portugal’s appeal court declaring Uber illegal.
Uber said it was just an intermediary in the Portuguese market with no existing rules in Portugal prohibiting its operation.
This argument has now been kicked out by the European Court of Justice, to the delight of ANTRAL whose position has been made ludicrous by its lawyers pursuing an action against Uber Inc in the US, instead of Uber in the Netherlands which actually operates in Portugal.
Uber said today that the Court of Justice ruling will not change the situation in most European Union countries where Uber already operates.
Since March this year, the government's proposal for the new wave of transport services, which includes Uber and Cabify, has been discussed and approved by the Committee on Economy, Innovation and Public Works. The document was not voted on in Parliament because it did not receive agreement from other parties, which have complicated matters by submiting their own proposals.
The government's proposed regulations require Uber and Cabify drivers to have held a driver's license for at least three years and for drivers to have attended a 50-hour training course, unless they already have a taxi driver licence. Cars must be under seven years old and have liability and personal accident insurance.
The European Court has stated that it is for each Member State to define its own regulations, while it offered some guidelines, stating that new legislation should also govern the taxi industry as Uber is a transport provider in the same sector as taxis.
The Assistant Secretary of State for the Environment, José Gomes Mendes, says that "the communiqué of the European Court begins by saying that the Uber service is a transport service and that the Member States may lay down their own conditions. At no point did it say that Uber's service is equal to or comparable to that of taxis."
Mendes also stated that "the decision released by the Court of Justice of the European Union confirms the interpretation of the Portuguese government and more that legitimises the legislative process for the regulation of transport.”
The Secretary of State added that the proposed regulations presented by the Government meet the decision of the European Court, claiming that "This is precisely what we have done by proposing a law that integrates electronic platforms into the range of passenger transport services which regulated their activity."
Perhaps now, the Portuguese legislation can be passed and the transport sector can concentrate on serving its customers.