France is entitled to bring criminal proceedings against local managers of ride-hailing app Uber for running an illegal taxi service, the EU’ Court of Justice ruled on Tuesday.
“Member states may prohibit and punish, as a matter of criminal law, the illegal exercise of transport activities in the context of the UberPOP service, without notifying the Commission in advance of the draft legislation,” the Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) said in a statement.
The case, which deals the Silicon Valley start-up another legal setback, concerned Uber’s use of unlicensed drivers as part of its UberPOP service in France, which has since been suspended.
The French company Uber France provides, by means of a smartphone application, a service called UberPop, through which it puts non-professional drivers using their own vehicle in contact with persons who wish to make urban journeys. In the context of the service provided by means of that application, Uber France fixes the rates, collects the fare for each journey from the customer (before paying part of it to the non-professional driver of the vehicle) and prepares the invoices.
The tribunal de grande instance de Lille (Regional Court, Lille, France), before which the matter was brought, has asked the Court of Justice whether the French authorities were required to notify the Commission of the draft legislation in advance.
By today’s judgment, the Court rules that 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 Court points out, first of all, that it ruled on 20 December 2017 in the Uber Spain case that the UberPop service offered in Spain came within the field of transport and did not constitute an information society service within the meaning of the directive. In the Court’s view, the UberPop service offered in France is essentially identical to the service provided in Spain, that being a matter for the tribunal de grande instance de Lille to verify.
The company launched in Europe in 2011, angering some local authorities and taxi drivers who said it did not abide by the same rules on insurance, licensing and safety.