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.

Last week, Uber announced it would suspend its licensed service in Greece after the approval of local legislation which imposes stricter regulation on the sector.
Uber, which operates a licensed service in the Greek capital, has faced opposition from local taxi drivers who accuse it of taking their business.
The new regulations require each trip to start and end in the fleet partner’s designated headquarters or parking area, something Uber does not do. A digital registry of all ride-sharing platforms and their passengers will also be created.

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.

Also, Uber has narrowly avoided another shutdown. Over the April 7-8 weekend, a court in Cairo, Egypt ruled that a previous decision to suspend Uber and other ridesharing companies’ licenses would not be upheld, allowing both the San Francisco-based transportation giant, as well as Dubai-based competitor Careem, to continue their operations for the time being. Last year, a total of 42 Egyptian taxi drivers filed a lawsuit against both Uber and Careem, claiming that the companies were using private cars as taxis, and furthermore, that Uber had falsely registered itself as a call center.