(CN) – In another blow to Uber’s efforts to establish itself in Europe, the European Court of Justice ruled Tuesday that member states can punish the ride-hail giant with criminal sanctions without notifying the European Commission first.
French authorities brought criminal proceedings against Uber France over the use of its UberPop service to link passengers with nonprofessional drivers in vehicles with less than 10 seats, a violation of French law.
Uber sought to fight the criminal case by arguing EU law requires member states to notify the commission before enacting laws that seek to regulate what in Europe is known as an “information society service” – fee-based services that use technology to link customers with businesses, like the Uber app.
The regional court in Lille, France, hearing the case asked the European Court of Justice to clarify the requirement and rule on whether French authorities had an obligation to notify the commission before criminalizing Uber’s business model.
On Monday, the EU high court noted it already ruled in 2017’s landmark case involving Uber in Spain that Uber is a transportation service and not, as Uber also argues here, an e-commerce service. The court said the UberPop service at issue in France appears to be the same type of product it ruled on in Spain, something the Lille court must verify for itself.
If so, Uber France’s product falls outside the EU requirements on information society services and France had no obligation to notify the commission of its plan to criminalize UberPop, the court said.
Uber France suspended the UberPop service in 2015 after more than 200 of its drivers were fined and company executives were convicted of deceptive commercial practices.
Germany has also banned UberPop. A Roman court lifted a ban on Uber in Italy this past year, despite vocal pushback from traditional cabbies there.