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CJEU begins hearing on French legislation and Uber

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has begun a hearing into French legislation and whether it can be used to prevent Uber France from offering services in the country.26 Apr 2017

French legislation makes it a criminal offence to organise a system for introducing customers to persons carrying passengers by road for money, using vehicles with fewer than ten seats. The French authorities have brought criminal proceedings against Uber France for alleged infringement of this provision.

However, under EU legislation a member state must notify the European Commission of any draft law or draft regulation laying down technical regulations relating to information society products or services, before that law or regulation is finally adopted. The French authorities have not done this and Uber argues that the French legislation cannot therefore be enforced against it.

Lille's Tribunal of Grande Instance has asked the CJEU, Europe's highest court, to rule on whether the legislation constitutes a new technical regulation that should have been notified to the Commission. If so, it asked, can Uber avoid criminal liability on the grounds that the legislation is unenforceable?

Uber has also told the CJEU that it is a digital platform, not a transport company, Fortune reported.

Uber's lawyer compared the service to online hotel booking platforms, saying they did not provide the room themselves, Fortune said.

Paris-based e-commerce expert Annabelle Richard of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com said: "If the CJEU states that Uber is a service carrying passengers by road for money, it will confirm the French government's position which considers that Uber's drivers should be licensed in the same way as traditional taxi drivers. In line with this position, in June 2016, French judges fined Uber for organising an illegal system connecting customers with non-professional drivers."

"On the contrary, if the CJEU states that the provisions should have been notified to the European Commission and are consequently unenforceable, it would compromise the French government position. However, it would not mean that Uber's compliance with French law could be not challenged on other grounds. The Paris Court of Appeal has already fined Uberpop for deceptive business practices because it presented itself as an urban ridesharing service," Richard said.

"If the CJEU declares Uber to be an internet platform rather than a service carrying passengers by road for money, that will negatively impact the position of the French government and traditional taxis. However, it is unlikely to be the end of the war as many arguments will remain against Uber and their operating model," she said.