European Court of Justice determines Uber will be regulated as transportation service

Uber customer setting up pickup location

The case follows a complaint from a professional taxi drivers' association in Barcelona that Uber's activities in Spain amounted to misleading practices and unfair competition from Uber's use of non-professional drivers - a service Uber calls UberPOP and which has since been suspended in Spain and other countries.

The company has rejected that argument, saying it will harm innovation.

The ruling comes one month after tax drivers in Spain held the latest in a series of strikes and large protests against Uber and Cabify, a rival service.

Uber has said such a ruling would not change the way it functions in most European Union countries because it already operates under transportation law there.

Those authorities have sought to hold Uber to often-strict rules and licensing requirements that apply to taxi and traditional car-hire services.

Early a year ago it made a decision to only operate a limited a version of its UberX service in Spain which uses licensed, professional drivers instead of the amateurs who had previously worked via the UberPop application.

The company has for example paused its services in Finland and Norway so that it can re-launch under new transport regulations.

Uber argued in its defence that it is not just a ride-providing service instead it has a technology platform via which passengers are connected to independent drivers.

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Taxi drivers honked their horns in central Barcelona to celebrate the victory.

SBC Abogados said in a statement that the ruling had "great judicial significance" and that it could be "extrapolated to other businesses that keep trying to avoid legal responsibilities in the services that they provide".

However, the European Court of Justice believes otherwise. It said the ruling "confirms that Uber does not simply exist "on the cloud" but is well established with its wheels firmly on the road".

Transport services, on the other hand, are regulated at national and local level and there is no prior European Union oversight of new rules.

"After today's judgmentb innovators will increasingly be subject to divergent national and sectoral rules", said Jakob Kucharczyk, of the Computer & Communications Industry Association, which speaks for companies like Uber, Amazon.com Inc., Google and Facebook Inc.

Uber's expected to go before the parliamentarians again after the New Year with "specific details" on how driver hour limits will be put into place, Reuters reported.

The EU ruling is separate from a string of ongoing legal challenges Uber has faced around Europe and the world, including in Britain.

In the U.S., Uber and competitors such as Lyft are governed by a patchwork of state and city regulations. More than 40 states have enacted statewide ride-hailing regulations.

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