The electronic platform Uber provides, by means of a smartphone application, a paid service
consisting of connecting non-professional drivers using their own vehicle with persons who wish to
make urban journeys.
In 2014, a professional taxi drivers’ association in Barcelona (Spain) brought an action before the
Juzgado de lo Mercantil No 3 de Barcelona (Commercial Court No 3, Barcelona, Spain) seeking a
declaration from that court that the activities of Uber Systems Spain, a company related to Uber
Technologies (together ‘Uber’), amount to misleading practices and acts of unfair competition.
Indeed, neither Uber Systems Spain, nor the non-professional drivers of the vehicles concerned,
have the licences and authorisations required under the Regulation on taxi services in the
metropolitan area of Barcelona. In order to determine whether the practices of Uber can be
classified as unfair practices that infringe the Spanish rules on competition, the Juzgado de lo
Mercantil No 3 de Barcelona considers it necessary to ascertain whether or not Uber requires prior
To that end, the court considers that it should be determined whether
the services provided by Uber are to be regarded as transport services, information society
services or a combination of both. Indeed, whether or not prior administrative authorisation may be
required depends on the classification adopted. In particular, if the service at issue were covered
by the directive on services in the internal market1 or the directive on electronic commerce2, Uber’spractices could not be regarded as unfair practices.
In today’s judgment, the Court declares that an intermediation service such as that at issue
in the main proceedings, the purpose of which is to connect, by means of a smartphone
application and for remuneration, non-professional drivers using their own vehicle with
persons who wish to make urban journeys, must be regarded as being inherently linked to a
transport service and, accordingly, must be classified as ‘a service in the field of transport’
within the meaning of EU law. Consequently, such a service must be excluded from the
scope of the freedom to provide services in general as well as the directive on services in
the internal market and the directive on electronic commerce.
It follows that, as EU law currently stands, it is for the Member States to regulate the
conditions under which such services are to be provided in conformity with the general
rules of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU.
The Court takes the view, first of all, that the service provided by Uber is more than an
intermediation service consisting of connecting, by means of a smartphone application, a nonprofessional
driver using his or her own vehicle with a person who wishes to make an urban
journey. Indeed, in this situation, the provider of that intermediation service simultaneously offers
urban transport services, which it renders accessible, in particular, through software tools and
whose general operation it organises for the benefit of persons who wish to accept that offer in
order to make an urban journey. The Court notes in that regard that the application provided by
Uber is indispensable for both the drivers and the persons who wish to make an urban journey. It
also points out that Uber exercises decisive influence over the conditions under which the drivers
provide their service.
Therefore, the Court finds that that intermediation service must be regarded as forming an
integral part of an overall service whose main component is a transport service and,
accordingly, must be classified not as ‘an information society service’ but as ‘a service in the
field of transport’.
The Court states that, consequently, the directive on electronic commerce does not apply to that
service, which is also excluded from the scope of the directive on services in the internal market.
For the same reason, the service in question is covered not by the freedom to provide services in
general but by the common transport policy. However, non-public urban transport services and
services that are inherently linked to those services, such as the intermediation service provided by
Uber, has not given rise to the adoption of measures based on that policy.
NOTE: A reference for a preliminary ruling allows the courts and tribunals of the Member States, in disputes
which have been brought before them, to refer questions to the Court of Justice about the interpretation of
European Union law or the validity of a European Union act. The Court of Justice does not decide the
dispute itself. It is for the national court or tribunal to dispose of the case in accordance with the Court’s
decision, which is similarly binding on other national courts or tribunals before which a similar issue is raised.
Compliments of the European Commission