European Union

Europe’s top court to decide what exactly Uber is

Uber driver picking up customer.
Al Seib | Los Angeles Times | Getty Images

The European Court of Justice is trying to decide what kind of company Uber is. A hearing in Europe's top court Monday is aimed at determining whether the ride-hailing firm is either an information or transport service, a decision which will have repercussions for its operations across the European Union.

If the European Court of Justice determines that Uber is a transport company, it will be subject to stricter regulations across the 28-nation EU.

Uber has been embattled along these lines before, with regular taxi drivers arguing that Uber unfairly undercuts their trade.

An Uber spokesperson told CNBC via e-mail that the company is "pleased to have the opportunity to provide (its) views to the Court of Justice of the European Union," adding that "this case should show that European laws fully support the development of a Digital Single Market."

The case was brought to the European Court of Justice from Spain, where it was raised by a taxi drivers' association. Uber was banned in Spain until earlier this year, and according to a statement on the ride-hailing company's website, this was due to the country having "one of the most restrictive transport laws in Europe."

A spokesperson at the European Court of Justice told CNBC via telephone that "other technology-based services could be impacted."

The European Commission presented guidance on the sharing economy earlier in June, saying that "platforms should not be subject to authorisations or licenses where they only act as intermediaries between consumers and those offering the actual service (e.g. transport of accommodation service.)"

The 15-strong panel of judges do not necessarily have to make a binary choice, as they could decide that the company fits somewhere in between the two categories.

The ruling will be made in roughly six months' time, according to a spokesperson at the European Court of Justice.

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