Uber is a transportation company, according to a landmark ruling from Europe's highest court.
The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled Wednesday that the U.S. ride-hailing app is a transportation firm and not a digital company. The verdict is a long-awaited judgment expected to have major implications for how Uber is regulated throughout Europe.
"The service provided by Uber connecting individuals with non-professional drivers is covered by services in the field of transport," the ECJ said. "Member states can therefore regulate the conditions for providing that service," it added.
Uber has long-considered itself an "information society service" which connects drivers and passengers through inter-mediation via their app. This subtle classification has helped to protect the multi-billion dollar start-up from national regulations and means it has been treated as a digital service operating across borders in the EU's single market.
However, several European governments have argued the U.S. company should be considered a taxi firm, and just like thousands of others, it should have to comply with European transport laws.
"This ruling will not change things in most EU countries where we already operate under transportation law. However, millions of Europeans are still prevented from using apps like ours," an Uber spokesperson said in an email shortly after the decision.
The ECJ's decision means Uber now faces national regulation in up to 28 member states, forcing it to deal more closely with local governments that set transportation rules and licensing requirements. This particular case cannot be appealed, according to Reuters, but it can pursue legal challenges in other courts.