[JURIST] The Advocate General of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) [official website], Maciej Szpunar, on Tuesday declared [press release] that EU member states were entitled to "prohibit and punish the illegal exercise of a transport activity such as UberPop without having to notify the [European] Commission [official website] of the draft law in advance." Uber France firmly argues that the France law [text] "constitutes a technical regulation which directly concerns an information society service within the meaning of the directive on technical standards and regulations," thereby requiring EU members to notify the Commission of any draft law or rules placing technical regulations on these types of services. Uber France maintains it cannot be prosecuted because the French authorities did not provide such advance notfication. Szpunar disagreed, stating in a non-binding opinion [text] that services such as the UberPop service, which provides a transportation service through non-professional private drivers using their own vehicles, can be prohibited and punished by member states without notifying the Commission of the draft law, because the UberPop service is not an information society service. Szpunar added that even if UberPop is held to be an information society service:
prohibiting and punishing the activity of an intermediary, such as Uber, in the illegal exercise of a transport activity does not constitute a "technical regulation" within the meaning of the directive, with the result that notification of the draft law to the Commission would not be necessary in that situation either .... if every national provision that prohibited or punished intermediation in illegal activities had to be regarded as a technical regulation me rely because the intermediation most likely takes place by electronic means, a great number of internal rules in the Member States would have to be notified as technical regulations. That would lead to an unwarranted extension of the obligation to notify ...
The advocate general's decision is not binding on the ECJ, which will make a final ruling on the case later this year.
This is the latest in Uber's [corporate website] legal troubles worldwide. In May, the ECJ issued a non-binding opinion [JURIST report] finding that Uber is a transportation company subject to all local rules, regulations, and fines of the jurisdictions they enter, similar to other taxi services. Four days later, the US District Court for the Northern District of California [official website] ordered [JURIST report] an Uber engineer, who allegedly stole information from self-driving technology company Waymo [corporate website] before becoming employed at Uber, removed from the self-driving division of the company. Earlier the same month, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced it had launched a criminal investigation [JURIST report] into the company for using a software tool that helped drivers evade local transport regulators. In January the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced [JURIST report] that Uber Technologies agreed to pay $20 million to settle a claim that the company had engaged in misleading tactics to recruit new drivers. In December Uber was indicted [JURIST report] in Denmark for assisting drivers in violating taxi laws.