The European Court of Justice (the highest court in Europe) held that Uber is a transportation service, which may therefore be regulated by each country in Europe. The ECJ explained:
The service provided by Uber connecting individuals with non-professional drivers is covered by services in the field of transport. Member states can, therefore, regulate the conditions for providing that service.
In contrast, Uber had argued that the company was an information technology service, subject only to Europe-wide regulation and exempt from national law.
The city of Sheffield, UK suspended Uber’s license. Uber said this was an “administrative error” resulting from the company’s failure to change the name on its license based on the departure of the company’s UK head. Sheffield said such a change is not permitted, while Uber said it successfully made this change in other jurisdictions.
The London Employment Appeal Tribunal upheld a London Employment Tribunal finding that its drivers are workers with minimum wage rights.
Further coverage from TechCrunch
A female driver in the UK claimed gender discrimination in that Uber purportedly failed to provide sufficient security to female drivers. She complained that she had to accept a passenger’s request without knowing the destination in advance, and had no option to cancel requests to remote or unsafe destinations. She also complained that Uber would penalize her if she canceled a trip for an aggressive passenger or a passenger raising other safety concerns.
In response to a complaint from trade union GMB, the London Employment Tribunal determined that Uber drivers are employees.
Remarking “the lady doth protest too much, methinks” at Uber’s numerous contractual provisions insisting that drivers are not employees, the LET simultaneously looked at Uber’s various “unguarded moments” in which the company used terminology most consistent with employment status. Ultimately the LET said it is “unreal” to deny the “practical reality” that Uber provides transportation services, and in that context the LET found that the drivers must be employees.
The LET rejected as “ridiculous” the suggestion that Uber is “a mosaic of 30,000 small businesses linked by a common ‘platform.'” The LET rejected Uber’s claim of only providing driver with “leads.” For one, drivers have no opportunity to negotiate or bargain with passengers. The LET also examined the interaction between drivers and passengers, including when drivers learn the route and how payment occurs. The LET said all these factors indicate an employment relationship.
In a 13-item list, LET gathered factors indicating that drivers are employees, including those detailed above as well as Uber’s practice of interviewing and recruiting drivers, instructing drivers in various respects, setting routes, collecting ratings and imposing penalties, handling complaints, and having the power to amend the contract provisions of the relationship.
Informed by the finding that drivers are employees, the LET went on to analyze their rights as employees and Uber’s violations of those rights.
Having determined that Uber drivers are employees, the London Employment Tribunal further determined that Uber unlawfully denied drivers certain basic rights guaranteed to all employees.
Among other rights, GMB alleged that Uber drivers were entitled to holiday pay, a guaranteed minimum wage, and breaks.
GMB specifically challenged the amount that drivers are paid. After deducting costs and fees, GMB found that members could make as little as 5 GBP per hour, well below the national minimum wage of 7.20 GBP. They also challenged Uber’s practice of deducting sums from drivers’ pay including in response to customer complaints.
LET also found that, contrary to Uber’s insistence that Netherlands law governs the relationship between Uber and its London drivers, in fact British law governs because the relationship “relevant to the situation” was the UK.
Uber appealed the decision. A judgment of the appeal is expected in late 2017.
In an April 2017 letter, the London Metropolitan Police questioned why Uber had not notified the police about criminal offenses known to Uber. The Police reported Uber refusing to provide information within its custody unless the police submit a formal request, and also refusing to report crime to the police because such reports may breach rights of a passenger. The Police questioned Uber’s approach, saying that Uber is “allowing situations to develop” that affect public safety, and noting also that the extra steps Uber calls for can impede prompt prosecution and ultimately lead perpetrators to go free.
The letter’s conclusion:
The significant concern I am raising is that Uber have been made aware of criminal activity and yet haven’t informed the police. Uber are however proactive in reporting lower level document frauds to both the MPS and LTPH. My concern is twofold, firstly it seems they are deciding what to report (less serious matters / less damaging to reputation over serious offences) and secondly by not reporting to police promptly they are allowing situations to develop that clearly affect the safety and security of the public.
Seeking to avoid regulations from individual countries in Europe, Uber argued that it is an “information society service” that could only be regulated in accordance with Europe-wide procedures. In a May 2017 decision, the European Court of Justice said that Uber “falls within the field of transport” and therefore “Uber can … be required to obtain the necessary licenses and authorizations under law.”
In September 2017, Transport for London informed Uber that TfL will not renew Uber’s license to operate in London after September 30, 2017. TfL summarized its concern as Uber being “not fit and proper to hold a private hire operator license” based on a series of deficiencies including:
- Its approach to reporting series criminal offenses
- Its approach to how medical certificates are obtained
- Its approach to how Enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service checks are obtained
- Its approach to explaining the use of Greyball in London, software that could be used to block regulatory bodies from gaining full access to the app and prevent officials from undertaking regulatory or law enforcement duties
London Mayor Sadiq Khan said the ruling was appropriate because “companies must play by the rules.”
Uber appeared like to challenge the ruling in court, and could continue operation during litigation.
The Guardian reported a letter from the London Metropolitan Police’s taxi and private hire team, complaining that Uber failed to timely report drivers attacking passengers. “Had Uber notified police after the first offence, it would be right to assume that the second would have been prevented,” the letter explained. The letter said that Uber failed to report sexual assaults as well as an incident in which a driver “produced what was thought to be pepper spray during a road rage argument.”