New York City Councilors regretted their decision not to restrain growth of Uber

In 2015, the New York City Council declined to proceed with Mayor De Blasio’s proposal to cap the number of new Uber drivers (in part based on Uber’s vigorous advocacy). Looking back on that decision, the new Speaker of the New York City Council, Corey Johnson told WNYC radio that he had chosen the wrong approach. In particular, he explained, “given what we’ve seen and the explosive growth of this industry and how it’s affected the streets of New York City, I think we should have done more.”

Opposed De Blasio plan to limit number of vehicles

Concerned about growing congestion, New York City Mayor De Blasio proposed a bill to limit the issuance of new for-hire vehicle licenses. The proposal would have limited Uber to about 200 new drivers in New York during the subsequent year.

In response, Uber alerted its New York Customers — creating a “De Blasio’s Uber” feature that always showed either no cars available or a wait time of 25 minutes. Uber also sent emails to all Uber users in the district of New York Councilman Steve Levin who was sponsoring the bill. And Uber investor Ashton Kutcher Tweeted to criticize the proposal — as did Neil Patrick Harris, who had made money by Tweeting Uber signup links, as well as Kate Upton.

All told, Uber spent $1 million lobbying New York city government officials to defeat the driver cap bill.

Australian competition regulator scrutinized Uber Eats contracts

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission said he would examine controversial contract provisions Uber required restaurants to accept when selling food through the Uber Eats delivery service. Restaurants complained about contract terms that said they, and not Uber, were responsible for late deliveries — though they thought it was Uber, and not them, that caused delays and was better positioned to make sure deliveries were on time.

EU’s top court said France can bring criminal charges against Uber managers

The Court of Justice of the European Union (Europe’s highest court) ruled that France can bring criminal proceedings against Uber. Uber had argued that its service was an “information society service,” but the Court said that Uber is a transport service. The difference was important: A new national law regulating an information society service would require that a member state (such as France) notify the Commission, and the absence of such notification would make the law invalid and unenforceable. But regulation of transport requires no such notification, making the law valid and enforceable.

Uber responded by saying the service at issue, UberPOP, was already discontinued in France.

Relationship with Arizona governor questioned

In its efforts to court Arizona governor Doug Ducey, Uber built a relationship with Ducey that was unusually close. The Guardian obtained emails showing that the relationship included joint press conferences, Uber service on the governor’s policy committees, Uber providing meeting space to the governor when he visited San Francisco, and even the governor potentially wearing an Uber shirt.

Ducey enacted policies favorable to Uber. In Phoenix, city staff reported “pressure placed on us by the governor” to enact policies that Uber requested. In one episode, Uber asked that the governor promote Uber Eats via a tweet, which he did the next day. Ducey’s Uber dealings were particularly close on the subject of self-driving cars. After California revoked DMV registration of Uber vehicles that had not obtained the permits California said were needed, Uber sought to bring those vehicles to adjacent Arizona, which the governor permitted. Moreover, prior to Uber’s announcement of its self-driving vehicles on the road in Arizona, Ducey had allowed the vehicles to operate unannounced.

The public benefit of Ducey’s pro-Uber policies was not always apparent. The governor touted collaboration between Uber and Arizona’s College of Optical Sciences, but that school’s dean commented that “Our dialog with Uber has not led to any significant ongoing research engagement.” The governor allowed Uber to test self-driving vehicles on Arizona roads, only to backtrack when an Uber self-driving vehicle struck and killed a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona. The governor touted economic benefits expected to result from Uber’s activities in Arizona, but while Uber brought self-driving cars to the state, its engineering teams largely remained elsewhere.

Encouraged Argentinian users to pay via Bitcoin-backed credit card issued from Gibraltar

After credit card processors were ordered not to process payments for Uber in Argentina, Uber found a workaround. In particular, Uber encouraged Argentinian users to get credit cards from Xapo, a startup that issues credit cards that draw funds from a customer’s Bitcoins. Xapo issued cards out of Gibraltar and thus escaped the Argentinian injunction that targeted local credit card issuers.

Ignored multiple injunctions to cease operation in Argentina

Uber was found to be unlawful in Argentina, including for operating without a permit or tax-identification number.

A series of injunctions ordered the company to cease operations, and ordered telecommunications vendors and payment processors to cease supporting Uber. The Stanford Center for Internet & Society explained:

Shortly thereafter, a criminal prosecutor from the City of Buenos Aires issued an injunction ordering ENACOM (Argentina’s FCC) to block the UberApp. Apparently, ENACOM refused to comply with the injunction arguing that a local prosecutor was not a competent authority to order such a measure. On April 22, a criminal judge from the City of Buenos Aires ordered ENACOM to block Uber within the City of Buenos Aires jurisdictional limits. It is not clear whether ENACOM, a federal agency, will comply with a City of Buenos Aires order. Content circulation through communications networks is a federal matter in Argentina, which is supposedly beyond the reach of local government jurisdiction.

Finally, the Consumers Protection Agency of the City of Buenos Aires—an administrative agency—issued an injunction ordering telecoms to block the App and credit card companies to block any transaction related to the App. The injunction was issued against telecoms and credit cards as “contributors” to an allegedly harmful activity. A few days later, also a judge in Buenos Aires ordered credit card companies to cease their operations with Uber.

Nonetheless Uber continued operations, including encouraging Argentina users to pay via a Bitcoin-backed credit card.

European Court of Justice said Uber is a transportation service, may be regulated at national level

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.