Commission under pressure to act on ride-sharing sector after second Uber complaint

By February 20, 2015EU insight

By Owen Bennett 

This week Uber filed a second complaint to the European Commission, seeking to have France’s recently-passed Thévenoud law changed or struck down. The move has increased pressure on the Commission to make public its position on the French law and indeed, on the wider regulatory issues facing the ride-sharing sector.

France is one of a number of EU countries taking an aggressive policy stance against ride-sharing apps. Spain and the Netherlands have already taken legislative action to block Uber, while in Germany and Denmark legislative battles between the company and traditional industry stakeholders are ongoing. But the French law has particularly irked the US firm, as it apparently  imposes arbitrary restrictions on ride-sharing services and thus benefits regular taxis at Uber’s expense.

Conversely, Brussels-Capital Region lawmakers have just unveiled proposals that may pave the way for Uber-like services to operate in the city. Such regulatory fragmentation across the Single Market is undoubtedly causing concern for EU policymakers.  And in addition to these competition concerns, the advent of the ride-sharing sector has raised serious questions surrounding intermediary liability, quasi-employment relationships and taxi licensing problems.

In that context, this latest appeal by Uber to the Commission has increased pressure on the Berlaymont to take a more proactive stance on the regulatory issues in the ride-sharing sector. The Parliament has already called on the Commission to do so, through its Transport and Tourism committee. But with the exception of an audacious blog post by (former) Commissioner Neelie Kroes last spring, EU policymakers have thus far avoided directly confronting the issue of regulation with regard to the ride-sharing and related sectors.

Ultimately, the events of this week have injected further urgency into the matter, and EU-level regulatory movement is a growing possibility in the coming months.

To learn more about the EU-level policy landscape regarding ride-sharing services, please contact the Political Intelligence Brussels office.