In its latest European legal battle with the taxi industry, Uber told Europe’s top court that it was a digital service, and not a transport service.
The U.S ride-hailing app accused a French law of apparently targeting online taxi services.
Uber expanded to Europe five years ago and has been attacked by taxi companies who see it as unfair competition bypassing strict licensing and safety regulations.
In a hearing in Europe’s top court in Luxembourg, the U.S tech start-up described itself as a digital platform connecting willing travelers with drivers.
The start-up added that it does not itself provide a transport service, which would lead to it subjected to stricter regulations.
The company’s lawyer, Hugues Calvet, compared Uber to online hotel booking services loke Booking.com, arguing that they did not provide the room.
“In fact, it doesn’t give the transport service itself,” Calvet said.
The case was referred to the Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) by a court in Lille.
The suit concerns a 2014 French law on taxis and chauffeured services which make it a criminal offense to organize illegal taxi services and puts restrictions on the use of software to find customers in the street.
Last year, two of Uber’s executives in France were fined over UberPop, the company’s service employing unlicensed drivers.
UberPop has since been suspended.
Uber, as well as the European Commission, argued that the French law targeted electronically provided taxi services, and therefore Brussels should have been notified about it.
European Union law requires that Brussels be informed of measures related to online services.
Uber argued that France failed to notify Brussels of its law, and as such, criminal penalties cannot be enforced against it.
The court duels come as Uber tries to stem a wave of executive departures and criticism of its work culture.