Uber Can Be Banned by EU States, Notes Top EU Lawyer

Uber Can Be Banned by EU States, Notes Top EU Lawyer

HIGHLIGHTS
EU member states can ban Uber without informing the European Commission
Uber insists it is a service and not a transport provider
Critics and competitors say this allows it to dodge costly regulation
EU member states can ban ride-hailing pioneer Uber without informing the European Commission because at heart it is an ordinary transport company under their jurisdiction, a top EU lawyer said Tuesday.

San Francisco-based Uber insists it is a service, not a transport provider, connecting riders with freelance drivers directly and much more cheaply than traditional cab companies.

But critics and competitors say this allows it to dodge costly regulation and several countries, led by France, have banned its low-cost UberPOP service as a result.

Uber France challenged the ban, saying it amounted to regulation of an information company which Paris should have first lodged with the Commission, the European Union’s administrative arm.

However, Maciej Szpunar, an advocate general with the Luxembourg-based European Court of Justice, said Uber was in fact an ordinary transport company and so member states could go ahead and regulate its activities without notifying the Commission in advance.

He recalled that in a May 11 opinion on a related case concerning Uber Spain, he had concluded that UberPOP “does not constitute an information society service.”

Szpunar also argued that even if the ECJ, the EU’s highest court, should at some stage determine UberPOP was indeed an information service provider, a ban in response to “the illegal exercise of a transport activity does not constitute a technical regulation within the meaning of the directive.”
“Notification of the draft law to the Commission would not be necessary in that situation either,” he said.

He argued that member states only had a duty to notify the Commission if they took a specific, targeted action against information service providers.

“Rules which affect those services only in an implicit or incidental manner are excluded from the notification obligation,” he said.

The ECJ’s advocate generals – its top lawyers – are regularly called on to provide initial guidance to the court which in most instances follows their advice in its final rulings.

The French authorities banned Uber after violent protests by traditional taxi drivers.

Uber in turn filed complaint with the EU against France and other states, arguing that national policies hostile to its operations violate European law.

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Uber Deemed Transport Service by EU Top Court Adviser

Uber Deemed Transport Service by EU Top Court Adviser

Uber provides a transport service and must be licensed, the European Union’s top court said on Thursday, in a potential blow to the US firm which says it is merely a digital enabler.

“The Uber electronic platform, whilst innovative, falls within the field of transport: Uber can thus be required to obtain the necessary licences and authorisations under national law,” the Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) said.

While the opinion of the Advocate General is non-binding, the court’s judges follow it in most cases and a ruling would mean EU member states can regulate Uber and other such companies as a transport rather than “information society” service.

The case was brought by an association of Barcelona taxi drivers who argued that Uber engaged in unfair competition with its UberPOP service – which used unlicensed drivers.

Uber, which no longer operates UberPOP in Spain, said it would await a final ruling later this year, but added that even if it is considered a transportation company, this “would not change the way we are regulated in most EU countries as that is already the situation today”.

However, such a ruling would “undermine the much needed reform of outdated laws which prevent millions of Europeans from accessing a reliable ride at the tap of a button,” an Uber spokeswoman said in a statement.
Uber, which allows passengers to summon a ride through an app on their smartphones, expanded into Europe five years ago.

But it has been challenged in the courts by established taxi companies and some EU countries because it is not bound by strict local licensing and safety rules which apply to some of its competitors.

The Advocate General said Uber drivers “do not pursue an autonomous activity that is independent of the platform. On the contrary, that activity exists solely because of the platform, without which it would have no sense.”

Uber could not be regarded as a mere intermediary between drivers and passengers because it controlled economically important aspects of the urban transport service, Maciej Szpunar said in the opinion.

“The service amounts to the organisation and management of a comprehensive system for on-demand urban transport,” the ECJ statement said.

 

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EU to End Barriers to Netflix, BBC iPlayer in 2018

EU to End Barriers to Netflix, BBC iPlayer in 2018
The EU took a major step toward allowing people to use their online entertainment such as Netflix or BBC iPlayer all across Europe, officials said Wednesday.

Europeans spend about one billion nights in other EU countries every year but face a frustrating inability to access subscription services while outside their home country.

The European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm which proposed the change, reached a compromise late Tuesday with negotiators from the European Parliament and the European Council of 28 member states, virtually guaranteeing that the measure will succeed.

Once formally approved, EU consumers on the move will be able to enjoy entertainment as if at home in early 2018, the commission said.

“Today’s agreement will bring concrete benefits to Europeans,” said Andrus Ansip, the commission’s vice-president for the Digital Single Market.

“People who have subscribed to their favourite series, music and sports events at home will be able to enjoy them when they travel in Europe,”
As it stands, a subscriber to the Netflix or Amazon streaming service in, for example, France, will only have access to the service as it is available in a country they are visiting, where the movies or series often drastically differs to their home version.

In another example, digital subscribers to Sky Sports in London are unable to access Premier League football matches on their iPads or laptops when travelling abroad.

“This is very good news for EU consumers,” said Monique Goyens, head of Brussels-based the European Consumer Organisation.

“Artificial barriers blocking you from using your online video, music or game subscription contradict the very principle of a single market,”

Crucially, the measure puts a zero limit on the amount of time travelling Europeans can enjoy their home-based subscriptions.

This is unlike the EU’s free roaming promise for mobile phones that comes into effect in June, but comes with a list of restrictions.

Tags: Netflix, EU, European Union, Online Streaming, BBC iPlayer, Entertainment, Internet, Apps

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EU Privacy Watchdogs Warn WhatsApp on Privacy Policy, Yahoo on Breach

EU Privacy Watchdogs Warn WhatsApp on Privacy Policy, Yahoo on Breach

HIGHLIGHTS

  • EU sent letters to WhatsApp and Yahoo
  • Said they had concerns about WhatsApp’s recent change in privacy policy
  • Asked Yahoo to communicate all aspects of the data breach

European privacy watchdogs said on Friday they had sent letters to WhatsApp over its sharing of information with parent company Facebook and Yahoo over a 2014 data breach and its scanning of customer emails for US intelligence purposes.

European Union data protection authorities said they had serious concerns about WhatsApp’s recent change in privacy policy in which it would share users’ phone numbers with Facebook, its first change in policy since Facebook bought the messaging service.

The authorities, known as the Article 29 Working Party, “requested WhatsApp to communicate all relevant information to the Working Party as soon as possible and urged the company to pause the sharing of users’ data until the appropriate legal protections could be assured.”

A spokeswoman for WhatsApp said the company was working with data protection authorities to address their questions.”We’ve had constructive conversations, including before our update, and we remain committed to respecting applicable law,” she said.

The watchdogs also wrote to Yahoo over a massive data breach that exposed the email credentials of 500 million users, as well as its scanning of customers’ incoming emails for specific information provided by US intelligence officials.

They asked the company to communicate all aspects of the data breach to the EU authorities, to notify the affected users of the “adverse effects” and to cooperate with all “upcoming national data protection authorities’ enquiries and/or investigations.

“Yahoo was invited to provide information on the legal basis and the compatibility with EU law of any such activity,” the watchdogs said in a statement regarding the email scanning.

The Yahoo and WhatsApp cases will be discussed by regulators in November.

© Thomson Reuters 2016

Tags: WhatsApp, Yahoo, Yahoo Mail, Privacy, Encryption, European Union, EU, Apps, Internet
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