Ride-hailing service Uber suffered a new blow Wednesday as the European Union's top court ruled it should be regulated like a taxi company, not a technology service, a decision that could change the way it functions across many countries there. Uber, which is wrapping up a particularly punishing year, sought to play down the ruling Wednesday by the European Court of Justice and insisted it will try to keep expanding in Europe anyway, the AP reports. The court said in a statement that services provided by companies like Uber are "inherently linked to a transport service" and must be classified as "a service in the field of transport" within EU law; it says the EU directive on e-commerce doesn't apply to firms like Uber. The ruling affects ride-hailing services around the 28-nation EU, where national governments can now regulate services like Uber as transport firms.
The decision stems from a complaint by a Barcelona taxi drivers association, which wanted to prevent Uber from setting up there. The taxi drivers said Uber drivers should have authorizations and licenses and accused the company of engaging in unfair competition. Arguing its case, San Francisco-based Uber said it should be regulated as an information services provider, as it's based on an app connecting drivers to riders. The law firm representing Elite Taxi, the association that filed the suit, celebrated the ruling's "great judicial significance." Uber said in a statement it will "continue the dialogue with cities across Europe" to allow access to its services. The court decision could also affect other internet-based businesses and reflects a larger dilemma about how governments should treat companies that operate online and don't fit in with traditional laws.