EC seeks clarity on whether Uber is a digital or traditional transport company

The European Commission (EC) was tipped to be preparing a study that will help it to decide if ride sharing app company Uber is a digital or real-world service in a bid to guide future regulation of such companies.

A study is due to begin in September after the U.S. headquartered ride sharing company complained to the EC about bans placed on its service in Germany and Spain, and forthcoming tough new laws in France, sources told Reuters.

The EC aims to identify legal methods it could use to decide whether Uber is a purely digital service or a more traditional taxi service, a European Union official told Reuters. The latter ruling may require Uber to adhere to tougher rules that cover transport providers, including insurance requirements and safety standards, the news agency added.

Such a ruling could also steer future regulation of Europe's digital services market, which is increasingly encroaching on traditional industries without necessarily having to adhere to the same strict rules and standards.

Uber is a smartphone-based service that connects people looking for a taxi with drivers in their area. The service has stoked the ire of licensed taxi drivers in Paris, London and beyond, and the company is currently facing lawsuits in its home market from drivers who say they should receive the same rights as full time employees.

A spokeswoman for the company told Reuters that the study is akin to an admission by the EC that various member states' current taxi service regulations are outdated, and could be stifling the entry of new services.

The outcome of the study is expected in June 2016. In the meantime, the EC will continue to separately weigh up Uber's complaints against the three member states, Reuters noted.

Uber suspended some of its services in France in July, six months after the country ruled that they were illegal, the Telegraph reported. The company said the services were lifted in part due to violence against its drivers. Opposition to the company in France has also seen executives arrested, and raids on its Paris office, the newspaper added.

Earlier this month, Gawker reported that Uber company records show it has lost millions of dollars since 2012, and that revenue growth figures may have been exaggerated.

The report followed a Wall Street Journal article in July that stated Uber's value had hit $51 billion (€45.4 billion).

For more:
- see this Reuters report
- view this Telegraph article
- read this Gawker report
- see this Wall Street Journal article

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