U ber Technologies Inc. is an online transportation company based in the United States. While Uber provides users with an extremely convenient and widely used app, their unethical business practices and less-than-impressive legal track record have recently been called into question.
The company is involved in a case against them in the European Court of Justice, which will determine how the company can operate in nations in the European Union. The company has “come under attack from established taxi companies and some EU countries because it is not bound by strict local licensing and safety rules which apply to most of its competitors,” according to Fortune.
Uber claims to be a digital platform, as opposed to a transportation service, which allows them to wrongfully cut corners in terms of legal and safety requirements. Many Europeans––particularly taxi drivers and other transportation companies––oppose Uber taking advantage of the European legal system’s current inability to regulate apps such as theirs.
U.S. Legal defines a transportation service provider as “any party, person, agent or carrier that provides freight or passage transportation and related services to an agency.” Although Uber claims that it simply connects customers and drivers through their app, they should be held to the legal standards of a transportation service.
The reason for Uber resisting this title is because as a transportation service, they will no longer be able to avoid stricter rules on licensing, insurance and safety, according to Fortune. This does not seem like a valid or logical reason for a company to be able to function outside of this realm of legislation, especially since Uber currently provides rides to individuals in over 400 cities worldwide, according to CNN.
In terms of transportation, an individual’s safety and security when getting in a car with a stranger is more important than a company’s desire to cut corners and increase profit margins. Although many customers turn a blind-eye to the company’s disregard for legal compliance due to Uber’s ability to provide a cheap service, this is exactly why they must be held responsible.
Since Uber can easily hire and vet drivers, they are able to offer lower prices, which often puts local taxi services at a disadvantage. It seems that the only way to even this playing field is for Uber to be viewed legally as a transportation service, which will allow for the industry to encompass online and traditional transportation services alike.
In addition, Uber is no stranger to court cases, with CNN reporting that as of August of 2016, Uber had over 70 pending federal lawsuits and a multitude of others in state courts. A number of these cases were related to “complaints against Uber drivers over assault, rape and car accidents,” according to CNN. Uber’s background checking policy and their level of responsibility for contractors have also been questioned in court.
It seems unlikely that a company that has failed to comply to the ethical and legal standards that are imposed upon their competitors—and that have been questioned numerous times in court—deserves to expand their services before bettering their current ones.
Although the importance of a growing e-commerce industry in Europe is significant, an app-based service should not beat out competitors simply by reaping the benefits of the lack of legal requirements for their type of company.
Uber is undoubtedly a useful app; the decision by the European Court of Justice, however, should hold them to the same standard as other European transportation services. This court case outcome is extremely important, as it will certainly affect other emerging digital platforms and the way they are observed on a legal level.