Are platforms “information society services” or just another way of providing transport, commerce, etc.?

Posted on November 28, 2016  /  0 Comments

I recall telling the story of the US court that required a man with a light (and maybe a bell) to walk ahead of new-fangled motor cars to Sri Lanka’s Solicitor General. Was it apocryphal or true? But it worked. I prevented him from giving me a ruling that would have basically killed satellite-based personal telephony.

So often, the vested interests (ah, an old word, going into desuetude) try to force fit new things into old boxes in order to kill them. If I was a betting man, I’d say the European Court will go along and require a man with a bell and light in front of the car.

If the court decides that Uber is a transportation service, the company will have to obey Europe’s often onerous labor and safety rules, and comply with rules that apply to traditional taxi associations. Though Uber already fulfills such requirements in many European countries, the ruling could hamper its expansion plans.

But if the judges rule that Uber is an “information society service,” or an online platform that merely matches independent drivers with potential passengers, then the company will have greater scope to offer low-cost products like UberPop and other services that have been banned in many parts of Europe.


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