CJEU Advocate General issues opinion to support taxi app is an information service provider

The Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) Advocate General Szpunar holds that a virtual service that puts taxi passengers with taxi drivers in touch is an information society service (ISS). The app is used by the company S.C. Star Taxi App SRL, established in Bucharest, Romania. The app makes it possible for passengers to run a search which displays a list of taxi drivers available for a trip. The app does not forward bookings to taxi drivers and does not decide the price of the trips, which is paid directly to the driver at the end of the journey. The Bucharest Municipal authority had set the obligation (Decision 626/2017) for the App to apply for a public authorisation for ‘dispatching’. Star Taxi appealed the decision, alleging that it breached the European Directive on Electronic Commerce. The directive forbids EU member states from requiring any special authorisation for ISSs to operate in their countries. The Advocate General reasoned that because the app does not directly select the drivers and does not decide their fares, it shall not be considered part of the transportation company, but instead only an information service provider. Alternatively, in December 2017, the CJEU had ruled that the Uber app was not only an information service provider, but also a transportation company. The difference between Uber and Star Taxi is that Uber books drivers via algorithms and decides the fares. It is worth mentioning that the opinion of the CJEU Advocate General is not binding but has proved to influence final rulings of the CJEU over the years.