Uber has been branded a transport company rather than a tech company by an EU official, a decision which has the potential to set a precedent for the way it is regulated across Europe.
An adviser to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) today issued the opinion in a long-running court case brought by Spanish taxi drivers.
The decision, which is not legally binding but foreshadows an official ruling, means Uber will be regulated according to the transport laws of each EU member state. If it had been considered a digital service, EU-wide rules would have applied.
But today advocate general Maciej Szpunar said Uber was "undoubtedly transport". Szpunar's view sides with cabbies who believe it should be subject to the same rules as the taxi industry.
The case was escalated to the ECJ in November, when Uber argued it is a digital service. "This case should show that European laws fully support the development of a Digital Single Market," a spokesperson said at the time.
While Uber is licenced to operate locally in countries across the EU, its UberPop service lets anyone with a car give someone a ride, connecting driver and passenger without officially being licenced as a taxi. This has caused controversy and it was shut down in several countries, including Spain, France and Germany.
"Being considered a transportation company would not change the way we are regulated in most EU countries as that is already the situation today," a spokesperson for Uber said of today's decision.
"It will, however, undermine the much needed reform of outdated laws which prevent millions of Europeans from accessing a reliable ride at the tap of a button" said an Uber spokesperson.
An official ruling on the case is expected later this year.