No. 17: Regulating the Sharing Economy at the Legal Frontier: The Case of Uber in the European Union


  • Claire Chapla
Publish Date:
January 31, 2017
Publication Title:
​ European Union Law Working Papers
Stanford Law School
Working Paper
  • ​Claire Chapla, Regulating the Sharing Economy at the Legal Frontier: The Case of Uber in the European Union, European Union Law Working Papers, No. 17, Stanford-Vienna Transatlantic Technology Law Forum (2017).
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This paper examines the challenges of regulating the sharing economy in the European Union, with a focus on the popular ride-hailing service Uber and the case currently before the European Court of Justice, Asociación Profesional Élite Taxi v. Uber Systems Spain, S.L. At the heart of that case is the legal nature of the service Uber provides: is Uber a transport company, or is it an information society service? The dual aspects of the company make it difficult to classify under existing EU law and thus difficult to regulate. This paper evaluates the application of existing EU law to Uber and considers the potential of new harmonized regulation tailored to sharing economy services like Uber.

The paper proceeds in six parts. After a brief introduction, Part II summarizes the regulatory obstacles Uber has encountered in France and Spain to provide context for the legal questions and possible solutions to regulating sharing economy services considered in Parts III–VI. Part III examines the legal nature of Uber under existing EU law. Part IV explores whether Uber has sufficient cross-border elements for the
fundamental EU freedom to provide services to apply. Part V evaluates the French and Spanish measures restricting Uber’s activities in those countries for compatibility with EU law. Part VI concludes by arguing in favor of regulating Uber at the EU level, under both existing legislation and under possible future legislation.