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July 21, 2015

Uber faces fresh legal threats in Europe and US

Politicians and courts could block the taxi app service.

By Jimmy Nicholls

Uber was rebuffed on both sides of the Atlantic on Monday as pressure from existing taxi firms and Western legal systems threw up fresh challenges for the beleaguered taxi app firm.

The company, whose legal troubles are widely viewed as a proxy for the rest of the so-called "sharing" economy, was challenged in a Barcelona court over whether it is merely an intermediary or a transport service that should comply with applicable licensing.

A Spanish judge presiding over the case referred it to the European Court of Justice, the highest court within the EU, and a decision is expected by the autumn of 2016.

Mark MacGann, head of public policy for EMEA at Uber, said: "Today’s news means that the European Court of Justice will now determine if the national rules currently being applied to digital services like Uber are legal and appropriate under European law."

Whilst the company faced the courts in Europe it was also contending with municipal powers in New York City, as the mayor Bill de Blasio said that he wanted the company’s growth to slow "as quickly as possible".

The Democratic politician’s comments came before a vote of the New York City Council, which could opt to limit Uber’s growth so that it can monitor the service’s effects on traffic and pollution.

Speaking to a press conference, de Blasio said: "I think the legislation is appropriate. And I think it should be voted on as quickly as possible."

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Uber has faced mixed fortunes in its attempts to expand across the globe, with the service widely accepted in cities across the US and parts of Europe, but threatened with prohibition in Spain, Australia and China, among other countries.

Most recently the firm came under criticism in London for what was seen as an attempt to exploit an underground strike with surge pricing, which allowed drivers to charge triple the usual fare.

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