In a significant ruling for ride-hailing companies, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has overturned restrictions Barcelona’s city government imposed on ride-hailing licenses. The decision, reported by Financial Times (FT), marks a victory for app-based taxi groups such as Uber and Cabify.
In 2018, Barcelona’s city government, known for its hostility towards ride-hailing, decreed that for every 30 traditional taxi licenses, only one license could be granted for a vehicle affiliated with ride-hailing services like Spain’s Cabify or Uber of the U.S. However, the ECJ ruled on Thursday that this license ratio was contrary to European law. The court noted that 15 private vehicle hire companies had argued that the regulation was solely designed to protect the interests of the taxi industry.
FT believes the ECJ’s ruling could have far-reaching implications across Europe. It stated that ensuring taxi services’ “economic viability” cannot be an overriding reason for capping private hire fleets. This statement could impact countries like Italy and Greece, which have justified similar restrictions on apps such as Uber to protect traditional cab companies.
FT says an affiliate of Cabify brought the legal case against Barcelona. The ECJ ruled that Barcelona had imposed restrictions on exercising freedom of establishment by requiring Barcelona-specific permits in addition to national ones and then adding the license ratio skewed in favor of traditional taxis. The court rejected the argument that these measures would protect the environment or contribute to the “sound management of transport, traffic, and public space.”
The FT report also mentioned that Spanish trade groups welcomed the ECJ’s decision for ride-hailing companies, Feneval and Unauto VTC. They said the ruling called into question many restrictions on their members introduced in recent years by regional governments in Catalonia, Valencia, Aragón, and the Balearic Islands.