So what is Uber? Europe’s top court is trying to figure that out so European countries can decide how to regulate the company. Uber claims it’s an app, “an intermediary providing a technology service in exchange for a fee”. Taxi drivers claim it’s a transport company.
At stake is whether Uber will have to “adhere to the same laws and norms as staid rivals on employment, health and safety, taxes and pricing.”
Apparently the decision will also affect other companies in the “sharing economy”, such as Airbnb and Booking.com.
I have no idea how things will work out or who will be presenting evidence to the court, but if they asked me, I would say that Uber is one type of animal and Airbnb and Booking are a different species altogether.
When I use Uber, I say, “Let’s get an Uber”. I don’t think, “Let’s use the Uber app to get a car driven by an independent contractor.” The prices are all pre-defined and it doesn’t matter which individual car comes and picks me up. The details of the specific car are irrelevant; I just get the car that is closest to me.
Whereas with Airbnb and Booking I use their app to find places in the area I’m interested in visiting. I study the facts: location, size, amenities, price, and so on, and make a decision based on how important the different factors are to me.
In other words, I use Airbnb and Booking as technology intermediaries to present me with several very different independent options, and I make a choice. Then I use Airbnb or Booking to coordinate booking, payment, and cancelation policies with these independent hotels or people.
But I don’t use Uber that way. I use Uber exactly as I would a taxi company. Sent me the nearest car and transport me from A to B.
So I hope that the top European court will read this blog and take my views into account. If you know anyone on the court, please send them a link to this post. 🙂