(Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi/ALM)
Uber Technologies Inc. said Monday that it has chosen Cani Fernández, an attorney with deep experience in antitrust, mergers and acquisitions and European Union affairs at international law firm Cuatrecasas, Goncalves Pereira, to argue on its behalf Tuesday in a European Court of Justice hearing that could determine how Uber should be regulated within the European Union.
Fernández, who is based in her firm’s Madrid and Brussels offices, will attempt to persuade Europe’s highest court that the ride-hailing service is not a transportation company, but an app-based service under EU law, meaning that it would not be subject to stricter regulations governing the transportation industry. Fernández, who could not immediately be reached for comment, will be supported by attorneys from French international law firm Gide Loyrette Nouel, according to a source familiar with the matter.
In 2014, three years after Uber launched its app in Europe, Asociación Profesional Élite Taxi, a Barcelona taxi drivers group, alleged that Uber was running an illegal cab service. Uber, for its part, contends it is a digital app and not a transportation service.
The case proceeded to a Spanish judge in 2015 who then turned to the Luxembourg-based Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) for clarification about Uber’s status. He asked the court to look at whether an European directive on e-commerce would apply to Uber, and how the EU’s unfair competition laws might apply to the digital ride-booking business.
If the court decides it is a transportation company under European law, Uber would be subject to stricter licensing, labor, insurance and safety rules. The ruling could also affect other companies in “on-demand” economy that are trying to expand into Europe, according to a report from Reuters.
Fernández, who directs her firm’s competition and EU law practices, is no stranger to the European high court. According to her firm bio, she served as a referendaire — or law clerk — there in the 1990s. In private practice, she advised clients during European authorities’ investigations into potential antitrust violations. She has worked on antitrust considerations in deals involving big-name companies like Coca-Cola and Spanish telecommunications giant Telefónica, according to the firm’s bio.
Fernández has also advised both companies and EU governments and institutions on EU law issues related to plant and crop protection, chemicals and the environment, and government contracting.
This is not the first time Uber has battled European regulators. According to The New York Times, which reported that the CJEU case likely won’t be resolved until March 2017 at the earliest, the company has faced obstacles in countries like France and Germany, where some politicians have favored limiting its services.
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