In August 2017 the Supreme Court issued a much-awaited decision (KKO:2017:56) and upheld a Court of Appeal decision involving Uber passenger rides. The Supreme Court ruled that to provide an Uber service a driver must have a taxi licence. It found a driver who had driven Uber passengers without such a licence guilty.

Facts

The defendant drove Uber passengers with his own car in Finland between July 27 2015 and August 29 2015. The defendant was not employed by Uber, but was a so-called 'driver partner'. To drive for Uber a driver must have, among other things, a valid driving licence and an insured car no more than 10 years old.

Professional passenger transport

The Taxi Transport Act (217/2007) applies to professional passenger transport by car, which is subject to a taxi licence. The Court of Appeal examined the character of 'professional passenger transport' to determine whether a taxi licence is required for driving Uber passengers.

The Court of Appeal found that according to the government proposal concerning the Taxi Transport Act, the term 'professional transport' should be understood in a broad sense to cover not only a proper business activity but also other passenger transport conducted for the purpose of financial gain. The court further stated that the government proposal provides that waiting to provide passenger rides and the provision of transport services demonstrate the activities to be of a persistent nature, which is in turn a characteristic feature of activities conducted with the aim of earning an income.

The court noted that in certain circumstances, according to the government proposal, a taxi licence is required even if activities do not comply with the characteristics of professionalism. This is the case when a single person is carried in return for payment and when the carriage is preceded by the provision of transport services to the public in a public place.

The court pointed out that the essential criteria when determining the professional character of the activities of the defendant was that he provided passenger rides to previously unknown persons for payment. The defendant received passenger journey requests through an Uber application, which demonstrated that the defendant's conduct was broad but had the aim of earning an income. The clients were selected at random based on the closest location.

It was found that the defendant earned €2,800 during a one-month period, which, according to the court, indicated that many passenger journeys were conducted. The €2,800 income also supported the conclusion that the defendant provided Uber passenger rides with the aim of earning an income.

Decision

The Supreme Court upheld the Court of Appeal decision and found the defendant guilty. According to Section 28 of the Taxi Transport Act, a person who provides professional passenger transport in a car without a taxi licence will be fined or imprisoned for up to six months for providing an unlawful taxi service. The defendant was fined €120 and ordered to pay €2,100 to the state as criminal profit.

The Supreme Court had reduced the amount of the criminal profit from €2,800 to €2,100 to correspond to fuel and maintenance costs for an Uber car. The court stated that the purchase of fuel and the provision of car maintenance is not punishable in itself and thus the costs should not be included. The Supreme Court's decision was unanimous.

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For further information on this topic please contact Matti Komonen at HPP Attorneys Ltd by telephone (+358 9 474 2207) or email (matti.komonen@hpp.fi). The HPP Attorneys Ltd website can be accessed at www.hpp.fi.