Decision could give ride-booking company freer reign on continent

San Francisco-based Uber said Monday that a judge in Barcelona has granted the company’s request to refer a case brought by a local taxi association to the European Court of Justice. The referral asks the Luxembourg-based court to determine whether Spanish taxi rules and court decisions violate EU treaties and laws.

At issue before the European Court of Justice is whether Uber, which runs a popular smartphone app that allows people to hail cars for trips across town, is a transportation company or if it is an “information society service.” Uber argues it is the latter, which would give it sounder legal footing under EU directives to avoid certain elements of national taxi laws. The Spanish judge has asked Luxembourg for guidance, according to a copy of the ruling made available by Uber.

Under current EU law, transportation regulations are exempt from the EU-wide services directive, giving countries more of a free rein to regulate them. But online services are granted freedom from some kinds of regulatory interference.

It isn’t clear how long it would take for Uber’s case to be heard, but Mr. MacGann said he expects a decision in the fall of 2016. Nevertheless, he said he is confident Uber will prevail because EU court decisions “rarely if ever have the effect of closing markets and restricting competition.”