In October 2020 the App Drivers & Couriers Union (‘ADCU’) filed a legal challenge against Uber Technologies Inc. for the dismissal of drivers by an algorithm in the UK and Portugal. The District Court of Amsterdam heard claims by the ADCU on behalf of three drivers from the UK, and a fourth driver from Lisbon, Portugal, was represented by the International Alliance of App-based Transport Workers.

The claims were brought under Article 22 of the General Data Protection Regulation (Regulation (EU) 2016/679) (‘GDPR’). The drivers’ complaints related to dismissals resulting from, among others, Uber systems’ detection of irregular trips associated with fraudulent activities in one case, and the installation and use of software with the intention and effect of manipulating the Uber’s Driver App in another case. The drivers were dismissed, given no further explanation, and denied the right to appeal. The Court was asked to determine to what extent the GDPR could protect individuals from unfair automated decision-making, specifically, individuals have the right to certain protections from automated decisions which create negative affects but are carried out without meaningful human intervention.

On 14 April 2021 the Court of Amsterdam ordered that Uber Technologies Inc.reinstate drivers dismissed by an algorithm in the UK. In Case C / 13/696010 / HA ZA 21-81, the Court concluded that Uber’s decisions to dismiss the drivers could be regarded as decisions based solely on automated processing, including profiling, which have legal consequences for the claimants or which otherwise significantly affect them, within the meaning of Article 22(1) of the GDPR and should therefore be nullified. The Court ordered Uber to undo the deactivation of the claimants’ Uber driver accounts within one week, as well as paying a total of €3,536.89 in costs suffered by the claimant. The Court’s short decision is available here. The Court stated in paragraph 3.1 that

the decisions made by the defendant with regard to the alleged violation of the terms and conditions applied by the defendant and/or the alleged fraudulent actions of the plaintiffs and/or the termination of the agreement existing between the defendant and the plaintiffs and/or deactivation of the plaintiffs’ accounts held by Uber Driver are to be regarded as decisions based solely on automated processing, including profiling, and which have legal consequences for the plaintiffs or which otherwise significantly affect them

and in paragraph 3.2 the Court

Annuls the automated decisions of the defendant regarding the alleged violation of the terms and conditions applied by the defendant and/or the alleged fraudulent actions of the plaintiffs and/or the termination of the agreement existing between the defendant and the plaintiffs and/or the deactivation of the plaintiffs’ accounts held by Uber Driver.

For more on the issue of transparency in automated decision making, listen to our Law Pod UK Episode 139 “Courts tussle with Uber, Ola and the Gig Economy”.

*By Rosalind English, UK Human Rights Blog*