BlaBlaCar, an international carpooling service, instructed Egorov Puginsky Afanasiev & Partners following a court decision to block the company’s Russian website in response to the prosecutor’s office suit. The prosecutor likened BlaBlaCar’s activities to those of taxi operators who distribute fares to drivers without a taxi licence.
“The challenge faced by the Firm’s attorneys was complicated significantly by the fact that BlaBlaCar is a new phenomenon for the Russian legal system, and that this was the first dispute relating to a service of this kind,” comments Valery Eremenko, Partner and Co-Head of the Litigation Practice of Egorov Puginsky Afanasiev & Partners.
“Our defence position was based on two key arguments – the fact that it is impossible to block their website for the reasons stated, and also the fact that trips booked through BlaBlaCar qualify as exclusively non-commercial. As proof, we presented hundreds of pages of documents confirming the blocking of individuals suspected of using the service for commercial purposes,” explains Senior Associate Oleg Koyda.
BlaBlaCar has circa 12 million users in Russia. Violation of the website’s terms and conditions, which prohibit commercial journeys, by some individuals, cannot serve as grounds for blocking the site for citizens making legitimate use of the service to fulfil their constitutional right to freedom of movement.
The appellate court overturned the decision to block BlaBlaCar in Russia on 19 December 2017, finding the arguments of the complainant to be substantiated.
BlaBlaCar was founded in Paris in 2006 as a service to help bring together passengers for the purposes of carpooling. It began operating in Russia in February 2014. Today, BlaBlaCar has more than 50 million users worldwide.