Wed | Sep 19, 2018

No Uber in France

Published:Sunday | June 28, 2015 | 12:00 AM
A striking taxi driver holds a placard which read, “Stop Uber, Stop listening,” referring to the new United States spying report in France, during a taxi drivers demonstration in Paris, France, on Thursday, June 25.
Taxis gather at a major entrance of Paris, on Thursday, June 25.
Riot police officers stand next to a cab with posters which reads, “Uber go home” and “Uber get out,” during a taxi drivers’ demonstration in Paris, France, on Thursday, June 25.


France's Interior minister, in a bid to halt a day of sometimes violent protests by taxi drivers angered by UberPop, said last Thursday that the low-cost car service must be shut down. He said orders would be given to seize their vehicles.

Bernard Cazeneuve's announcement came after striking taxi drivers angered at a loss of income caused by cheap services like UberPop blocked highways, burned tyres and smashed cars around France.

Cazeneuve met with taxi union representatives before the announcement in a bid to restore order. He said 70 vehicles were damaged, seven police officers injured and 10 arrests made on Thursday, when 30 legal complaints were filed against UberPop.

Among those caught up in the protests was singer Courtney Love, who tweeted her frustration, saying her ride form the airport was ambushed, and she was rescued by two men on a motorcycle.

Cazeneuve said he would meet with UberPop officials to tell them their service "is illegal".

"It must, therefore, be closed," he said. "The government will never accept the law of the jungle."

Taxi drivers say that the US ride-hailing company Uber is stealing their livelihood. Rising tensions exploded into violence on Thursday. Travellers going to and from the airport walked alongside highways with their bags. With roads blocked, some never made it to the airport.

"They've ambushed our car and are holding our driver hostage," Love tweeted. "They're beating the cars with metal bats. this is France?? I'm safer in Baghdad."

It wasn't immediately clear what type of car Love was riding in.

Taxi drivers are angry, saying Uber's lowest cost service is taking their livelihood away. Despite repeated rulings against the low-cost UberPop service, its drivers have continued to ply French roads and the American company is actively recruiting drivers and passengers alike. Uber claims to have a total of 400,000 customers a month in France.

Riot police

Riot police chased strikers from Paris' ring road, where protesters torched tyres in the middle of the roadway and swarmed on to exit ramps at rush hour.

Love, Kurt Cobain's widow, sent a litany of tweets on Thursday afternoon, including one to Kanye West suggesting she would have been better off staying at the airport with him. West later appeared at the Louis Vuitton menswear show, cool and calm.

She wrote: "Paid some guys on motorcycles to sneak us out, got chased by a mob of taxi drivers who threw rocks, passed two police and they did nothing."

She later posted a selfie wearing a motorcycle helmet with her two smiling rescuers.

Cazeneuve called a meeting of French anti-fraud officials for tomorrow to put in place measures to "immediately" stop illegal taxis from servicing customers. Only a decision by the Justice Ministry can ban the App for UberPop, he said.

The minister denounced Uber for failing to respect French fiscal, social and work laws, and "with arrogance applies none of the rules of law of the republic".

Uber's more expensive livery service is still legal but a source of intense frustration for French taxi drivers, who pay tens of thousands of euros for the equivalent of medallions and who face customer complaints that they are being resistant to changes such as credit cards and geolocation.