Tue, Dec 16, 2014 - Page 15 News List

France announces UberPop ban as taxi drivers protest

Reuters, PARIS

French motorcycle police yesterday escort striking taxi drivers taking part in a demonstration in Paris, France.

Photo: Reuters

The UberPop transport service is to be forbidden in France beginning on Jan. 1, the French Interior Ministry said yesterday, the latest regulatory hurdle for the controversial car service company.

The announcement came as taxi unions called a one-day action to protest against San Francisco-based Uber Inc, vowing to block 260km of roads around Paris with slowly-moving taxi motorcades during the morning rush hour.

French Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet said a law passed this year, that is to come into effect next year, aimed at regulating the taxi industry and chauffeured cars “is even more constrictive for these types of businesses.”

“Not only is it illegal to offer this service, but additionally for the consumer there is a real danger,” Brandet told reporters, citing the inadequate insurance of drivers.

Uber did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Highly regulated taxi drivers have protested that Uber, which allows users to summon taxi-like services from their smartphones, has hit their business unfairly as it has expanded rapidly over the four years since its launch.

On Friday last week, a commercial court in Paris refused to hear a lawsuit brought by Uber’s competitors that sought to ban UberPop on the grounds of unfair competition.

The court said the emergency request was unjustified and said any further actions to ban the service should be examined in a criminal court.

Uber’s French subsidiary was fined 100,000 euros (US$124,500) in October for fraudulent business practices, with a court finding that it advertised UberPop as a car pool instead of a paid transportation service.

Uber has continued to operate the service pending appeal.

In a statement, Taxi de France union president Ibrahim Sylla called on taxi drivers to react with “fervor and firmness to this injustice.”

“Come out in mass to defend our work, it’s an important moment,” Sylla wrote.

In related news, Uber yesterday offered free rides from Sydney’s central business district following a public backlash over an initial surge in prices amid a hostage drama in a city cafe.

Fares on the company’s booking app initially rose to a minimum fee of A$100 (US$82) for pickups near the siege, more than four times the fare before the drama unfolded in Australia.

The price hike was a result of the company’s controversial automatic surge pricing.

An armed assailant yesterday was holding an unknown number of hostages inside a central Sydney cafe, police said, with local television showing people being forced to hold up a black flag with white Arabic writing in the window.

Sydney’s public transport system was under pressure because of the siege as several businesses in the city, including major banks, evacuated offices and sent employees home.

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