Uber Technologies Inc is suspending its low-cost ride-hailing service in France, hoping to defuse an escalating legal dispute and sometimes violent tensions with traditional French taxi drivers.
The unusual concession comes after the stakes mounted this week in Uber’s standoff with France: Two senior European managers for the San Francisco-based company were detained on Monday and ordered to stand trial, charged with “deceptive commercial practices.”
It reflects the broader struggle of governments to keep up with fast-moving technology — and how to tax operations like Uber’s and protect workers and consumers.
Companies like Uber argue that governments are unfairly protecting entrenched industries instead of adapting to the times.
Uber has run into legal problems elsewhere in Europe, as well as in China and India.
The French battle centers around Uber’s low-cost service, in France called UberPop, which links users to drivers without professional taxi or chauffeur licenses.
Protests turned violent last week, with cars set alight and reports of UberPop passengers being attacked. French authorities had ordered it shut down, but Uber refused, pending a legal decision at a top French court.
Uber France chief Thibaud Simphaud said in an interview published yesterday in Le Monde that the company changed its mind “in a spirit of bringing peace” with authorities.
“Uber has decided to immediately suspend UberPop in France,” the US company said in a statement.
The decision to suspend the service “follows the acts of violence of the past two weeks,” it said. An Uber spokesman confirmed that the service was being suspended starting yesterday evening.
Simphaud and another European manager for Uber were detained this week and ordered to stand trial on Sept. 30. They are accused of six counts, including deceptive commercial practices, complicity in instigating an illegal taxi-driving activity and the illegal stockpiling of personal information.
Claiming unfair competition, taxi drivers staged a violence-marred strike last week, blocking many roads across France.
Uber’s regular app-based service, which connects registered drivers with riders, continues to function in France. Uber claims to have a total of 400,000 customers per month in France.
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