• France Surrenders To Cabbies After Violent Uber Protest

    At least one French official is prepared to surrender to taxi drivers after they shut down roads in Paris and other major cities while protesting against ridesharing service Uber.

    “UberPOP is illegal,” French Minister of the Interior Bernard Cazeneuve said in a press release. “The competition that its drivers work against taxis and VTC is unfair: they do not pay any charges or taxes; it falls within the clandestine work.”

    Cazeneuve went on to call for police to “ensure that controls are further strengthened” and step up their efforts to identify and prosecute Uber drivers. (RELATED: Anti-Uber Efforts Mostly Fizzling)

    The statement was made in response to a nationwide protest by taxi drivers that has since degenerated into a near-riot, with cabbies using overturned vehicles and burning tires to block roadways, as well as occasionally scuffling with police equipped with riot gear and tear gas, Reuters reports.

    The protests were most severe in Paris, where road access to the Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports was completely cut off, though drivers were able to blockade highway exits and train stations in other cities, as well. (RELATED: Protesters Beg KC Officials Not to Drive Uber Away)

    The taxi industry, in France and elsewhere, views Uber and other ridesharing services as unfair competition, claiming that the start-ups are not subject to the same regulations that govern normal taxi operators. That lack of regulation seems to underlie Cazeneuve’s assertion that Uber is operating illegally, because a 2014 law bars firms from connecting passengers with “unregistered” drivers.

    Uber spokesman Thomas Meister, however, told Reuters that the French Constitutional Council is currently considering the legality of that law, parts of which Uber is challenging, and described the interior minister’s decree as an encroachment on the rule of law.

    “The way things work in a state of law is that it’s for the justice to judge whether something is legal or illegal,” Meister pointed out. (RELATED: Illinois Governor Vetoes Ridesharing Bills, Taxis Protest)

    The protesters in France, though, are more concerned about fundamental issues like money than they are about legal niceties, according to The New York Times, which notes that French taxi drivers must pay up to $270,000 for an operating license while Uber drivers merely have to pass the company’s pre-employment screening.

    European cities such as Berlin and Amsterdam, as well as the entire nation of Spain, have also banned Uber, ostensibly over similar regulatory objections. Uber describes the bans as discrimination among market participants, and is appealing to the European Commission to intervene on its behalf.

    Follow Peter Fricke on Twitter


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