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France Cracks Down on Uber Amid Protests From Taxi Drivers

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 7/1/2015 Kelly Pleskot

French police detained two top Uber executives in Paris on Monday after taxi drivers threw violent protests over the car-hailing service.

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During a strike last week, taxi drivers set fire to cars in protest over the less expensive car service. Around 3,000 cabbies blocked access to the capital's Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports, snarling traffic. But this incident was far from the beginning of Uber's troubles in France. In March, police there raided Uber's offices to search for evidence as part of an ongoing investigation, but so far hadn't filed charges against the company.

The actual service under scrutiny is UberPOP, whose drivers don't pay social charges or undergo the same training as French cabbies. This low-cost service from Uber instead puts customers in touch with drivers who don't have a professional license. But laws in France make this practice illegal, prosecutors say. Under new laws, operating such a service can result in fines as high as 300,000 euros ($334,971) and two years in prison.

Pierre-Dimitri Gore-Coty, Uber's general manager for Western Europe, and Thibaud Simphal, Uber's French general manager, may be in custody, but Uber isn't giving up without a fight. Currently, Uber is challenging the law that bans UberPOP in France's constitutional court. The company is also calling on the European Union to intervene.

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In the meantime, the French Interior Ministry says that it has opened cases against 420 UberPop drivers, which could lead to fines. Police were also told to start impounding vehicles every time an UberPOP driver was caught in the act.

Uber has faced a number of legal issues in its short history. Kansas was the most recent U.S. state to challenge Uber, which ended up shutting down shop there. Uber also ruffled feathers in Germany last year when courts argued drivers don't have the necessary permits or insurance to operate the kind of service it provides.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, AFP

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