Uber Technologies has announced that it would be suspending its UberPOP ride-hailing service in France after taxi drivers took to the streets to protest. The violent protests were fueled by licensed French taxi drivers angered that the service was threatening their livelihood with unfair competition. The violent protests shut down streets and resulted in a number of vehicles damaged. Vehicles suspected of being driven by UberPOP drivers were attacked and overturned in the streets.
Local authorities in France have denounced UberPOP as an illegal taxi service. Taxi drivers in France pay hundreds of thousands of euros for an operating license, plus income taxes and welfare charges. UberPOP drivers do not have these expenses and have been undercutting the taxi drivers on price. Uber’s services are currently offered in nearly 270 cities worldwide. Launched in 2010, the company is now valued in excess of $40 billion.
Uber France head Thibaud Simphal reported through newspaper Le Monde that “We have decided to suspend UberPOP in France from 2000 (1800 GMT) this Friday evening, primarily to assure the safety of Uber drivers.” In the report, he continued on to say, “The second reason is that we want to create a spirit of reconciliation and dialogue with public authorities to show we are acting responsibly.”
The June 25 protests rocked a number of French cities. Cabbies overturned cars, burned tires, and blocked the roads to Paris airports to express their anger towards UberPOP’s continued operation. According to police reports, ten people were arrested, 70 cars were damaged, and seven police officials were injured during the protests. Two executives from the California-based company were arrested and taken into custody. They will face trial in September.
Uber has faced a number of setbacks in its quest to expand into Europe. Strikes and other demonstrations against Uber have occurred across the continent. France has already ruled that the service is illegal in the country. An Italian court banned unlicensed car-sharing services in May. Two months earlier, a German court also banned unlicensed car-sharing services and implemented stiff fines for violations of local transport laws.