French president and Uber taxis at loggerheads

Striking taxi drivers block the entrance to Marseilles Airport yesterday in a protest over UberPop. Picture: Getty
Striking taxi drivers block the entrance to Marseilles Airport yesterday in a protest over UberPop. Picture: Getty
Have your say

France’s president wants Uber’s cheapest car service shut down and its vehicles seized, but the firm refuses to stop running it until a ruling by the country’s highest court.

The stand-off, and a violence-marred taxi strike that caused travel chaos in Paris, reflects larger tensions in France over how to regulate fast-moving technology and stay globally competitive while ensuring labour ­protections.

They’re beating the cars with metal bats This is France??

Courtney Love

France’s interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve said yesterday that Uber is facing multiple investigations.

He spoke a day after striking taxi drivers attacked Uber cars and set fire to tyres on a major artery around Paris.

Some taxi drivers continued the protest yesterday, but the strike did not appear to seriously disrupt morning travel around Paris, and no violence was immediately reported.

Uber’s cheapest service, called UberPop in France, was banned but Uber officials insist they will continue their activities until France’s highest court rules on the service.

Mr Cazeneuve called that “cynical and arrogant.”

French president François Hollande said yesterday: “The UberPop group must be dissolved and declared illegal, and the vehicles must be seized.”

He added that the executive branch can’t do that without further action through the courts.

Mr Hollande, speaking at an EU summit in Brussels, accused Uber of not respecting “the social and fiscal rules”.

French authorities are frustrated that Uber doesn’t pay the same taxes and social charges as traditional taxis do.

Uber argues that the French taxi system is outdated and needs reform to keep up with apps and geolocalisation, and that traditional taxis are just trying to quash competition.

The company faces similar legal challenges and criticism from taxi drivers’ associations around the world. Furious taxi drivers in France say the low-cost UberPop service is ruining their livelihood.

Uber drivers have been repeatedly ambushed, sometimes with customers inside.

Rock star Courtney Love was caught up in Thursday’s violent anti-Uber protests.

The Hole frontwoman was besieged at the airport by a “mob of taxi drivers” before making her escape on the back of a motorcycle.

The musician shared an image of the window of her car spattered with egg, and thanked two motorcyclists she said rescued her.

Love tweeted several colourful comments claiming she had been ambushed and held hostage.

She tweeted: “They’ve ambushed our car and are holding our driver hostage. They’re beating the cars with metal bats. This is France?? I’m safer in Baghdad.”

Driving a taxi requires buying a licence that can cost in excess of €100,000 in Paris but there is no such obligation for Uber drivers.

Striking taxi drivers overturned cars, caused traffic gridlock and blocked train stations and airports to object to what they say is unfair competition.