The popular freelance transportation company Uber suspended its operations in France on July 3, following a week of angry and often violent protests from the nation’s taxi drivers
The head of Uber France, Thibaud Simphal, told Le Monde that the company was suspending its operations “in the spirit of bringing peace,” adding that the safety of its drivers was also a concern.
Uber is a service that enables freelance drivers to pick up passengers, much like a taxi driver would do, via a smartphone app.
France’s taxi drivers claimed that the freelance drivers were putting licensed taxi drivers out of business and were skirting industry rules and regulations.
The protests became intense, leading to cars damaged, roads blocked, tires burned, police officials injured, and 10 people arrested.
Many, including French politicians, are calling for reforms to France’s taxi industry. The industry has been accused of resisting change. There are nearly as many taxis in Paris today as there were only a few years after World War II, with only a 14% since 1937. The industry has also been resistant to adding things like GPS or accepting credit cards.
Earlier this week French prosecutors arrested two Uber executives for “deceptive commercial practices.” They were held overnight and charged with enabling taxi-driving by nonprofessional drivers. Their trail date is set for September, and they face a maximum of two years in jail plus hundreds of thousands of euros in fines.
Uber has faced opposition in many of the approximately 300 cities it has set up in. More than a dozen lawsuits have been filed across Europe against the company, and it is banned in South Korea.