San Francisco-based Uber announced today it will stop offering its controversial UberPOP service in France, a move that comes after a week of sometimes violent protests by taxi drivers and a crackdown by the national government.
“In the light of last week’s violence, we have today decided to suspend uberPOP, our ride sharing service, until September’s Constitutional Court decision,” the company said in a statement. “It’s a tremendously sad day for our 500,000 French uberPOP passengers, as well as the drivers who used the platform. However, safety must come first. Our regular UberX service, which uses licensed cars and makes up a majority of our trips each day in France, will continue to operate as usual.”
Under the so-called “Thévenoud Law” that went into effect this year, drivers for ride-sharing services like UberPOP were required to follow many of the same regulations for training and licensing as traditional taxi drivers. Uber, however, appealed this law, and in the meantime continued to operate the UberPOP service as it had before.
That led to growing frustration among France’s taxi industry, which felt a U.S. tech giant was essentially flouting the law. Last week, taxi drivers staged a nationwide strike that disrupted travel across the country, and in a few cases involved violent confrontations with police, Uber drivers, and passengers.
While government officials criticized the violence, they also vowed to step up enforcement efforts against Uber. Indeed, earlier this week, two Uber officials were detained by police in Paris.
One of those executives, Thibaud Simphal, Uber’s general manager for France, gave an interview today to Le Monde. The journalist conducting the interview wondered whether Uber executives had been acting like “cowboys” in pushing ahead with the service.
Simphal said no, arguing that the law created an extraordinary burden for the company’s drivers and was dampening a growing ride-sharing industry that was creating jobs at a time when France’s economy was stuck in neutral.
“This law halted the development of this new economic sector,” he said.
In its blog post, Uber said the company had more than 10,000 drivers in France. It also noted that while it had begun trying to license its drivers under the terms of the new laws, the process can take six months and require 250 hours of training and a down payment of $1,700.
“Unfortunately, the current licensing process has become too much of an obstacle course,” the company said. “It once took two weeks to get up and running with a license. But today we have 12,000 partners who have applied for one and are needlessly waiting — with only 215 applicants licensed since the Thévenoud Law came into force.”
A French court is expected to make a final ruling on the law September 30, and Uber held out hope that a favorable ruling or some other kind of settlement with the government could allow it to resume the service.
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