Uber halts French service temporarily

IOL pic nov18 Uber office AP File picture: Eric Risberg

Paris - Uber Technologies will suspend its service in France for four hours on uesday to support drivers who are protesting government decisions that impose stricter controls on chauffeured-car services.

Customers won’t be able to book cars via Uber’s mobile application from 11am to 3pm, a company spokesman said in an email. Staff from the San Francisco-based company will join drivers who plan to demonstrate at Place de la Nation in the French capital, the spokesman said.

The protest is the latest round in a dispute that pits the highly regulated taxi industry in France against upstarts such as Uber and its drivers, who are independent contractors. The government is trying to walk a line of supporting the growth of new app-based businesses while not angering drivers of traditional taxis.

In a bid to appease cab drivers after a taxi strike in January resulted in burnt tyres and clogged traffic, Prime Minister Manuel Valls met with cab drivers and promised that a special police unit called the Boers will step up enforcement efforts against chauffeured cars.

Taxi drivers in France recently have focused their criticism on drivers with a license specifically to do collective transport, such as driving vans for tourists, whom they’ve accused of instead transporting individuals using platforms like Uber.

Uber has been facing regulatory challenges in cities from San Francisco to Munich. Executives for the French unit are due in court this week in the latest episode of a legal battle that led to Thibaud Simphal, Uber’s head of French operations, and the car-booking company’s general manager for Western Europe, Pierre-Dimitri Gore-Coty, to be detained by police.

* With assistance from David Whitehouse


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