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Taxi drivers' protest
'Uber profits' as French taxi drivers' protest rumbles on
Uber is enjoying the ongoing the French taxi drivers strike. Photo: AFP

'Uber profits' as French taxi drivers' protest rumbles on

Ben McPartland · 28 Jan 2016, 08:54

Published: 28 Jan 2016 08:54 GMT+01:00

Around 200 taxi drivers spent the night in their cars blocking roads at Porte Maillot on the western edge of Paris as they refused calls by police to disperse. Drivers are advised to avoid the area.

Porte Maillot as well as the capital’s two airports have been the focal point of the protests that began on Tuesday morning.

On Thursday taxi drivers, angry over what they see as unfair competition from the likes of Uber and the government's inability to enforce laws to protect them, held go-slows in towns around France to disrupt the traffic.

Go-slow protests were also planned at Orly and Charles de Gaule airport on Thursday as well as at Bercy and an operation on the A13 motorway towards Paris was causing long tail backs.

Similar operations made it difficult to access the airport in Toulouse and around Marseille.

Government efforts to appease taxi drivers have clearly not done the trick.

French PM Manuel Valls has appointed a mediator to look at the issues and launched a three month consultation period, but unions are determined to carry on.

But all the while the protests by determined cabbies rumble on, the very firms that the taxi drivers rail against appear to be profiting.

According to information obtained by BFM TV the number of new clients downloading of apps for firms like Uber and Chauffeur Privé have exploded in recent days.

As many as 15,000 new users a day have signed up to Chauffeur Privé – a French version of Uber, media reports say, ten times the normal daily sign up rate.

And users took to Twitter to explain why.

 

“In just one day during the strike between 10,000 and 15,000 clients discovered the service and signed up to the web platform. It’s remarkable,” said Yann Hascoet, founder of Chauffeur Privé.

“The strikes are an opportunity for many to discover the existence of an alternative to taxis,” he added.

And it’s not the first time firms like Uber have benefited from strikes, as clients look for other options to get from A to B.

“It’s the sixth strike we’ve seen in the last three to four years and each time we see the same thing,” said Hascoet. “Each time we see a strike the knock-on effect is bigger.”

However it wasn't all good news for Uber. On Wednesday a court ordered the American company to pay €1.2 million to a French taxi group following a complaint that Uber drivers were acting as traditional taxis -- waiting in the street in the hopes of picking up passengers.

Uber France was accused by the UNT of being "ambiguous" in its communications with drivers about the rules for private hire cars, which under French law are supposed to head back to their garages after each fare, rather than park or circulate on public roads.
   
Uber denied the charges, saying it "regularly informs" its drivers of the need to return to their garages after a journey.

Ben McPartland (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

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