Uber suspends UberPop service in France

Uber announced on Friday that it will be suspending its UberPop in France a week after the government and taxi drivers declared war on the controversial service.

Uber suspends UberPop service in France
Taxi drivers called for an end to UberPop and they've got what they wanted, for now at least. Photo: AFP

After a spate of violent protests and the arrest of two bosses, Uber finally suspended its controversial low-cost
UberPOP private driver service in France on Friday, six months after it was banned.

“Uber has decided to immediately suspend UberPOP in France,” the US company said in a statement, adding that it was waiting to see the outcome of a legal appeal against the ban, due by September.

UberPOP puts customers in touch with private drivers at budget prices. The company says it has 500,000 users.

The service has angered taxi drivers who say it represents unfair competition because the UberPOP drivers do not face the same regulations and pricing restrictions as professionals.

A nationwide taxi strike turned violent last week, with cars set alight and reports of UberPOP passengers being attacked.

The decision to suspend the service “follows the acts of violence of the past two weeks,” said Uber in the statement.

UberPOP was made illegal in January, but the law has proved difficult to enforce and the service continued to operate.

Uber has filed two complaints with the European Commission against the law, which it is also challenging in France's Constitutional Court.

Two bosses of Uber France — director general Thibaud Simphal and western Europe director Pierre-Dimitri Gore-Coty — were arrested this week and will go on trial on September 30.

They have been charged with “misleading commercial practices, complicity in the illegal exercise of the taxi profession and illegal use of private data,” the Paris prosecutor said.

That followed a major nationwide strike by 3,000 taxi drivers the week before that brought road traffic to a standstill and caused chaos at airports and train stations.

The protests gained added publicity when rock star Courtney Love tweeted her frustration from one of the traffic jams, saying protesters were whacking vehicles with metal bats and “ambushed our car and are holding our driver hostage.”

“I'm safer in Baghdad,” she wrote.

Uber said it would consider getting official private hire licences for its UberPOP drivers — requiring them to have 250 hours of training and follow strict rules on the age and size of their vehicles.

“UberPOP was a significant source of revenue for more than 10,000 people,” said the company in its statement.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls welcomed the suspension saying it “showed that the firm position of the government had paid off”.

“We have always said that we are not against Uber… but there must also be rules,” said Valls.

There was a more guarded response from taxi unions.

“The announcement is satisfactory. However, we remain vigilant and very suspicious,” said Severine Bourlier, secretary general of the National Union of Taxis.

“Uber is accustomed to this kind of manouevre and they are capable of creating similar applications under another name.




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Uber launches ‘Jump’ electric bikes and scooters in Paris

US ride-hailing group Uber said Wednesday that it would start deploying electric bikes and scooters for rent on Paris streets as soon as this week, joining a crowded market which city officials have vowed to rein in.

Uber launches 'Jump' electric bikes and scooters in Paris
Uber is set to launch its fleet of electric bikes and scooters in Paris as soon as this week. Photo: AFP
Initially 500 of its Jump bikes and 500 scooters will be rolled out, before Uber extends the programme to Paris suburbs and other French cities.
They will be so-called “dockless” rentals that can be picked up and left anywhere, a system that has proved a headache for residents who often find them blocking pavements or strewn across the city's picturesque squares.
An estimated 15,000 scooters operated by several companies have flooded the French capital since their introduction last year, a number projected to surge 
to 40,000 by the end of this year.
This month Paris said it would start imposing fines of 135 euros ($150) for riding scooters on pavements, and 35 euros for improper parking.


Like the other nine scooter operators in the city, Uber will also have to pay an annual licensing fee of 50 to 65 euros per scooter, depending on the size of its fleet.
And Uber said it had already signed the code of good conduct unveiled by Paris officials last week.
Rental prices for both the bikes and scooters will be the same: a one-euro unlocking fee and then 15 cents per minute.
The bikes will have a top speed of 25 km/h (15 mph), while the scooters can reach 20 km/h.
Uber bought Jump, a fellow San Francisco-based start-up, last year. Its bright-red bikes are already present in several US cities as well as in Lisbon and Berlin.
Uber had already announced Tuesday its plans to develop scooter offerings across Europe, beginning with Madrid.