France launches own ‘Le Taxi’ app to rival Uber

The French government has launched the app "Le Taxi" for Paris taxi users in a bid to challenge the popularity of Uber. Disgruntled Uber drivers, meanwhile, have also launched their own app to compete with their employers.

France launches own 'Le Taxi' app to rival Uber
Could France's taxi system overtake Uber in the app stakes? Photo: AFP
The French government on Saturday launched the beta version of a new app – Le Taxi – which allows users to book a cab using the internet and geo-localisation. 
The move comes as a result of the Thévenoud Law from October, in an attempt to resolve conflict between private minicabs and France's cabbies.
Users of Le Taxi will be able to “e-hail” a cab and then rate their experience, explained the government online (in English as well).
Sound familiar? Of course it does – this is just how it works with Uber, the main competitor to French taxis in a battle that has seen violent protests across the country from cab drivers who are furious to be losing business to the California-based company.
The government believes that the Le Taxi is the solution, and that its app can outpace Uber thanks to the sheer number of potential drivers who can sign up. 
Indeed, the government hopes to sign up some 50,000 of the nation's 57,000 cab drivers, which would make the app a far cry more popular than Uber which only operates in eight cities in France, boasting just 10,000 drivers in Paris compared to the 17,700 cab drivers. 
But it remains unclear exactly how many taxi drivers will use the service, which will be fully rolled out at the end of the year.  
Uber announces 20 percent fare cuts in Paris

(Uber is facing stiff competition in Paris. Photo: AFP)

Liam Boogar, the CEO of Rude Baguette, France's start-up blog, is convinced the tech idea won't work. 
“It's not enough to be just a copy of a concept,” he toldThe Local. 
“The big issue they'll have to deal with is that so many customers will say that they're already in the habit of just opening the Uber app.”
He noted as well that the idea might not take off if cabbies are reluctant to share their data with the government, adding that the rating system could be a put off to drivers with a notorious reputation for being unfriendly and taking the longer routes for unsuspecting passengers. 
Uber drivers, meanwhile, are busying themselves an app of their own that has been put together in protest of their employers. Paris-based drivers are angry at the recently introduced fare reductions of up to 20 percent, with the minimum fare now dropped from €8 to €5 (from $9.10 to $5.70).

A spokesperson said that the new app, called VTC cab (“VTC” is how France refers to private minicabs), is “made by the VTCs, for the VTCs, and run by the VTCs”. 
The app was created thanks to a €130,000 grant, courtesy of 30 members of France's VTC Association. 

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Paris drivers fined and banned after tourists charged €230 for airport taxi trip

Three Paris drivers have been fined and banned from driving after tourists were charged €230 for a taxi from Charles de Gaulle airport into the city, in a case brought by Paris taxi authorities to try and deter unlicensed drivers from performing this type of scam.

Paris drivers fined and banned after tourists charged €230 for airport taxi trip
Illustration photo: Philippe Lopez/AFP

Taxi fees from the airport into the city are capped at €53 for the Right Bank and €58 for the Left Bank, but tourists are frequently ripped off by unlicensed drivers who operate at airports and large train stations.

The latest case involved passengers who arrived from Hong Kong on January 1st and were charged €230 for the trip into the city centre.

This time the taxi drivers’ association L’association les Nouveaux Taxis Parisiens brought a civil action against the scammers, fed up with the overcharging which, they say, brings their profession into disrepute.

READ ALSO What you need to know about taking a taxi in Paris

Three men were brought before the court over the scam and produced a convoluted tale of extra charges for clearing up vomit from drunk passengers, which the Hong Kong tourists denied, while one man claimed he had only been at the airport to buy Nespresso capsules, to which the magistrate replied ‘Mmmmmm’, according to French newspaper Le Parisien

The driver was fined €200 for overcharging and banned from driving for a year, while his accomplice was banned from driving for six months. Both were ordered to pay €1,000 in damages. A third man, who was not present but whose legitimate taxi license the unlicensed driver was using, was given a €1,000 suspended fine and ordered to pay €1,000 in damages for complicity in the illegal practice of the profession.

Jean Barriera, leader of the taxi drivers’ association, said afterwards that he did not think the sentences were severe enough, adding that he had brought the case: “To defend the image of cabs. It’s the whole profession that these individuals sully.”

Paris, Nice, Cannes, Antibes, Toulouse and several other French cities have fixed rates for taxis, you can find the full list here

However these only apply to official taxis. If you are using a VTC service like Uber the price will vary depending on availability, although it will be fixed before you get into the car.

Unlicensed drivers are common at airports and stations including Gare du Nord. French taxi drivers are not allowed to solicit for fares, so if someone approaches you and offers you a taxi they are probably unlicensed – instead go to the taxi rank to find an official vehicle.

Click here for the full list of rates and what you need to know about taking a taxi in France.