How Uber riled French taxi drivers ahead of Paris protest

The Local France
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How Uber riled French taxi drivers ahead of Paris protest
Taxi drivers protesting against Uber last summer. Photo: AFP

With Paris taxi drivers preparing for another protest, Uber has riled the tetchy taxi community by offering them its own booking platform to use for themselves.


The general manager of Uber France, Thibault Simphal (photo below), wants to open his company's booking platform to taxi drivers across France. 
"We are going to look into how to do it, but we want to let taxis use the Uber platform - and we encourage all taxi services to do the same," he said at a Paris conference on Wednesday. 
"We want to open Uber to taxis" read the tweet.
But France's taxi driving community heads are not impressed with the offer. 
Karim Asnoun of CGT taxi said such a "provocation" was Uber's "favourite method of communication".
"Uber is saying: 'Leave your taxi in the garage and take your personal cars out. They want to impose their rules, and it's them who are the always the first to flout the rules," he said. 
He was backed by others from taxi firms around the country, including the head of Taxis G7, Serge Metz. 
"It is irresponsible to throw oil on fire like this," he said in a statement. 
He also predicted a strong turnout on Tuesday as taxi drivers protest in the capital against what they describe as "uncontrolled competition" that has seen their revenues nosedive by 30 percent.
He warned that there will be "far more drivers" taking to the streets than there were during the last strike in June last year.  
Metz said taxi drivers in France are experiencing "economic catastrophe". 
While June's protest targeted private mini cab firms, Tuesday's strike is to demonstrate against the French government, whom taxi drivers accuse of being incapable of enforcing laws designed to protect them from "unfair competition".
VTCs are subject to restrictions when it comes to picking clients up from airports, they are barred from using bus lanes and cannot stop and pick up clients in the street. But the taxi drivers say those restrictions are not being enforced.
In the last protest in June, France saw scenes of violence and destruction, which made international headlines when US rockstar Courtney Love  was attacked by anti-Uber protestors in Paris. 
In one incident, a client of Uber was even allegedly beaten by cabbies after being caught in an Uber vehicle.
One of the prime reasons taxi drivers are unhappy with Uber is because of the now-banned UberPOP service, which allowed unlicenced drivers to become taxi drivers using their own cars.
A French appeals court upheld charges against Uber in December, fining it ‎€150,000 ($160,000) for "misleading commercial practices".
It argued Uber misrepresented UberPOP by claiming it was a ride-sharing service rather than a normal taxi service.
Uber France's Simphal and the director for Western Europe Pierre-Dimitri Gore-Coty are facing trial after having been charged with "misleading commercial practices, complicity in the illegal exercise of the taxi profession and illegal use of private data" .
Uber has become one of the world's most valuable startups, worth an estimated $50 billion, as it has expanded to more than 50 countries.


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