Paris tourist says trip ruined by ‘€890 taxi fare’

A British tourist in Paris says his trip to the French capital was ruined after falling victim to a scam that saw his debit card billed for €890 following a short taxi ride.

Paris tourist says trip ruined by '€890 taxi fare'
Photo by Thomas SAMSON / AFP

Fergus Shepherd was visiting Paris with his wife and children during the half term holiday, when he when he was hit by the startling charge on his Mastercard.

He believes it was linked to short taxi ride he took between two of Paris’s most famous tourist spots.

He said: “We had a lovely week and of course I used the card to pay for a few things, it was only when we got home and I got the statement I saw that I had been charged €890 for a single payment, which I certainly hadn’t spent.

“When we looked at the time on the payment it was roughly the same time as we took a taxi from the Musée d’Orsay to the Pompidou centre.

“We took a licensed Paris taxi and the fare on the metre was about €15.

“The driver let us out around the corner because there were roadworks and I paid on my card using Chip and PIN, I didn’t see the amount properly on the card terminal, but I could see the metre amount and it was what I would expect for that journey.

“When I got home I saw the €890 charge and I called Mastercard and they said it was probably the taxi.”

The charge on the statement was listed to SumUp, the London-based tech company which provides card payment services to small businesses around the world – it is widely used in France by small businesses and freelance traders including taxi drivers, hairdressers, tradesmen and boutiques.

Fergus added: “Because the payment was a Chip and PIN one, Mastercard say they won’t refund me, SumUp say they will investigate and I have contacted both the Paris police and the Paris taxi drivers association, with no response yet.

“It’s a huge amount of money, not an amount I can afford to lose, and it’s really spoiled what was a lovely trip.”

Licensed Paris taxis have fixed rates that they have to charge for trips from Paris airports into the centre of town. Those prices vary slightly depending on whether the taxi is from Charles de Gaulle airport or Orly and where in Paris the passenger is heading. But €58 is the maximum.

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

Tourists in the city are often targeted by unlicensed drivers – especially at airports and train stations – who charge rip-off fares, including the driver who charged tourists from Hong Kong €230 to take them from Charles de Gaulle airport into the city centre.

The city of Paris has been attempting to clamp down on unlicenced drivers in recent months, with several cases going through the courts.

Tourists are advised to always use a licensed Paris taxi (or an Uber or other VTC) and never accept a lift from drivers who approach you at the airport or train station – licensed taxi drivers are banned from soliciting for trade, so only illegal drivers approach passengers. 

Have you experienced unexplained card charges after visiting Paris? Share your experiences on [email protected]

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Paris pétanque club under threat from luxury hotel plans

A community pétanque club in the chic Paris neighbourhood of Montmartre is battling for survival after a luxury hotel filed plans for the walled garden that hosts its exclusive games.

Paris pétanque club under threat from luxury hotel plans

For 50 years, the walled garden on the ultra-chic Rue Lepic has resonated with the metal clacks of pétanque, the French national bowling pastime, defying the gentrification that drew envious eyes.

Montmartre in the north of Paris is one of the few elevated areas in the relatively flat French capital and “the butte”, as it is known, had for many years a rural feel that captivated artists.

Even now, with the area absorbed into the urban sprawl of central Paris, most residents still call it a village.

The garden is maintained by the non-profit organisation Club Lepic-Abbesses Pétanque (CLAP) and its 257 members, who say nothing less than the neighbourhood’s soul is at stake as City Hall considers rival commercial projects for the site.

“You have job-seekers, pensioner and CEOs, a chef, a teacher. A 16-year-old can play with someone who’s 80. Here you find all types, and it’s this incredible social fabric that makes us what we are,” said Maxime Liogier, the club’s communications manager.

The players took over the 765 square metres of playing grounds, a rare remnant of the vegetation that once covered the butte, after the city bought the land from a daughter of a resident painter in 1972.

No formal contracts were signed but the city gave its tacit approval, connecting water and electricity for the clubhouse and letting the club reserve entry to members only.

The status quo prevailed until a few months ago, when the luxury boutique hotel next door filed a plan to turn the site into a for-profit affair. What better setting for lush wedding receptions or cocktail parties?

READ ALSO 10 things you probably didn’t know about pétanque

Under a 2017 law, the city had to publish the proposal for use of public land and invite competing offers that are due by November 28th.

The move caught the CLAP off guard, especially since it had been trying to regularise its situation with local officials.

“Two months isn’t a lot of time for us to come up with a project!” Liogier said.

An online petition to save the club has garnered around 4,300 signatures, though members seem to accept that their days of exclusive access are numbered.

“We want to keep the site in its current state, while opening it up as much as possible to the neighbourhood,” Liogier said.

To that end, the club held an open house on Saturday, with members suggesting that schools would soon be invited so children could learn an activity more often associated with pensioners enjoying a game between glasses of beer or pastis.

“When a unique place like this is in danger, it breaks your heart,” French tennis great and neighbour Yannick Noah told AFP.

“It’s good to have commercial projects but maybe there’s something more important — this bond between people.”

But not everyone will be sad to see the club go. Alain Coquard, the influential president of the “Republic of Montmartre” preservation society, calls the CLAP an unaccountable clique that claims dominion over a “magical site” that should be open to everyone.

The stakes are high for the butte as it seeks to join UNESCO’s ranks of protected World Heritage Sites.

“Can we leave a city’s heritage, which belongs to all Parisian taxpayers, abandoned like this? Just give it to people who have turned it into the most exclusive club in Paris?” he said.

According to Coquard — who says he was refused entry the one time he was invited to play — private event operators are also preparing lucrative proposals for the city, which could be temping as the municipal debt load soars.

But his Republic is backing the bid by the Hotel Particulier next door, whose director Oscar Comtet declined to comment when contacted by AFP.

“We sided with him to ensure this corner of Montmartre is opened up,” Coquard said, conjuring up a range of open-door events, maybe even an ice-skating rink, on the petanque grounds in winter.

But the CLAP is digging in. Older members recall a years-long battle in the 1980s to prevent the construction of a multi-storey carpark on the site.

Prominent neighbours including Jean-Pierre Cassel, father of star actor Vincent Cassel, chained themselves to the trees to scupper the project, and in 1991 the site was designated a protected landscape.

“If we have to, we’ll do the same,” Liogier said, though he remains confident that 50 years of taking care of the garden have not been in vain.

“We trust that the planning commission will pick the best project, which is us.”