On Thursday, French taxi drivers finally hit their boiling point with Uber, and especially its unlicensed Uberpop drivers, stealing their riders.
UberPop is a transportation service that allows private drivers to carpool individuals who are traveling in the same direction. At about half the price of an UberX for customers, UberPop was established as a cheaper, more environmentally efficient car-riding service. However, the service does not require its drivers to obtain official licensing, which in France costs a one-time fee of 240,000 euros ($270,000).
Thomas Meister, spokesman for Uber, told CNN on Thursday:
“Under the rule of law, the justice is in charge of determining what is legal and what is illegal; so far no French court of justice has declared POP illegal and asked us to stop operations.”
While Uber insists that UberPop’s activities are legal according to French laws, the country’s government and taxi drivers disagree.
Cazeneuve said that UberPop drivers do not pay taxes or licensing fees and are therefore as criminal as individuals who operate on the black market. He furthered his point by warning UberPop and ridesharing drivers that they would face prison time, confiscation of their vehicles, and additional penalties if caught.
On Thursday morning, taxi protesters took violent action against Uber drivers. They caused severe congestion to airports near Paris, as well as the capital’s Gare du Nord and Gare de Lyon train stations.
Cars were flipped, tires were lit on fire, and drivers and riders alike were taken hostage. U.S. singer Courtney Love experienced the violent outbreak firsthand and tweeted,
“They’ve ambushed our car and are holding our driver hostage. they’re beating the cars with metal bats. this is France?? I’m safer in Baghdad.”
Riot police tried to maintain order as they separated taxi drivers from Uber drivers.
Meisner told CNN yesterday that there were 50,000 taxis in France, and roughly 1,000 of them were inappropriately demonstrating. Police, however, told CNN that their French affiliate BFMTV estimated a taxi protest of 2,800 taxi drivers.
While the exact number of protesters is uncertain, their message was clear: taxi drivers want unlicensed UberPop drivers out.
Although both Uber and French officials are at odds over the legality of ridesharing, they both agree that violence isn’t justified.