Ride-sharing service UberPop will be banned in France from Jan. 1, a government official said Monday, as Paris taxi drivers blocked traffic around the capital in protest at a court decision Friday not to impose an emergency ban on the service.
French taxi drivers are protesting that services such as Uber Technologies' UberPop, which use mobile apps to put unlicensed drivers in contact with passengers for a fee, compete unfairly with strictly regulated taxi services. They had asked the Paris commercial court to impose an emergency ban on UberPop, but on Friday the court rejected the request. On Monday, Paris taxi drivers protesting the decision blocked roads around the city's main airports, causing 49 kilometers of traffic jams as they drove slowly into the city.
But UberPop and similar services involving drivers without a license to transport paying passengers will be banned shortly, a spokesman for the Ministry of the Interior told local media ahead of the protests on Monday.
Such services will become illegal on Jan. 1, when a new taxi law comes into force, the ministry spokesman said, adding that it is illegal to offer rides for a fee without the proper license. Putting riders and unlicensed drivers in contact with one another could result in a two-year prison sentence or a fine of up to €300,000 (US$373,000). Such services pose a real danger for passengers, because unlicensed drivers will not have the necessary insurance, the spokesman warned.
Uber's business model faces resistance in other countries too. On Friday Brussels-Capital Region Minister Pascal Smet said he would file a criminal complaint against Uber for operating UberPop. Smet also asked the federal police to take down Uber's website in Belgium and said he will inform Apple and Google that the Uber apps in their app stores incite illegal practices. Brussels' fiscal and social fraud authorities will also open investigations into Uber's business practices.
Earlier in the week, the U.S. company was banned from operating UberpPop in Spain while a Dutch court upheld a ban on UberPop in the Netherlands. In both cases unfair competition from unlicensed drivers was the reason for the ban.
Uber was also banned from operating in Delhi, India, after one of its drivers was charged with the rape of a female passenger. The Delhi authorities said Uber might not have vetted its drivers properly as local media reported the driver was a known sex offender. The company was also sued in the U.S. in a bid by the city of Portland, Oregon to keep the service from operating without the right permits.
Uber did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Loek is Amsterdam Correspondent and covers online privacy, intellectual property, online payment issues as well as EU technology policy and regulation for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org