The international story centered on the controversy of Uber France perhaps reached its most climactic height last Thursday, June 25th when striking taxi drivers protested the ride-share service by blockading roads, burning tires, and attacking presumed Uber France drivers. (You can read The New York Times‘ report on the protests here.)
Nonetheless, the story is far from over, as website Tech Crunch reports that both Uber France CEO Thibaud Simphal, and Uber Europe General Manager Pierre-Dimitri Gore-Coty were arrested on Monday. The two Uber France executives face charges of running illegal taxi operations and concealing digital documents, thus inhibiting an ongoing investigation.
At the heart of the issue is the assertion that Uber France – and in particular its lowest-rate UberPOP service – presents traditional taxi companies with unfair competition. UberPOP does not require any special chauffeur license for owner-operators, and instead utilizes independent contractors with little overhead, and even less oversight. As such, Uber France can undercut any competition with meager pricing, and has a tremendous well of eligible drivers who don’t possess any of the qualifications necessary to work for a “legitimate” taxi service.
UberPOP was banned in France, effective as of the 1st of January, 2015. But Uber France continues to offer the service regardless; the company even pays for any fines issued to UberPOP drivers by the police. And not only has Uber France urged its contractors to keep working despite the ban, but the company even expanded the UberPOP service to several more French cities recently – hence Thursday’s rioting.
Where the “concealing digital documents” portion of the French police’s allegations against the two Uber France executives comes in is unknown. Meanwhile, Tech Crunch reports that despite the ban on UberPOP, until the court system issues an order against the service, there is little that the French government can do. The Uber France CEO remarked that drivers would still remain available.