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Uber Protests in France Reach an Ugly Fever-Pitch

The widespread controversy surrounding the app-based taxi service Uber has started to move down a violent, tumultuous road. Across much of Europe, taxi drivers have complained that Uber threatens their jobs with unreasonably cheap rates and allowing unlicensed private drivers to ferry passengers.

The app, UberPOP, was actually made illegal in France and much of the rest of Europe last year. They filed a request to continue service while they figured out a new court appeal, but even when that request was denied, they just carried on as normal. The level to which that illegality can be enforced differs from country to country, in France it's a bit more shaky than elsewhere, but that isn't stopping thousands of enraged taxi drivers and supporters from flooding the streets of Paris in protest.

There are other, smaller protests going on in other cities, but the one in the French capital has gone from heated to down-right dangerous in the past few days. Cars have been overturned, arrests have been made and drivers have reportedly been attacked. Airport access is becoming a massive problem and even Courtney Love got swept up in the mayhem, allegedly remaining trapped in a car for an hour as it was attacked with baseball bats. Love tweeted extensively about the experience, calling out French President Francoise Hollande and asking him to act on it.

Reports from Paris by TechCrunch reveal that the unrest is fueled by taxi drivers who are losing money at an alarming rate as a result of the UberPOP service. “I don’t even earn enough money to pay for a taxi ride. If I weren’t a taxi driver, of course I would use UberPOP. A €10 taxi ride costs €4 euros on UberPOP,” Said one driver. Others boasted of their actions against Uber drivers, one protester even showed the reporter images of an Uber car, overturned and set on fire.

It's very murky territory. Uber's app-based approach to taxi service has completely changed the game, but the way their service has taken work from other taxi firms has brought them nothing but trouble, almost globally but particularly in Europe. Even in the UK some footage surfaced online of Boris Johnson angrily swearing at a taxi driver who insulted the London mayor with regards to his failure to stand up to Uber. Violent protesting, leading to property damage, disruption, injury and even some risk of death is not excusable, but Uber's continuing refusal to play ball with the EU is only adding fuel to the fire.
A photo posted by Marc Ancelle (@marcancelle) on
There have been talks of a meeting between the Uber brass and French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve but no word as to whether or not this has gone ahead yet. It seems unlikely that any deal will be reached quite yet, given that the government has consistently erred on the side of the taxi drivers (issuing yet another declaration of UberPOP's illegality) and Uber have consistently refused to stop running the service until they see a justice court order. The debate about Uber's low-cost ride service has been bubbling under the surface for a long time, but it's out now and a solution needs to be reached before anyone gets seriously hurt.

Callum Davies

Callum is a film school graduate who is now making a name for himself as a journalist and content writer. His vices include flat whites and 90s hip-hop. Follow him @CallumAtSMF

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Uber Protests in France Reach an Ugly Fever-Pitch Reviewed by Unknown on Saturday, June 27, 2015 Rating: 5

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