France Bans UberPop Starting January 1

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Another bend in the road for on-demand ride-hailing juggernaut Uber: the French government has announced that the peer-to-peer UberPop ride-sharing service will be banned in the country beginning January 1.

The move comes just days after a French judge declined to ban the UberPop service, in a civil lawsuit brought by competitors who had argued it constituted unfair competition. That decision triggered a wave of coordinated taxi union protests, aimed at disrupting traffic in the French capital.

The French government is evidently not keen for Paris’ roads to grind to a halt just before Christmas. French interior ministry spokesman, Pierre-Henry Brandet, cited the inadequate insurance of UberPop drivers as the reason for the looming ban.

“Not only is it illegal to offer this service but additionally for the consumer there is a real danger,” Reuters quotes him saying.

A new law regulating the taxi industry and chauffeured cars will take effect in France in 2015, and will be “even more constrictive” for on-demand ride-sharing startups such as Uber, according to Brandet.

It’s not the first time the French government has legislated to make life harder for Uber-style startups. On January 1 2014 the so-called ‘15-minute law‘ came into force in France, required urban transportation services such as Uber to wait 15 minutes before picking up a customer — another bone thrown to the regulated taxi industry.

However that law was suspended one month later, by France’s Conseil d’État, on the grounds that it created a competitive imbalance. It remains to be seen whether the impending UberPop ban will last longer.

Uber launched its UberPop service in Paris in February 2014. The French market is a substantial one for the company, with some 500,000 regular Uber users, according to the company. Paris was also Uber’s first European city launch.

Uber’s presence in Paris has caused frequent taxi protests — including coordinated anti-Uber action by taxi companies across several European cities, including London, this June. The UberPop service has also caused problems for Uber in Paris before. In October it was fined €100,000 by a court in the French capital for advertising the service as a car pool.

Beyond Paris, Uber is finding regulatory hurdles thrown up in various markets across Europe. Last week in Belgium the Minister of Mobility for Brussels signaled his intention to file a criminal complaint against the company, suggesting a tougher line against Uber in that city.

Uber has also been ordered to shut down operations in Madrid by a Spanish judge; its UberPop ride-sharing service has been banned by a court in the Netherlands; it has also been slapped with injunctions in Germany; and drivers of its cars are being fined and having their vehicles impounded in Italy. It is also facing complaints in Denmark and Norway.

Outside Europe, the extremely well-funded startup — which earlier this month took in a $1.2 billion round at a $40 billion valuation — has been weathering a storm of criticism in the wake of a passenger rape apparently perpetrated by an Uber driver in New Delhi earlier this month.

That incident led to Uber suspending its own operations in the city to undertake an internal safety review.