Uber, LeCab And Others Now Have To Wait 15 Minutes Before Picking You Up In France

At first, it was just an idea, but this bill is now very real — urban transportation services like Uber and LeCab will now have to wait 15 minutes in France before letting a customer in the car. Back in October, the French government mentioned this piece of legislation as these new services would hurt traditional cab drivers. But nothing was set in stone until the AFP spotted the new bill today — and this news comes as a surprise.

In France, you have to pay a hefty price to get your taxi license. As a payback, the taxi industry is very regulated in this country, and drivers can expect to get a healthy influx of clients.

Yet, when the young and fearless startups appeared, many taxi drivers protested against LeCab, Chauffeur-privé, SnapCar, Allocab, Voitures Jaunes and Uber. While the French law calls these companies “VTC” services (car services), taxi drivers think that they are direct competitors — and smartphones certainly make Uber and others act like taxi services. That’s why the government sided with taxi drivers and talked about creating the 15-minute rule.

Shortly after that, Allocab, Chauffeur-privé, LeCab and SnapCar put together an online petition against the project. Then, nothing happened. It was like the government had forgotten about this idea.

In November, French heavyweight LeCab raised $6.8 million (€5 million) in Series B funding. At the time, I wrote that it was “a good time for it to raise” with the impending changes.

Last week, the Competition Authority (Autorité de la concurrence) even wrote that the 15-minute delay was a bad idea.

“This competitive imbalance is not necessary to protect the taxi monopoly on this market. Moreover, it potentially contradicts the objective to improve free traffic flow,” the report says.

But all of this was for nothing as the new 15-minute rule will be enforced on January 1st 2014. Without any warning, the new bill was published today. Chauffeur-privé CEO Yan Hascoet already reacted to news agency AFP, saying that the French startups will comply with the law but will immediately contest the government’s decision — according to him, the startups have a good chance of winning.

On average, it takes 7 minutes for a so-called black car to come and pick you up in France. What will happen? Will the driver wait in the car on the side of the road? Drivers could spend hours waiting in their cars every day, losing potential income. Rides will take longer on average, meaning that less cars will be available for potential customers. With today’s bill, urban transportation companies are not the only losers — customers are losers too.

Update: SnapCar CEO Dave Ashton sent me the following statement.

“It’s technically impossible to differentiate automatically between a booking that comes from a 4 or 5 star hotel or convention and some other booking type. So we will do as we have always done: respond as quickly as we can to a customer’s request.

In America, religious people often walk around with wristbands that say “WWJD” on them (“What Would Jesus Do?”). For SnapCar, it’s “WWMW” (“What Would Mom Want?”). It works like this: if Manuel Valls’ mother books a SnapCar and wants to leave in two hours, she’ll leave in two hours. If Manuel Valls’ mother wants to leave in 5 minutes, will we leave her standing on the street corner in the rain for ten more? What would Manuel Valls’ mother want? or what would Manuel Valls want for his mother?”

(Photo credit: Maxime Bonzi)