Urban transportation company Uber is having a rough week in France. Following yesterday’s protests, the high court of Paris just fined Uber $1.3 million (€1.2 million). The two events are unrelated, but it shows that France is still a hostile market for the American company, even though Paris is one of the most lucrative cities for Uber.
A taxi union (Union Nationale des Taxis) sued Uber back in December 2014 for a set of “ambiguous” advice to its drivers. According to the Thévenoud law, Uber, Chauffeur-Privé and LeCab drivers can’t wait for new clients in the streets. Only taxi drivers can stop near a train station or airport and wait for a new client for example. Uber drivers have to go to a parking area.
And yet, everyone knows that Uber drivers are doing it. It would be hard for them to make a living if they had to go to a parking area every time they don’t have a client, especially in the busy streets of Paris.
Back in 2014, the court asked Uber to stop telling its drivers to double park and wait for new clients if they don’t have a taxi license. But the taxi union found multiple “ambiguous recommendations” in training videos on YouTube between January and April 2015. For example, Uber is telling its drivers to go to surge pricing areas in order to increase offer and get more money.
“Every email, as well as many text messages and all our training and communication material for drivers who use our app remind them of the law,” an Uber spokesperson told the AFP.
I couldn’t find the YouTube videos on Uber’s website for drivers. But it says in the FAQ that only taxi drivers can cruise and wait for clients in the streets. The company might have taken them down sometime since April 2015.
All of this amounts to little more than a bit of Kabuki theater, as $1.3 million is a drop in the bucket for Uber and its war chest and Uber drivers still won’t park while waiting for a fare. Everything needs to change, so everything can stay the same.