Imagine you are approaching an airport using your chosen transportation-for-hire service in a foreign city, when suddenly a brigade of angry, savage men start attacking your car with baseball bats.
Last week, this scary scene was a reality in Paris for many tourists. But the attackers weren’t a likely group of assailants; they were taxi drivers.
These torrid taxi drivers were protesting UberPop, the equivalent to UberX here in the United States. The drivers claim the service has threatened their jobs by taking away customers from licensed taxicabs, which resulted in their violent tirade against UberPop drivers. Yet after these displays of violence from taxi drivers, it is now two Uber executives who face criminal charges and Uber as a whole is facing a potential total shutdown in the country.
Uber France CEO Thibaud Simphal and Uber Europe General Manager Pierre-Dimitri Gore-Coty were both taken into custody Monday by French authorities for “running illegal taxi operations” and “concealing documents.” While authorities claim the arrests have nothing to do with the recent riots, the timing is beyond questionable.
The French government’s response to the violence has been, mindbogglingly, to call for police to crack down on Uber, seizing any vehicle caught operating the service. In support of this notion, French President Francois Hollande stated, “UberPop should be dissolved and declared illegal.”
For its part, UberPop doesn’t seem to be going anywhere any time soon, as Uber has stood by its stance that it has not yet been declared illegal by French courts.
While similar claims of “unfair competition” have been echoed in the United States, it would be hard to argue that any have as been as strong as the thuggish response in France. In reflection of the situation, Uber spokesman Thomas Meister stated:
There are people who are willing to do anything to stop any competition. We are only the symptom of a badly organized market.
This system of seeking to eliminate competition and consumer choice seems like something pulled from a libertarian nightmare; however, it is the sad reality of the French transportation-for-hire marketplace. Uber and its executives have been vindicated for having the audacity to provide a more efficient service at a cheaper price.
While arguments against UberPop for not requiring licenses are at least understandable, there are dozens of examples in the United States alone over the past few years where agreements have been reached to allow fair competition between all transportation-for-hire platforms.
Moving forward, Uber undoubtedly will be relentless in its fight to keep operating in Paris, as well as other French cities. Unfortunately, if the dystopian French state has anything to do with it, the company will be soon be facing the guillotine.