The CEO of Uber France and the general manager of Uber (Europe) have been arrested amidst violent protests in Paris against the app-based taxi service. The arrests mark the latest skirmish in the war between the French government and Uber.
According to press agency AFP, a spokesman for the Paris prosecutor has confirmed that two Uber managers have been taken into custody for questioning over “illicit activity” linked to the ride-hailing company’s low cost service. Political blogger Guido Fawkes has likened the arrests to an “Ayn Rand distopia”, in which company owners are arrested merely for having the temerity to offer a cheaper, better service.
The arrests come on the same day as 200 police were dispatched onto Paris’s streets by the French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve, tasked specifically with cracking down on illicit taxi activity. The police brigade, known as “boers” will be apprehending anyone caught offering taxi services without a license, and have threatened to seize vehicles belonging to UberPop drivers, The Local has reported.
Last week, violence rocked the city as unionised cab drivers protested against what they saw as “unfair competition” from Uber’s low cost French service: UberPOP. Pop singer Courtney Love was caught up in the violence, tweeting “this is France? I’m safer in Baghdad”
they’ve ambushed our car and are holding our driver hostage. they’re beating the cars with metal bats. this is France?? I’m safer in Baghdad
— Courtney Love Cobain (@Courtney) June 25, 2015
Around 70 vehicles were smashed, tyres were set alight and traffic blocked as the unionised cabbies ran riot. Ten people were arrested. French President Francoise Holland condemned the rioters, telling press that their actions constituted “unacceptable violence in a democracy, in a country like France”. But he added: “UberPOP should be dissolved and declared illegal.”
The arrests mark the lastest episode in a long line of state intervention designed to eradicate the firm. Last year it was first fined €100,000 after judges ruled that it was engaging in “deceptive business practices” by marketing UberPOP, as a ridesharing service, and then banned altogether.
However, the company continues to operate until a ruling by France’s constitutional court, due to take place in September. Cazeneuve last week vowed to meet with Uber’s directors, saying “It must be closed. The government will never accept the law of the jungle.” He has acknowledged that the perks offered by Uber, which include polite drivers and bottled water, are changing the taxi industry in France, but insisted “Modernity is not illegal work”.
But Uber refuses to be beaten. “There are people who are willing to do anything to stop any competition,” said Thomas Meister, a spokesman for Uber. “We are only the symptom of a badly organized market.”