PARIS (AP) — Two European Uber executives are facing the possibility of prison in a French trial hinging on the ride-hailing service’s lowest-cost service.
While that service has already been banned in France, the trial that started Wednesday reflects larger tensions in Europe about how to regulate new technologies that offer consumers greater options but threaten traditional industries.
The trial comes a week after France’s top constitutional authority upheld a 2014 law banning the low-cost UberPop service, which allowed any driver without a professional license to drive passengers around for a fee. Uber’s standard app-based service, which involves registered drivers, remains legal in France.
Uber France chief Thibaud Simphal [pictured above] and its general manager for Western Europe, Pierre-Dimitri Gore-Coty, face up to two years in prison and fines of 300,000 euros ($337,000). They were briefly detained earlier this year, and ordered to stand trial on behalf of the San Francisco-based company on charges including “deceptive commercial practices” and complicity in illegal activities.
The trial is expected to last a day, but a verdict won’t be announced until a later date.
Uber is under increasing pressure to work with skeptical European governments. It is banned entirely in Spain and Italy, but French lawmakers say they understand the demand for such services.
During protests in France this summer, taxi drivers infuriated by Uber competition smashed livery cars and set tires ablaze. Uber calls the French system outdated and says it needs reform to keep up with technological changes.
Uber Technologies Inc. has run into legal problems elsewhere in Europe, as well as in China and India.