back to article French Uber bosses talk to Le Plod over 'illicit activity' allegations

Two Uber bosses have been talking to police in France after being accused of engaging in "illicit activity". The men are reported to be Thibaud Simphal, the manager of Uber France, and Pierre-Dimitri Gore-Coty, the general manager for Western Europe. An Uber spokesman told The Register: "Two representatives of Uber today went …

  1. Dr_N Silver badge

    In the mean time...

    ...French taxi drivers continue to rip off everyone with criminal level fares.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: In the mean time...

      Taxi drivers full stop continue to rip off everyone with criminal level fares.

      1. big_D Silver badge

        Re: In the mean time...

        I don't know about France, but over here (Germany) the local council sets the rates and all taxis have to run with a calibrated meter (including Uber vehicles, but AFAIK they don't, so are breaking the law). If they don't have a calibrated meter and use it, then they face big fines if caught.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: In the mean time...

          "If they don't have a calibrated meter and use it, then they face big fines if caught."

          Is there no such thing as Private Hire in Germany? With Private hire they can either use a meter or specify a price for a trip, no matter if they get diverted and take longer or driver further. This is effectively what Uber are, but are doing it with unlicensed drivers who are probably not insured to work "for hire" which also against the law, at least here in the UK.

          1. big_D Silver badge

            Re: In the mean time...

            You can hire over time (E.g. rent a limo for a day or an evening), but everything else falls under taxi.

            You also need a professional driving licence in order to carry paying passengers, another thing Uber refuses to enforce among their drivers.

          2. jonathanb Silver badge

            Re: In the mean time...

            The problem is that Über doesn't specify a price for a trip, they give an estimate, but the actual charge is based in time taken and km/miles driven.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: In the mean time...

      Although I agree about the rip off taxi charges, it's one thing, for example, for the suffragettes to break the law (and take the consequences) in an attempt to change the law but it's something else again for a foreign company to arrive on the shores of a sovereign nation and set up a business which deliberately flout the local laws.

  2. James 51

    Taxis in France are stupendously expensive but I've never understood the French police's willingness to stand back during violent protests (including kidnapping http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jan/06/french-workers-bosses-hostage-goodyear-amiens )

    1. John Lilburne

      All bosses should be held hostage. Its good for their souls, and it entertains the masses.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    French Uber bosses charged with four crimes under French law

    1. Innovative practices

    2. Offending vested interests

    3. Not living in the past

    4. Getting off their arses and doing something commercial

    Hanging's too good for 'em, I say.

    1. Steven Raith

      Re: French Uber bosses charged with four crimes under French law

      Has to be said, the more I read about France in the press lately, the more it comes across as a third world country with delusions of adequacy.

      Sad really, I used to quite like the sound of the place, although I'll grant you this is probably more prevelant in the cities, and would be akin to judging all of Britain based on reports of Brixton* and some of the more 'interesting' housing estates in Glasgow.

      Steven R

      *not sure if that's applicable these days, it's getting gentrified a bit, is it not?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: French Uber bosses charged with four crimes under French law

        >Has to be said, the more I read about France in the press lately, the more it comes across as a third world country with delusions of adequacy.

        Sounds like a right winger speaking. I would think you would be happy that they are finally intervening in the world (especially in Africa) instead of just calling the US the world's police man on one hand and insisting they fix everything on other. Greece on the other hand is a lot more 3rd world and is the first country to temporarily get itself to developed status almost entirely with borrowed money.

        1. Steven Raith

          Re: French Uber bosses charged with four crimes under French law

          I'm fairly liberal if I'm honest, but I do like a bit of hyperbole.

          ;-)

          Steven "Gobby" R

        2. grthinker

          You think?

          Right Winger? Am I to assume then that you are a left winger? And is the truth suspended somewhere between these 'wings'?

      2. Dr_N Silver badge

        Re: French Uber bosses charged with four crimes under French law

        "Has to be said, the more I read about France in the press lately, the more it comes across as a third world country with delusions of adequacy."

        I'd say the state of the roads would be a better indication of Third World status.

        In which case the UK would definately be beneath most other EU countries given the shocking state of the Queen's

        highways....

        1. Steven Raith

          Re: French Uber bosses charged with four crimes under French law

          As in the past I've had to spend £300 replacing a pair of wheels and tyres on my car thanks to potholes, I can't disagree.

          Although civil liberties and support of the disadvantaged are probably a slightly better measure in reality :-)

          Steven R

          1. asdf

            Re: French Uber bosses charged with four crimes under French law

            >Although civil liberties and support of the disadvantaged are probably a slightly better measure in reality :-)

            That I agree with. Sadly usually it seems its based on the amount of money you generate even if most of it get funneled to a small subset.

    2. dan1980

      Re: French Uber bosses charged with four crimes under French law

      @Ledswinger

      What innovative practices? Uber have created an app and marketplace to connect people with - in the case of Uberpop in France - operators providing an illegal service.

      The equivalent is to look at the trades - like electricians and builders - and to see these drivers as unlicensed tradespeople. The Uber service, in this instance, allows these unlicensed operators to essentially advertise their services so that potential customers can find and engage them.

      It becomes, essentially, I booking platform for illegal services.

      Where it's legal, fine, but it's hardly the first service to show cars on a map or provide an alternative booking platform to the traditional radio operators so that part is not innovative.

      Considering that in almost all states/cities/countries nearly anyone can be a taxi driver so long as they meet the licensing requirements and pay their registration, the real 'innovation' of Uberpop, then, is in making it easier for unlicensed drivers to operate a taxi service.

      And, of course, unlicensed taxi services are also not new and indeed the very reason that regulated, licensed taxi services were instituted in nearly every modern country and city.

  4. Tony W

    Many times zero equals

    And the result of a web petition or poll is worth what it usually is. Amazing that anyone takes any notice of them.

  5. ecarlseen

    Banning Uber reduces you to third-world status.

    Seriously. I've heard the UK has it better than most when it comes to taxi service, but in most parts of the world it can only be described as freaking awful. If a government bans or seriously restricts Uber (talking to you, Portland, Germany, Nevada, Japan, etc.) they might as well make us boil our drinking water as well. It's that much of an inconvenience when you travel. Yes, sometimes if I'm going to be in a city for a week or two I'll figure out their local transportation system. But less than a week? Just give me my Uber, thank you. Fast, clean, polite, and (most importantly) reliable.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Banning Uber reduces you to third-world status.

      Seriously. I've heard the UK has it better than most when it comes to taxi service,

      You hear wrong. It's fairly good in central London, but very expensive. Elsewhere it's bloody awful, with ancient, dirty, smelly, unroadworthy low-range crates driven by people who clearly have never passed a UK driving test, and rely 100% for navigation on a cheap satnav.

      but in most parts of the world it can only be described as freaking awful. If a government bans or seriously restricts Uber (talking to you........Germany.....)

      My experience of German taxis has been that they are reasonably priced, reasonably punctual, modern and good quality cars. Last time I was out there the taxi was a leather upholstered modern Merc S class, driven precisely and carefully. If UK taxis were like that I'd be burning tyres to have Uber banned. As things stand, I can't see how Uber can make things worse in the UK.

      1. asdf

        Re: Banning Uber reduces you to third-world status.

        > It's fairly good in central London, but very expensive.

        Haha try Tokyo (but only if your employer is paying).

      2. Steve the Cynic

        Re: Banning Uber reduces you to third-world status.

        "driven by people who [...], and rely 100% for navigation on a cheap satnav."

        Some years back, I spent a series of weekends in and around Brum, getting trains up there, and taxis to get around. So far, so good, except that on trips where I wasn't going to obvious places, it was difficult to get a taxi driver who had even heard of the destination.

        Then on one trip, I got in a cab driven by an older Irish bloke, and his response to my question was enlightening. I asked him if Brum had a Knowledge, because the other taxis I had had before that didn't show any sign of it. He said that yes, there is a Knowledge in Brum, and he had passed it properly many years before. Most of the drivers, he said, were [South Asians] who would take the Knowledge repeatedly until they remembered enough to pass it and get their taxi license. And that meant that for practical purposes that there were very few taxi drivers who actually knew where much of anything was, and as this was before the widespread distribution of easy satnavs, getting them to take you anywhere except between the New Street station and the main hotel strip was a, um, challenge.

  6. moonrakin

    If the taxi regulators were almost anything else but lazy venal self serving bureaucratic gits they'd root out the thieving git operators - but no - they're not going to do that. Where I am in the UK they license too many vehicles so there is considerable pressure on the drivers to gouge the customers and next to no actual competition.

    Residual sympathy for the plight of the working man in the traditional taxi system has all but evaporated - really - it's gone too far and now resembles officially sanctioned banditry.

    Uber would allow a competitive market to operate where at present there isn't one and abuse of the customers is endemic.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    absolutely completely irrelevant

    Anybody else think the best French (Canadian) speaking/singing band ever was Trust? There were like the French version of Iron Maiden but far more cynical. Their lead guitarist was amazingly underrated for his era. Ok back to the discussion at hand.

  8. Alister

    I agree that UK and French taxis are over-priced (the only ones I have personal knowledge of) but I'm not in favour of Uber. Their system seems to be based on the use of unlicensed drivers, using unlicensed vehicles, and to me this is a retrograde step.

    Although the UK and French seem to be overly protectionist of the status-quo, there are sound reasons why close legislation of taxis was introduced in the first place, mostly for the protection of the public, and Uber bypasses all the safeguards that licensed taxis provide.

    Certainly in the UK, the normal driving license does not cover you to drive "for hire or reward", you have to get a PSV licence for that, so I would guess that strictly speaking most Uber drivers in the UK are illegal as well, and probably not covered for insurance purposes either.

    If it's cheaper though, who cares about the law, eh?

    1. FrogsAndChips

      Uber <> UberPop

      Uber drivers are registered, licenced and have gone through (in France) 250 hours of training. They pay VAT and whatever income or corporate taxes their activities require them to. Their activity is legal as long as they don't pick up clients in the streets without a pre-booking (only taxis can do that).

      UberPOP drivers are just ordinary people you can summon from your smartphone. All they have is (if you're lucky) a driver's licence and an insured car, but they have no specific training and won't pay any taxes, which makes their activities illegal. This is what the French government is fighting.

      Of course, taxi drivers are happy to maintain the confusion, and doing all they can to hinder the legal development of Uber, as it's slowly but surely showing what an awful and over-expensive service they provide.

    2. SImon Hobson

      > Certainly in the UK, the normal driving license does not cover you to drive "for hire or reward"

      Actually that's not correct. A normal Group B licence will cover you for driving a taxi (as long as it has 8 or fewer passenger seats as required for Group B vehicles).

      > you have to get a PSV licence for that

      AIUI there is no such thing. There is however a licence class (Group D) you need to drive a bus (Group D1 is a minibus with 16 or fewer passenger seats, Group D is a bus with more than 16 passenger seats).

      Those of us who probably now qualify as grumpy old men will have got Group C1 (light goods up to 7.5t) and D1 (minibus), plus towing rights (+E) for those and Group B. New drivers don't get those groups and need additional tests for any of C1, D1, B+E, C1+E, D1+E - with IIRC some concessions along the lines of pass X+E and you can have Y+E as well, but I don't recall the details of that.

      > I would guess that strictly speaking most Uber drivers in the UK are illegal as well

      Yes, but not for licence issues - it'll be the "hire & reward" bit which they won't have insurance for. No standard domestic policy includes H&R without a significant extra premium - many don't even cover commuting without it being specifically asked for (as a "commercial use" extra).

      They'll also probably fall foul of the requirements for running a H&R vehicle - which IIRC (I had a mate who did it for a living) included things like a 6 monthly MoT test which was less "pragmatic" over minor issues than most regular tests.

  9. Aedile

    I don't know how the taxi system works in France but I have done some research on how it works in the US. As such here is some interesting info that may or may not apply to France:

    Most medallions are NOT owned by the taxi drivers. They are owned by millionaire investors and then leased out to the drivers. As such, each medallion represents a steady income. The articles I read indicate they provide a 5-7.5% return. Given the interest rates now day that is a very nice return. So the real threat that Uber and its ilk represent isn't that it steals fares but rather they steal drivers. If no drivers feel the need to rent the medallions then those returns die.

    So what is the point of the medallions? Turns out the point originally was customer safety and efficiency. Originally were meant to ensure cabs met a certain level of safety and prevent customers haggling over fares in the middle of the street each time they hailed a cab.

    With that in mind are medallions still the best way? If you want safety regulations/laws can be written requiring vehicle inspections and insurance. Fare negotiations can be done via the app before people are on the street. Having an accurate odometer is irrelevant if the route is calculated based on directions pulled from GPS. So maybe medallions are no longer the best way.

    Some other thoughts: The sharing community is changing a lot of things. One thing I don't understand is why there is all this angst about Uber but not about AirBNB. By all rights the hotel/motel industry should be every bit as threatened as the cabs but no one seems to care. Why? If AirBNB can allow anyone with a free room to allow a traveler to stay for less with better customer service then why would people stay at a hotel? And hotels have a bigger investment than a cab since they have to own a building and pay staff and property taxes. Is it because the only licensing required for a hotel is a business license?

    Finally, part of the problem with roping in Uber is that when it was envisioned (as I understand it) they didn't have full time drivers and it was essentially a car pooling app. Say Guy A with an extra seat was going to the mall. and Guy B 1 block away also would like to go. Guy A can make a little extra money by allowing him to ride and I help the environment so Guy A picks Guy B up. It's essentially the equivalent of picking up a hitchhiker who offers $10 for you to take him further down the road. Hard to call that similar to a cab until you have people starting to do it full time.

    These are the two links I drew from for my info:

    http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/2011/10/21/why-taxi-medallions-cost-1-million/

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2014/06/20/taxi-medallions-have-been-the-best-investment-in-america-for-years-now-uber-may-be-changing-that/

    1. FrogsAndChips

      In France theres' a taxi licence scheme that's similar to the medallion, created for the same safety and regulations reasons, except that the licences were delivered for free by the state.

      But in the 80's, they made it possible for drivers to resell their licence, as long as the buyer complied with the training requirements and other regulations. As for any scarce resource, the prices of these licenced soon sky-rocketed and they're now worth 200k-300k euros, so any driver that can't wait for a free licence to be delivered starts their business with a large debt.

      That's why they're so unpleased with Uber (the legal service, not UberPop), because it literally makes it free to become a "taxi" driver and makes their licence worth zilch. That's also why they want to keep a number of privileges or impose some restrictions on Uber activities:

      - only taxis are allowed to pick up clients in the streets without booking, Uber users need to book a trip by phone or using an app

      - only taxis can use bus lanes

      - Uber drivers have to wait 15 minutes between a booking and the actual pick-up

      So instead of improving their services, they just want to restrict competition and do that the French way, by blocking roads and burning tyres.

      1. Andrew Moore

        something similar happened in Ireland- the taxi drivers were allowed to resell their licenses which mean't that these licenses commanded €100,000s to acquire. And then the Irish government deregulated the whole industry...

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