back to article Uber fined $150,000 and forced to embarrass itself by French court

Uber has been forced to embarrass itself in print by a French court after appealing charges of deceptive advertising. An appeal court in Paris on Monday upped an earlier €100,000 fine by €50,000 when it rejected the taxi app's argument that it had been deceptive when it published slick adverts for its UberPop service saying it …

  1. dan1980

    "P2P ridesharing"

    Doesn't matter how many times you say it: it's not "ride-sharing". Here's the way it works: someone picks you up from an address/street-side location they weren't specifically planning to go to, picks up a passenger they have not previously spoken to, takes that passenger to a specific destination that the driver was not specifically planning to go to, after which the passenger is charged and the driver repeats the process.

    The thing with 'ride sharing' is that the goal for the driver is to actually get to some destination, at which time the driver will stop driving and get about whatever task was the main point in driving to that location in the first place.

    I.e. it's carpooling.

    If he driver is making the trip specifically for commercial purposes, rather than taking additional passengers in order to share the costs of a trip he/she would have to take anyway, that's a taxi service.

    Nothing there represents any judgement on Uber as a company or a service. Whether you like it or hate it is irrelevant to what it is and what it isn't.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Dan,

      You're too rational to be a lawyer, PR type, or corporate exec. I like that. Uber has bending and twisting words and ignoring laws since they started. If only a few other places would take on Uber AND the execs like France has, something might get sorted. I think, that if other countries did this, this might be good for Uber. Uber really need some good press after all the bad that they have had (and brought onto themselves, I might add) and going along with some local regulations or working to get them changed would be a good thing for them.

      OTOH, I really don't see them changing. They keep taking on city hall and losing. Sooner or later, it will all catch up with them.

      1. dan1980

        In Australia, the Tax Commissioner basically used the same argument I have: you perform the functions of a taxi service as a commercial venture with the primary goal of earning money (not defraying costs) and so, for tax purposes, you are a taxi.

        The commissioner did point out that their classification of Uber drivers as taxi drivers for GST purposes does not qualify to so classify them for licensing and regulation purposes, which are managed by the states, but the important part, to me is that the Australian GST specifically mentions actual car-pooling services and how those are different.

        There is not one definition of 'ride sharing' I have heard that can logically contain Uber drivers but not taxi drivers; it's just a different name.

        In a way, it's like the farce that continues in US patent law where somehow "existing concept + computer = new & different service/product". Uber are arguing that "driving around public customers for a metered fee + phone 'app' = not a taxi service at all".

        So what are they saying is the critical differentiator that is required for a taxi service to no longer be a taxi service?

  2. The Nazz

    Je suis ,,

    Chuffed to bits.

    It's a good start.

    And anyways, surely the two executives are "self employed" a la le driveurs so it's no concern of Uber?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If they lock up the execs

    It will be: temps de pantalon brun

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: If they lock up the execs

      It will be: temps de pantalon brun

      I know I'm way late to this party, but...

      UberPoop?

  4. Barry Mahon

    Can this not be sorted by the insurance? As it stands it seems to be a lawyers wet dream.

    Collecting money from a passenger is surely a breach of oneˋs insurance policy, if it specifies you are not authorised to ply for hire?

    Equally being signed up with an Uber like service can be a breach?

    OK, only effective if an insurance issue arises, but could be at least an off putter?

    1. big_D Silver badge

      That seems to be the problem in Germany, drivers need a professional driving license in order to be able to ply for hire AND to get commercial insurance. If you don't have a professional driving license, you can only drive to your permanent place of work and back and you cannot carry paying passengers (there is a loophole in that you can take somebody with you from A to B, if you were going from A to B anyway, and they only cover "their part" of the costs for the journey - i.e. costs for the journey / occupants = how much the passenger must pay, the driver pays his share).

      And Uber doesn't seem to require that drivers that register have a valid driving licence, according to reports most / many drivers are driving with a normal licence and therefore are effectively driving without insurance every time they pick up a passenger.

      That is why they have been declared illegal and need to suspend services (which I believe they haven't) until the matter is sorted.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Can this not be sorted by the insurance? As it stands it seems to be a lawyers wet dream.

      Collecting money from a passenger is surely a breach of oneˋs insurance policy, if it specifies you are not authorised to ply for hire?

      The point of legislation is to stop these things from happening BEFORE they go wrong. It's no good discovering afterwards that you were not insured in an Uber car. This is why I intensely dislike Uber: they explicitly play on the fact that malicious drivers will casually "ignore" this little requirement and pick up passengers regardless, and when it all goes wrong Uber will claim it wasn't their responsibility. UberPop even more so because it's presented as ride-sharing (read: using drivers wholly unlicensed for taxi services), but in that case any payment cannot be more than a defraying of cost (and again, the insurance question looms: will insurance cover giving someone a ride, and for how long? What if it happens every day?).

      They enable dangerous behaviour, and ought to be held culpable for it. It appears the French (and many other nations) have looked through this rather transparent ploy and are acting.

    3. Roland6 Silver badge

      Collecting money from a passenger is surely a breach of oneˋs insurance policy

      For many normal motorists in the UK this would be the case.

      I note that some insurers (according to Go Compare about 10% of those they listed) are now explicitly excluding "lift-sharing" and others place limitations on it; specifically limiting payment to basic cost recovery ie. fuel and oil. Basically, if you intend carrying passengers "for hire or reward" - which would cover Uber's services, you will need Taxi Insurance...

      Mind you, I expect Uber would be more than happy to simply pay it's lift-sharing drivers a few pence per mile, whilst charging passengers significantly more...

      1. Vic

        Basically, if you intend carrying passengers "for hire or reward" - which would cover Uber's services, you will need Taxi Insurance...

        That's been the case for as long as I've been driving[1]. "Hire or Reward" is always explicitly listed as an exclusion.

        I suspect the difference now is that it is being highlighted up front...

        Vic.

        [1] Well, for as long as I've been insured to drive, which isn't all that different a figure.

    4. This post has been deleted by its author

  5. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    Stop

    "provided entirely by professional drivers"

    Oh really ? And who says they are professionals ? Uber ?

    If that is the case, then there is the whole "not our employees" thing to review, meaning Uber's foot has found its mouth again. If it not the case, then Uber has just been caught blatantly lying again.

    I'm all for convenience and I like the idea of calling a taxi from an app, but Uber is totally looking like a schizophrenic pathological liar and I'm fed up with it.

    1. FrogsAndChips

      Re: "provided entirely by professional drivers"

      You missed the context of the quote "This decision will not impact the service we offer in France today, which is provided entirely by professional drivers". The so-called ride-sharing service has been suspended for 6 months, so the only service they are providing today is Uber or Uber X which uses licensed private hire drivers. The guys are indeed professional, but supposedly self-employed as Uber will not recognize them as their employees.

      So they're not quite lying, just twisting their communication to make it look like they're doing the right thing.

  6. This post has been deleted by its author

  7. ShadowDragon8685

    Honestly, I think Uber have kind of a point here...

    Without some kind of massively invasive way to snoop on and block the traffic of specific apps, governments can't really stop this kind of thing. Striking down Uber will be like striking down Napster.

    I can see the appeal too, especially in a dogshite economy, where many folks will have autos left over from better times/handed down from their elders, but no way to actually use those resources to make them any dosh. Meanwhile, the actual hurdles to becoming a proper taxi driver are super-steep, and since most of them involve basically winding as an automotive prostitute to a pimp cab company that owns the cab and makes you rent it - meaning it's possibly to actually LOSE money on a hard day's work depending on factors entirely outside of your control - I can certainly see the appeal of a guaranteed "delivered a fare = dosh in the bank" system, especially in the comfort and feeling of safety (however illusory if the guy in the other seat decides to pull a knife on you,) of your own auto.

    That having been said, the on-demand labor model is so top-heavy that the word I'd use for it is "usurious," and pretending that Uber drivers are "independent contractors" is a farce in what I imagine is something approximating 98% of all cases. Sure, there might be some folk using it as a means to pick up a bit of extra on the side, and there might be like, the two or three people out there who are signed up to more than one of these systems and take their fares on a purely mercenary basis, but for the vast majority of people doing this, I suspect that Uber is their primary or sole source of income, by which they earn a living; that makes them employees.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      RE: Honestly, I think Uber have kind of a point here...

      Absolutely!

      As we all know, governments cannot stop drug dealers, therefore I'm going to write an app that puts you in touch with your local dealer allowing you to just press a button and have your drug of choice delivered to your door.

      Of course, I'll take a modest fee for each transaction, but as it will be a free download and I'm not employing the drug dealer or making any checks on the illegality (or not) of his product I shall be perfectly fine.

      1. ShadowDragon8685

        Re: RE: Honestly, I think Uber have kind of a point here...

        First: You are aware that a lot of places, even in the US, are heavily rolling back the "War on Drugs" since it's proving to be an even more enduring clusterfuck than the wars in Vietnam, Iraq (both of them,) and Afghanistan combined, and even going so far as to outright legalize recreational marijuana, right?

        Second: I suspect rather more people are looking to make some extra bank with their cars than are looking to make dosh running drugs.

        Thirdly: That was called Silk Road, the investigation to take it down took what, like five years, three crooked cops and an absolute charlie foxtrot at the end of the race, and it's probably already been replaced by now.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: RE: Honestly, I think Uber have kind of a point here...

          @ ShadowDragon8685

          Seriously, dude? You've obviously not heard of sarcasm, so are almost certainly a USAian.

          1. ShadowDragon8685

            Re: RE: Honestly, I think Uber have kind of a point here...

            I am in fact a yankee reader of El Reg, and unlike you, I'm not too chicken to hide behind a Guy Fawkes mask when I say things that may be controversial.

            I was pointing out that your sarcasm was inappropriate. Even governments must look at bending when they enact laws which are out-of-touch with reality. Just a a Celtic King cannot command the tide to cease rising, and attempting to make alcohol a prohibited substance worked out very poorly in the U.S. the last time it was attempted, and just as the sharing of movies, TV shows and music continues at flank speed on the internet despite massive governmental and business crackdowns and attempts to regulate them, the technology that enables on-demand taxi services can't be banished into the ether. It's a service people obviously want; both riders and drivers, and it threatens the very core of the traditional taxi industry because it has basically none of the traditional overhead so associated.

            That's both a good thing, and a bad thing; a good thing in that it forces taxicab companies and governments to rethink the way they conduct and regulate taxi services, but also a bad thing in the way that Uber, et al, are becoming so prosperous by pursuing levels of "fuck our employees" that would make Sam Walton say "son, that's going too far."

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              RE: Honestly, I think Uber have kind of a point here...

              Actually, Canute (Cnut) was a Dane and not a Celt. But when did a septic ever get history right?

            2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              Re: RE: Honestly, I think Uber have kind of a point here...

              "It's a service people obviously want; both riders and drivers, and it threatens the very core of the traditional taxi industry because it has basically none of the traditional overhead so associated."

              The primary overhead being saved on the UberPop service appears to be commercial insurance on the vehicles used and Uber are simply not checking that insurance before allowing drivers to "contract" for them. The secondary "problem" is that at least here in the UK there is a system called Private Hire, which in theory means pre-booked licenced vehicles. Some Private Hire companies are using mobile apps for their bookings and doing it within the law. But that does cost a little more than Uber because they aren't breaking the law.

      2. jonathanb Silver badge

        Re: RE: Honestly, I think Uber have kind of a point here...

        A bit like Silk Road. Ross Ulbricht is in prison for that and will remain there for the foreseeable future.

    2. JeffyPoooh
      Pint

      "...governments can't really stop this kind of thing."

      ShadowPenguin6858 wrote: "...governments can't really stop this kind of thing."

      Uber is the simplest thing on Earth to stop: Make sure the laws are in place to make it clearly illegal. Government enforcers select another burner phone from the box, ask the next driver to stop by, and request to be driven straight to the Impound Yard. (You get the idea...)

      The fines and auctioned-off cars pay for the burner phones and running costs. The only limitation is the size of the Impound Yard, and the speed of the legal process leading to the auction.

      Trivial. Few other illegal activities have such an easy method to beckon the wrong-doers.

      1. ShadowDragon8685

        Re: "...governments can't really stop this kind of thing."

        Which would very quickly lead to "filter possible fares to only those with rep/successful transactions above a certain number" being an option on the app.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: "...governments can't really stop this kind of thing."

          "Which would very quickly lead to "filter possible fares to only those with rep/successful transactions above a certain number" being an option on the app."

          Which leads to an ever diminishing market share since there will be no new customers

          1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

            Re: "...governments can't really stop this kind of thing."

            Which leads to an ever diminishing market share since there will be no new customers

            Nor is it difficult or particularly resource-intensive to run a sting using someone who's employed the service before, and built the necessary reputation. Particularly since the authorities don't have to grab the drivers up immediately. They could collect evidence on a whole pool of drivers and then nab them all at once.

            Enforcement does not look particularly difficult to me.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Send them all to prison

    Triple the fines and send all of the CEOs and executive management to prison for violation or law and court orders.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Send them all to prison

      Can't be too difficult to catch the perpetrators - download an app, book a taxi/ride share/communal traversal or whatever the hell they want to call it, and the perpetrator drives right on up to your front door ready to be relieved of their liberty.

  9. Barry Mahon

    As I said, earlier, not evident how to deal with it. OTOH it could stop exploitation by capitalist cab owning outfits, but OTOH it effects one man band owners. Obviously, specific insurance cover, to protect other drivers, if for no other reason.

    Two possibilities, Uber required to used "semi licensed" drivers, using their own car at certain (busy) times, insured to do so.

    Or, specific law allowing ride sharing for example gettting to work, already a widespread.activity, no money transacted, turn and turn about, and banning all other forms?

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