French Constitutional Court Upholds Law Banning Amateur Uber Drivers

Back in August, Uber stopped running its UberPop service. That’s the equivalent of the UberX service in the United States, where safe drivers who just have regular licenses, not livery licenses, hire themselves out to drive people around for a lower price than taxi service. The reason wasn’t the pending legal challenge: the company claims that it feared for the safety of its drivers and passengers.

That’s because taxi drivers were staging sometimes-violent protests against UberPop and the lower barrier to entry it represents for the taxi profession. While the drivers could have stayed on the road until today’s decision from the Constitutional Court came down, the company chose to suspend the service while its legality was in question.

Uber argued that a 2014 French law banning amateur taxi drivers was unconstitutional, and that the law might have inadvertently made commercial ride-sharing services illegal. Those are services for people who want to split travel expenses, rather than the taxi-like driver-for-hire services that were the target of the law.

Today, the Constitutional Court declared that the law doesn’t violate the French constitution, and that the law banning ride-hailing services that employ amateur chauffeurs does not ban services that connect people to share rides.

UberPop/UberX hasn’t caught on in Europe, and the company’s strategy has shifted to hiring licensed taxi drivers instead of fighting them. That’s similar to the approach the company has taken in some cities in its home country, too, notably New York. While the service isn’t as cheap as amateurs driving around in their personal vehicles would be, the power to summon a vehicle with one’s smartphone is much better than traditional hailing methods.

French Law That Banned UberPop Service Survives Legal Challenge [NY Times]
Société UBER France SAS et autre (II) [Incrimination de la mise en relation de clients avec des conducteurs non professionnels] [Constitutional Court] (French)

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