International

Uber's Digital Economy Regulatory Battle Heats Up

French taxi drivers staged a three-day protest, which was marked with burning tires on main streets of the city and clashes with the riot police that clogged up traffic in Paris and brought the city to a standstill.

The battle between Uber and the French government has taken a turn for the worse with France gearing up to file criminal charges against two Uber executives and Uber challenging France's action against the company in an EU court.

In its case against Uber, France is seeking a fine of $337,000 or more and is pressing charges punishable by up to five years in prison against Pierre-Dimitri Gore-Coty, head of Uber’s operations in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and Thibaud Simphal, manager of Uber France, for illicitly storing personal data and soliciting a service that put users in contact with drivers with no professional licenses, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The court actions of the French government are reflective of the pressure it is feeling from the increasing protests by the union of local taxi drivers, which is considered a political force to be reckoned with. Most recently, the local taxi drivers staged a three-day protest marked with burning tires on main streets of the city and clashes with riot police, which clogged up traffic in Paris and brought the city to a standstill.

Uber_France_TaxiThe ride-hailing service has also faced intense resistance in several other European countries — some of which, including Belgium, Germany and Netherlands, went as far as ejecting some of the company's services out of their borders. In France, Uber was ordered by the court to pay $1.4 million in compensation to a taxi union for violating French transport law and another $170,000 in December last year for deceptive commercial practices.

While the run of the trial is not expected to last more than two days, it is being executed at an unprecedented speed in a country where it is not uncommon to see such cases being dealt with at a snail's speed. The decision is also expected to set a precedent that is likely going to influence the fate of UberPOP in other European countries.

Though, for France, Uber has been cutting corners ever since it set its foot in the French market, Uber's last remaining hope is seemingly the EU court, which holds the power to reinstate Uber's validity in Europe. However, if the court's decision goes south, Uber might very well have to pack its bags and prepare for an exit from France.

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