Uber Having A Tough Week Overseas: France And South Korea Crack Down

from the can't-get-too-popular dept

It’s been pretty clear for a while that Uber, the super popular (if sometimes controversial) car-hailing service, has often courted regulatory conflict as a sort of marketing strategy. In cities around the globe, often the best way to get the public to realize that Uber was a convenient alternative to dreaded taxis was to have the local taxi commission/transportation board/whatever announce that whatever the company was doing was illegal. This would cue a blog post or email from the company, and thousands of (previously) happy but (now) annoyed Uber users to flood the government with complaints. Frequently, this would lead to the bureaucrats backing down quickly, and Uber getting a ton of “free” publicity. However, it appears that some places are simply ratcheting up the legal attacks on the company.

Last year, we noted that South Korea was threatening to put Uber CEO Travis Kalanick in jail for offering an “illegal” taxi service, and it appears that the country isn’t backing down. Kalanick and dozens of others (not just from Uber) have now been charged with operating an “illegal taxi ring” in South Korea. This round includes additional charges against Kalanick, who has wisely been staying out of South Korea for the time being, though the country plans to seek a warrant to have him arrested.

“We plan to summon Kalanick soon and check the transaction details of overseas bank accounts to conduct further investigation into those involved in the case,” a police official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “If Kalanick continues to disobey the summons, we plan to seek an arrest warrant against him.”

Meanwhile, over in France, the police have raided Uber’s offices:

French police raided Uber’s office in Paris this week, as part of an investigation into its controversial UberPop service. According to French media reports, 25 officers raided Uber’s headquarters for six hours on Monday, seizing emails, documents, and smartphones used by Uber drivers.

The company’s low-cost UberPop service has been at the center of ongoing controversy in France, where authorities deemed it illegal under a new law that went into effect on January 1st. The law requires all chauffeurs to be licensed and insured ? conditions that, according to French authorities, UberPop does not meet. Uber insists that the service is legal under French law, and has filed appeals with the European Commission. UberPop, which connects clients with non-professional drivers, remains available in France, though some 250 chauffeurs have been fined since the beginning of the year, according to FranceInfo.

Again, whether or not you approve of some of Uber’s marketing practices (or its privacy or pricing policies), that shouldn’t take away from the simple fact that it has actually created a tremendously useful service, enabling easier and often cheaper transportation for many people in a variety of urban areas. It’s a powerful service, and it’s difficult to see these recent legal attacks as anything more than blatant protectionism of existing taxi cartels that artificially keep prices high while providing generally sub-par service.

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Comments on “Uber Having A Tough Week Overseas: France And South Korea Crack Down”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Yes, Uber has created a useful service

But it would be much better for the planet if the company wasn’t run by dirtbags who have engaged in spying, vile sexism, price gouging, usury and malware distribution:

As NY floods, “Robin Hood” Uber robs from the rich and — Nope, that’s about it

Uber and Its Shady Partners Are Pushing Drivers into Subprime Loans

Uber sorry for hiking fares amid Sydney siege

Sexist French Uber Promotion Pairs Riders With “Hot Chick” Drivers

Uber’s God View Shows The Privacy Wars Are Revving Up

Uber’s “God View” under scrutiny as spotlight intensifies on its practices

What the hell Uber? Uncool bro.

Uber’s Android app caught reporting data back without permission

Uber Executive Suggests Digging Up Dirt On Journalists

“God View” Uber Investigates Its Top New York Executive For Privacy Violations

Uber’s Privacy Woes Should Serve As a Cautionary Tale for All Companies

Anonymous Coward says:

Uber is a new exploiter of poor and unemployed.

Uber is a vulture taking advantage of hard times. It’s not actually offering competition except in a race to the bottom.

It’s a particularly vile kind of capitalism, as tricks the poor into putting up the capital besides doing the work: drivers pay for vehicle, insurance, and all else, then hands Uber (as in ubermensch) a good chunk.

This item endorsing a current mode of vulture capitalism is kind of surprising after the “podcast” for a guaranteed basic income.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Uber is a new exploiter of poor and unemployed.

There are several issues that Uber tends to exploit.

Insurance (or lack thereof) is one of them, where the driver and the customer are liable because they’ve made a commercial transaction, which their regular insurance doesn’t handle.

Then there’s other things like background checks on drivers, loopholes to avoid liability, lack of inspection and required maintenance for vehicles.

And a lot more that are dependent on regions and laws.

Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of regulations and laws which are problematic, depending on where you are. But there are also a shit ton that exist solely to create business accountability and help to protect the consumer, which Uber continuously skirt arund.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Uber is a new exploiter of poor and unemployed.

If you’re the first person in this thread (I am the second Coward), then this is completely incoherent. First you complain that uber is evil because drivers have to pay for those things, then you say uber is evil because drivers don’t do that. How about some personal responsibility on the driver side here?

And fyi every single UberX ride I’ve taken has been in a much better maintained car than literally any of the yellow cabs I’ve been in. I’m not just talking averages, I’m talking about the distributions being completely disjoint. Obviously just a small sample here, but from where I sit your points make zero sense.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Uber is a new exploiter of poor and unemployed.

…drivers pay for vehicle, insurance, and all else…

This practice isn’t limited to Uber & co. Check you local want ads sometime and you’ll see posts that require the employee to provide and use their own vehicle. Delivery drivers and tradespeople are the two most often seen, but there are others.

And that won’t absolve the employer from liability. I can’t find the link but there was a case years ago where an employer was held liable for an off-duty accident simply because the employee was required to provide a vehicle as a condition of employment.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Wait a second...

“That… seems unenforceable?”

That’s the point. They write laws which can’t be reliably enforced or interpreted so that everyone is guilty of something. Those who the people in power don’t like can always be charged with something, and those that they do like are never charged on the basis that it would be wasteful to go after everyone who breaks the law.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Wait a second...

You do realize you just explain what laws are broadly?

They’re rules that can’t be enforced or interpreted correctly every time as generally everyone is guilty of something. This can range from something as trivial as theft of 25 dollars to something serious as murder.

If you don’t like someone who stole 25 dollars you can give them a longer sentence than murder.

Proof? Just look at copyright.

Why is this surprising?

A.L. says:

Re: ...can't drive a friend to work?

In Germany you can take up to 8 people along – provided you don’t charge them more than the prime costs for fuel and car upkeep. In the event that you cause an accident, your passengers are covered under your insurance liability (or that of the guilty party, in any case). This is regular, private ride sharing, in the true sense of the word.

To provide equivalent service for money, you’re required to obtain a taxi permit (Personenbeförderungsschein) which entails a doctor’s certificate attesting to your physical and mental fitness, and a query into your criminal record. It’ll cost you 200-300 € the first time, and about 100 € every five years of permit extension.

As as driver for Uber, you’d use your own car for which you already have insurance, but this doesn’t cover commercial use. You’re supposed (and contractually required by Uber) to tell your insurer and renegotiate the rate. He retains the right to reject you, and I’m pretty sure the costs will go up. (Which is why the average Uber driver may easily ‘forget’ and then be faced with a 5000 € fine plus additional charges and termination of his insurance contract.)

This is what it takes to legally drive for Uber in Germany… if Uber itself stays legal.

Aaron Wolf (profile) says:

Re: Governments aren't this particular guy you don't like

An entire government isn’t a person. It doesn’t say things. People in governments and people on behalf of various government agencies say things.

Your ideology that thinks of government as this singular thing is so far removed from reality, it’s pernicious.

When people representing a public university (that’s a type of government institution even) say they care about innovation or a fire dept (government!) says they cares about public safety or a parks dept says they care about recreational opportunities, it’s not bullshit just because some executive in another part of government has other views.

Rekrul says:

Re: Re: Governments aren't this particular guy you don't like

When the majority of an organization has the same stance on something, then the organization as a whole has that stance.

Or have I missed the part where it’s only a small, insignificant percentage of politicians who try to kill off any innovation that’s the least bit disruptive, while the other 99% good politicians protect and nurture it?

Anonymous Coward says:

First, it’s not a “car-hailing service”, it’s a taxi service. Just because their dispatch is an app doesn’t make them non-taxi. They are.

Second, if they bothered obeying local laws instead of ignoring them and crying wold, this wouldn’t have happened.

But what’s the saying? It’s easier to ask for forgiveness later than permission first? Par for Uber.

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