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.