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.

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Mar 2015 @ 3:09pm

    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:

    http://pando.com/2012/10/31/assholes-shrug/
    As NY floods, "Robin Hood" Uber robs from the rich and -- Nope, that's about it

    http://valleywag.gawker.com/uber-and-its-shady-partners-are-pushing-drivers-into-su-1649936785
    Uber and Its Shady Partners Are Pushing Drivers into Subprime Loans

    http://www.aljazeera.com/news/asia-pacific/2014/12/uber-sorry-hiking-fares-amid-sydney-siege-20 141224124625887915.html
    Uber sorry for hiking fares amid Sydney siege

    http://www.buzzfeed.com/charliewarzel/french-uber-bird-hunting-promotion-pairs-lyon-riders-with -a
    Sexist French Uber Promotion Pairs Riders With "Hot Chick" Drivers

    http://techcrunch.com/2014/11/19/we-are-watching-too/?ncid=rss
    Uber's God View Shows The Privacy Wars Are Revving Up

    http://www.cnet.com/news/god-view-under-spotlight-as-uber-investigation-intensifies/#ftag=CAD590a5 1e
    Uber's "God View" under scrutiny as spotlight intensifies on its practices

    http://www.gironsec.com/blog/2014/11/what-the-hell-uber-uncool-bro/
    What the hell Uber? Uncool bro.

    http://www.gizmag.com/uber-app-malware-android/34962/
    Uber's Android app caught reporting data back without permission

    http://www.buzzfeed.com/bensmith/uber-executive-suggests-digging-up-dirt-on-journalists
    Ube r Executive Suggests Digging Up Dirt On Journalists

    http://www.buzzfeed.com/johanabhuiyan/uber-is-investigating-its-top-new-york-executive-fo r-privacy
    "God View" Uber Investigates Its Top New York Executive For Privacy Violations

    https://www.wired.com/2015/01/uber-privacy-woes-cautionary-tale/
    Uber's Privacy Woes Should Serve As a Cautionary Tale for All Companies

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Mar 2015 @ 3:12pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 18 Mar 2015 @ 4:37pm

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

      Drivers pay Uber for the service of getting connected to a customer. If they don't like that service they are free to seek an alternative way of finding customers.

      What exactly is vile about that?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 19 Mar 2015 @ 12:52am

        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.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 19 Mar 2015 @ 7:52am

          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.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Mar 2015 @ 9:03am

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    CrushU (profile), 18 Mar 2015 @ 3:21pm

    Wait a second...

    All chauffeurs have to be licensed in France?

    So you can't drive a friend to work and have him pay you for gas? Seriously? That... seems unenforceable?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 18 Mar 2015 @ 9:38pm

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 18 Mar 2015 @ 10:27pm

        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?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      A.L., 19 Mar 2015 @ 12:07pm

      ...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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Mar 2015 @ 3:28pm

    Wasn't there a kerfuffle over Uber recently in Germany as well?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Mar 2015 @ 6:33pm

    German court bans Uber's ridesharing service

    http://apnews.myway.com/article/20150318/eu--germany-uber-c5a3d95e05.html

    "Uber also has hit trouble in the Netherlands, Spain and France, which has effectively banned its service."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Rekrul, 19 Mar 2015 @ 1:05am

    Well at least it's becoming clear that when governments (state, country) say they value innovation, it's just a load of bullshit.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Aaron Wolf (profile), 19 Mar 2015 @ 12:25pm

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Rekrul, 28 Mar 2015 @ 3:44pm

        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?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Aaron Wolf (profile), 19 Mar 2015 @ 12:26pm

      Re:

      "When the internet (blogs, discussion boards) says it values freedom, it's just a load of bullshit"

      (‽)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Mar 2015 @ 3:32am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Use markdown for basic formatting. HTML is no longer supported.
  Save me a cookie
Follow Techdirt
Techdirt Gear
Shop Now: Techdirt Logo Gear
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.