France Takes Its War On Uber Up A Notch: Arrests Top Execs

from the because-that'll-stop-innovation dept

Last week, we noted some bizarre happenings in France, as taxi drivers unwilling to compete against Uber decided to stage a "protest" which actually looked a lot more like a riot. They overturned Uber cars, held passengers and drivers hostage and lit fires around the country. You might think that this updated version of Luddites smashing machines would lead to a similar result -- getting laughed at and confined to the dustbins of history. But, this is France we're talking about. Politicians quickly ordered a crackdown on Uber including ordering law enforcement to seize the cars of Uber drivers.

And, that's not all. Now it's being reported that two of Uber's top French execs have been arrested.
The pair are believed to be Thibault Simphal,the director general of Uber France and Pierre-Dimitri Gore-Coty,the directorgeneral of Uber Europe.

According to BFM TV the pair are being investigated for "inciting illegal employment", with the Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve having already suggested that the pair's insistence on rolling out UberPop was effectively encouraging individuals to break the law.
We had noted, earlier this year, that French law enforcement had raided Uber's offices in Paris, but still. "Inciting illegal employment?" Are they serious? Has anyone looked at the unemployment rate in France lately?
Maybe they need someone out there "inciting illegal employment" because the government doesn't seem to be doing a particularly good job in helping people get employed now, does it?

Cazeneuve continues his role as the cartoonish villain in all of this, making statements that are absolutely bizarre:
"I have given instructions, considering the grave problems with public order and the development of this illegal activity, to the police prefecture in Paris to ban UberPop activities," said Cazeneuve last Thursday.

Cazeneuve also pointed out that Uber could be guilty of the crime of "illicit transportation of people" under article 40 of the penal code, that could be punished by two years in prison and a €300,000.
First of all, "illicit transportation of people?" These are people who want to go somewhere and are happy about the options they have. Why should that be "illicit"?

Second the "grave problems with the public order" are not because of Uber, but because taxi drivers are flipping cars. Why does Cazeneuve not seem even remotely concerned about that?

Filed Under: arrests, bernard cazeneuve, france, illegal employment, unemployment


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • identicon
    Theoden, 29 Jun 2015 @ 11:42am

    Time to Revolt

    It looks like we need to finally kick France (and a lot of Europe) out of the Free world. They don't seem ti understand what is going on.

    Not hat the USA does much better, but we aren't theb bad (yet).

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

  • icon
    Who Cares (profile), 29 Jun 2015 @ 11:47am


    First of all, "illicit transportation of people?" These are people who want to go somewhere and are happy about the options they have. Why should that be "illicit"?

    Simple. The logic goes as follows; The drivers aren't licensed to be taxi drivers, they drive people for payment so they are taxi drivers, ergo they are transporting people illicitly.

    I expect the same thing to happen where I live seeing the amount of work they've (that is the government) have put into licensing and regulating of taxis.

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

    • icon
      Who Cares (profile), 29 Jun 2015 @ 12:02pm

      Re:

      To clarify the license thingie.
      Uber believes it's drivers can get by with a tourism vehicle license since they don't respond to street hailing and thus are only doing pre-booked arrangements (which that tourism license allows).
      While that is the letter of the law the intention was a license for for example drivers of buses for arranged excursions.
      This is what the French government is reacting on.

      The taxi drivers are reacting since their license and all rules and regulations that come with it are vastly more expensive then the one that Uber uses. Which is undercutting their business.

      I don't know how this is going to be ruled on since Uber is skirting dangerously close to the edge of the law and seeing how that France tries to protect its own industries.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 29 Jun 2015 @ 12:10pm

        Re: Re:

        I'm REALLY sick and tired of hearing 'You are following the law too specifically, therefore what you are doing is illegal!'.

        If the French have a loophole like that in their legislation, FIX IT. Don't pre-emptively declare it illegal after realising it is a loophole, don't start jailing people for violating laws they took great care to follow.

        Skirting the edge of the law is remaining legal! Its the only way most corporate heads avoid tax evasion laws >.>

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

      • identicon
        Brian, 30 Jun 2015 @ 9:37am

        Taxi license costs

        "The taxi drivers are reacting since their license and all rules and regulations that come with it are vastly more expensive then the one that Uber uses."

        This is what always gets me. The taxi drivers are all upset at Uber and not upset at the local government charging outrageous costs for taxi licenses. They go, locally, for about $300k - $800k / year (there is an auction on them). This seems insane.

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

        • icon
          nasch (profile), 30 Jun 2015 @ 9:51am

          Re: Taxi license costs

          The taxi drivers are all upset at Uber and not upset at the local government charging outrageous costs for taxi licenses.

          I assume they don't want the government to lower the barriers to entry and thus increase competition. They want the government to keep the barriers in place because they've already gotten past them. The problem (to them) is not that the cost of entry is high, since they've already paid that cost, but that other people aren't being forced to pay the same cost of entry that they did.

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

          • icon
            John Fenderson (profile), 30 Jun 2015 @ 3:45pm

            Re: Re: Taxi license costs

            This is the thing. In the US, anyway, the existing taxi companies in most cities had a huge hand in setting the regulations, and intentionally made them difficult for newcomers to meet.

            The whole regulatory scheme was corrupted from the start.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 29 Jun 2015 @ 12:06pm

      Re:

      So what logic is needed for the taxi drivers to be arrested for flipping cars and hostage taking?

      I'm not against people pointing out Uber has a shakey legal position, but WHY do the comments always attack Uber without noting the 'legal' services took to rioting?

      If you think soaring employment rates and beneficial services are no excuse for flouting regulation, fine. That is a rational, reasonable argument to make. Many industries rely on regulation for many beneficial reasons, entrenched industries aside.

      BUT facing unfair competition is no excuse to go out and RIOT. This isn't the poor regulated industry being bullied by a rebel upstart anymore, this is a bratty, violent, entitled temper tantrum that put people at risk! Seriously, I want to hear what, if any, implications for the cabbies came about from THEIR behavior.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 29 Jun 2015 @ 12:38pm

        Re: Re:

        Simple, the law and law enforcement works for entrenched industries. If police aren't going to do what entrenched industries want those industries are then free to take the law into their own hands. It's perfectly OK to take the law into your own hands provided you are an entrenched corporate entity that buys and bribes politicians. Otherwise good luck.

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

      • identicon
        spodula, 30 Jun 2015 @ 1:06am

        French unions

        "BUT facing unfair competition is no excuse to go out and RIOT."

        The french unions are legendary even in Europe for their unchecked power. They also seem to be constantly getting upset about something.
        There wont be any implications for the cabbies.. None whatsoever.

        Its almost the opposite here in the UK, just across the channel, where the unions have been broken so badly they are basically pointless.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Jun 2015 @ 11:48am

    Uh, I may just be a brain dead yokel, but if those uber guys tipped cars and started riots, they should be in custardy.

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

  • identicon
    Baron von Robber, 29 Jun 2015 @ 11:54am

    What are the charges?
    Willingly and persistently being a foreigner?

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Non-illegal, 29 Jun 2015 @ 11:55am

    Masnick always for "illegal". -- And it's not employment, remember? They're "independent contractors"!

    First, law-abiding people can't compete with people who freeloading.

    2nd, it's UBER WHICH IS CRIMINAL in its "business model".

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 29 Jun 2015 @ 11:57am

      Re: Masnick always for "illegal". -- And it's not employment, remember? They're "independent contractors"!

      Trump was just fired by his network. I hear he is offering $25 per intenet comment in his faver. You might be good for that job.

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

    • identicon
      Baron von Robber, 29 Jun 2015 @ 12:01pm

      Re: Masnick always for "illegal". -- And it's not employment, remember? They're "independent contractors"!

      "2nd, it's UBER WHICH IS CRIMINAL in its "business model"."

      It helps to spell out what laws were broken, otherwise you look like you're making stuff up.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 29 Jun 2015 @ 12:06pm

      Re: Masnick always for "illegal". -- And it's not employment, remember? They're "independent contractors"!

      *Rolls eyes*

      Just leave your manifesto on the table by the door.

      On your way out.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 29 Jun 2015 @ 1:02pm

      Re: Masnick always for "illegal". -- And it's not employment, remember? They're "independent contractors"!

      First, who is freeloading in this case?

      2nd, what is CRIMINAL about the business MODEL? Please enlighten us.

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

    • icon
      JMT (profile), 29 Jun 2015 @ 6:23pm

      Re: Masnick always for "illegal". -- And it's not employment, remember? They're "independent contractors"!

      "And it's not employment, remember? They're "independent contractors"!"

      And here I was thinking that independent contractors have always been included in employment statistics. Silly me...

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

  • icon
    Roger Strong (profile), 29 Jun 2015 @ 12:08pm

    Les Misérables takes place starting in 1815. 200 years later stealing a loaf of bread is replaced by offering a ride.

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

  • icon
    Roger Strong (profile), 29 Jun 2015 @ 12:23pm

    Entrapment, French-Style

    1) Set up car pool lanes.

    2) Arrest anyone who uses them for "illicit transportation of people."

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Jun 2015 @ 12:35pm

    The moral of the story

    Break the law and get what you want. That's how monopolists have always got what they want, through buying politicians, breaking laws, and doing anything it takes no matter how reprehensible to get what they want.

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

  • identicon
    Mike Peklegrini, 29 Jun 2015 @ 1:18pm

    Uber is a Taxi company; not a software plTfoem

    Uber's getting what they deserve. They ARE a taxi company. The greater majority of their drivers drive 40+ hours a week so Uber is their JOB. "Sharing" is great - you have to run across town to pick something up, by all means, share the trip and make some extra bucks at the same time.

    But if you do that 40+ hours a week, it's for damned sure you're working as a taxi - NOT "sharing."

    In reality, Uber is nothing more than an innovative way to dispatch cabs and at the same time - because the drivers are classified as "independent contractors" - an innovative way to screw the drivers out of minimum wage, overtime, social security and unemployment.

    Uber is a fraud. They deserve everything they're getting.

    Way to go France!

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

    • icon
      Dan (profile), 29 Jun 2015 @ 1:35pm

      Re: Uber is a Taxi company; not a software plTfoem

      because the drivers are classified as "independent contractors" - an innovative way to screw the drivers out of minimum wage, overtime, social security and unemployment.

      Which taxi drivers are not independent contractors? Whenever I've taken a taxi (which admittedly isn't that often), it's been pretty clearly posted that the cab is leased to the driver, making the driver an independent contractor. There may well be legitimate criticisms of Uber, and this may be one of them, but this doesn't distinguish them from legacy cabs as far as I can see.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 29 Jun 2015 @ 2:07pm

      Re: Uber is a Taxi company; not a software plTfoem

      Uber pays more than minimum wage and you're basically paid by the hour, so by definition you get paid the same for "overtime" work (whatever *you* choose to be overtime).

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

    • icon
      JMT (profile), 29 Jun 2015 @ 6:41pm

      Re: Uber is a Taxi company; not a software plTfoem

      "The greater majority of their drivers drive 40+ hours a week so Uber is their JOB."

      So what? Are you saying independent contractors don't have a job? Why aren't they all listed as being unemployed then?

      "In reality, Uber is nothing more than an innovative way to dispatch cabs..."

      How amazing would it be if the taxi companies realized that and started to actually compete.

      "...because the drivers are classified as "independent contractors" - an innovative way to screw the drivers out of minimum wage, overtime, social security and unemployment. "

      You seem to have completely forgotten that a huge percentage of the workforce in most (all?) countries fall under that exact definition. Why aren't you defending them too?

      "Uber is a fraud."

      That word does not mean what you think it means.

      "They deserve everything they're getting."

      By "everything" do you include Uber drivers and innocent members of the public being physically threatened and terrorized by violent taxi drivers? Do they all deserve that too?

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Jun 2015 @ 1:20pm

    "illegal employment"?

    "inciting illegal employment"

    So what is that definition? Is it the same that US companies flaunt such that they classify a person as a contractor rather than an employee? Guess what: there have been (and may still be) US taxi companies that do the same thing!

    Can they get away with that? Not always: both the IRS and the Department of Labor do go after companies that do it wrong. This is one of the key areas that Uber's (and other's) business model needs debate and clarification. And possibly new or revised laws and regulations.

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

    • icon
      James Burkhardt (profile), 29 Jun 2015 @ 3:21pm

      Re: "illegal employment"?

      Actually, in several industries they bow to 'Industry standards' which allow them to violate labor laws. Professional Wrestling for instance.

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Non-illegal, 29 Jun 2015 @ 1:35pm

    EXPANDED FOR CLICKS! -- Masnick always for "illegal". -- And it's not employment, remember? They're "independent contractors"!

    First, law-abiding people can't compete with people who are freeloading.

    2nd, it's UBER WHICH IS CRIMINAL in its "business model" of exploiting the poor during high unemployment and getting them to make capital investments of providing car.

    3rd, Uber is a business and subject to regulations of the country it's in: American notions don't apply.

    4th, Masnick yet again sounds ignorant of law and contemtuous of the very notion that it applies equally even to his precious "innovators".

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

    • identicon
      Under Dispute, 29 Jun 2015 @ 1:56pm

      Re: EXPANDED FOR CLICKS! -- Masnick always for "illegal". -- And it's not employment, remember? They're "independent contractors"!

      It should be noted that the French courts are still trying to decide whether UberPop is an illegal service or not. So far one of their lower judges ruled against an injunction as by a plain reading of the law it is most likely a legal service.

      The Minister is just upset that the Taxi lobby is losing money and Uber isn't paying for his party's political campaigns.

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

  • identicon
    Rekrul, 29 Jun 2015 @ 2:09pm

    All of this perfectly illustrates that the government doesn't give a flying f*** about people's safety. All they care about is that someone is making money in a way that the government didn't sanction.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Jun 2015 @ 7:23pm

    time to nationalize the uber company and make their profits work for the petty dictators running their country into another police state.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Jun 2015 @ 9:37pm

    If Goober drivers are in fact independent contractors. They should be able to set their own rates for fares.

    The Goober software service should be considered nothing more than a brokerage firm. Similar to how transportation brokers work in the trucking industry for hauling freight.

    Goober is the broker, and should only be allowed to charge a percentage for setting up the deal between the drivers and the clients. Yet the drivers can set their own rates, just like owner operators in the trucking industry.

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

  • identicon
    Case, 30 Jun 2015 @ 12:25am

    Person breaks law, person gets arrested, news at 11

    Now if you raged about the law itself you would actually have a valid complaint, but the principal complaint rather seems to be about the concept of people getting arrested for openly defying a law...

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

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 30 Jun 2015 @ 1:40pm

      Some people break law, get arrested. Others break law, police look the other way

      Is torching or otherwise damaging someone's car a crime? I'm guessing 'yes', so where's the arrests and jail time of cabbies who were involved in doing that?

      If you're going to say that Uber needs to be punished for 'openly defying a law', then you'd better be calling for the cabbies to be punished for doing the same, unless you're going to try and claim that running a ferrying services is a more serious crime than torching vehicles and therefor deserves harsher punishment.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Jun 2015 @ 6:20am

    "Why does Cazeneuve not seem even remotely concerned about that?"

    Because as every other member of the political profession, his corruption forces him to align with the statu quo and protect it at all cost.

    Oh, and France is xenophobic to it's core and therefore anything that comes from outside the country is evil and needs to be fought.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Jun 2015 @ 7:48am

    I see nothing wrong with this. They're criminals and should be arrested.

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

  • icon
    nasch (profile), 30 Jun 2015 @ 8:07am

    Ban it

    "I have given instructions, considering the grave problems with public order and the development of this illegal activity, to the police prefecture in Paris to ban UberPop activities," said Cazeneuve last Thursday.

    He can just unilaterally decide something is illegal? Serious question - is that how the French government works?

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

  • icon
    1stworlder (profile), 30 Jun 2015 @ 12:37pm

    Paris has thousands of cars burned by moslems each year and this is what gets police attention.

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


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Close

Add A Reply

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Insider Shop - Show Your Support!

Essential Reading
Techdirt Insider Chat
Recent Stories

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it
Close

Email This

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