Uber has suspended its controversial, low-cost UberPOP service in France, following widespread anger and debate around its legality in the country, the company's French boss said in an interview with Le Monde on Friday.
Director General of Uber France Thibaud Simphal told the Le Monde that the decision to suspend the service was taken in the "spirit of appeasement":
"We have decided to suspend UberPop in France from 8:00 p.m. this Friday night. Firstly to preserve the safety of Uber drivers, which has always been our priority. They have been the victims of violence in recent days.
The second reason is that we want to show ourselves in the spirit of appeasement, dialogue with the authorities, and show that we are taking our responsibilities. On the substance of the matter, we defer to the Constitutional Council decision expected in September..."
France's Constitutional Court is due to rule on whether the UberPOP service is legal or not in September.
The low cost ride share service was launched in February 2014 and is the French equivalent of UberX, according to TechCrunch.
The service lets anyone become a driver without a special professional license, which many taxi drivers said created unfair competition.
Friday's suspension of UberX is only the second time the transport and technology company has suspended an under-fire service without a court order, TechCrunch said. The first was the suspension of UberX in Portland.
The suspension will not effect the French UberX, Uber and UberVAN services, as all these require drivers to be professionally licensed and trained.
In recent weeks, UberPOP has come under increasing fire from French authorities and caused anger among taxi drivers, culminating in violent protests in cities across the country last week.
Uber addressed Friday's suspension in the following statement:
In the light of last week's violence, we have today decided to suspend uberPOP, our ride sharing service, until September's Constitutional Court decision. It's a tremendously sad day for our 500 000 French uberPOP passengers, as well as the drivers who used the platform. However, safety must come first. Our regular UberX service, which uses licensed cars and makes up a majority of our trips each day in France, will continue to operate as usual.
uberPOP has been an important source of income for the 10 000 drivers using the platform. They've also told us how much they love the flexibility that comes with this work: the freedom to pick their kids up from school, look after an elderly relative or attend an evening course. All on their schedule, working when it is convenient. So our priority now is to get these 10 000 partners back on the road as quickly as possible, potentially as licensed uberX drivers.
Unfortunately, the current licensing process has become too much of an obstacle course. It once took two weeks to get up and running with a license. But today we have 12,000 partners who have applied for one and are needlessly waiting–with only 215 applicants licensed since the Thevenoud Law came into force. It can take six months, likely longer for an unemployed person to get a license, and now requires 250 hours of training (compared to 25 for a light aircraft pilot's license) as well as a €1,500 down payment. The use of smaller or environmentally friendly cars (exactly the ones we want on our city streets) are prohibited. 12 000 unemployed and counting who made it through the process to become a partner-driver is a terrible missed opportunity, especially in a country with over 10 per cent unemployment.
We understand that new technology is disruptive: not just for established companies, but for the people who work in them and their families. This is especially true at a time of high unemployment. But we believe there is a way forward that provides new opportunities for all drivers including taxi drivers, as well as passengers who love the convenience of services like Uber, Heetch and Djump. Hundreds of taxi drivers have already switched over to Uber and are making a better living, with a work schedule to suit their family's' needs. It is heartbreaking to see the violence in the streets when we know that taxi drivers can earn more on the Uber platform. It's why we need to do a better job explaining and communicating the advantages of Uber to all drivers.
Finally a heartfelt thanks to the thousands of drivers who made uberPOP possible. And to all our million plus French riders for their support. In September the Constitutional Court will decide whether the provisions in the Thevenoud Law targeting uberPOP are constitutional or not. In the meantime we'll be working hard to get all the partner-drivers affected by today's suspension back on the road again as quickly as possible.
Francis Whittaker is a homepage editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
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Adrien Sénécat est journaliste chez BuzzFeed News France et travaille depuis Paris.
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