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French President Speaks Out Against Uber Protests

  • VOA News

Riot police stand by an overthrown car during a demonstration by taxi drivers opposed to ride-sharing service Uber in Paris, June 25, 2015.

Riot police stand by an overthrown car during a demonstration by taxi drivers opposed to ride-sharing service Uber in Paris, June 25, 2015.

French President Francois Hollande has condemned violent protests in Paris over the ride-sharing service Uber, but he has also said the company should not operate in France.

Speaking from an EU summit in Brussels Friday, Hollande said violent demonstrations are "unacceptable." But he added that the frustration of the protesting taxi drivers, who are angry at sharing business with the Uber service, is understandable because the matter has dragged on in French courts for months.

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said Friday that Uber is facing multiple legal complaints. After a meeting with taxi drivers, Cazeneuve said Uber, known in France as "UberPOP," is illegal and must be closed down.

Taxi drivers in Paris claim Uber poses unfair competition because it is not subject to the same fees and requirements as traditional cab drivers. On Thursday, cab drivers blocked roadways with burning tires, disrupting transit and slowing traffic at train stations and airports to a crawl.

U.S. musician Courtney Love tweeted that her car was caught in the violence as she took a car to the airport, claiming her car was ambushed by protesters and her driver "held hostage" for an hour. She said protesters were beating on cars with metal bats.

French television showed street fighting and overturned cars in several areas of the city. Police said at least 70 cars were damaged and seven police injured in some of the fiercest anti-Uber demonstrations in Europe since the company's arrival in 2012.

Protests were also reported in Marseille and other southern French cities, with nearly 3,000 taxi drivers participating nationwide.

Early Thursday, Cazeneuve ordered a nationwide crackdown on the U.S.-based company, calling on police to stop Uber drivers from operating. Later in the day, the company told French television it had no intention of honoring the ban without a legal fight.

French taxi drivers, who pay as much as $270 a year for chauffeur licenses, are angered that Uber is drawing customers away with unlicensed and under-insured drivers.

For its part, Uber -- with an estimated worth of $40 billion -- claims restrictions or bans on its services impede or block legitimate commerce.

Last year, French lawmakers banned unregistered drivers from providing passenger services. But the rule, currently under court appeal, has not been fully implemented.

Several other European cities, including Amsterdam and Berlin, have banned some Uber services, saying they do not comply with local transportation regulations.

Uber closed operations in Spain late last year, after a judge ruled it did not meet Spanish legal standards and could threaten taxi drivers with unfair competition.

Uber has asked the European Commission to intervene, claiming the bans are discriminatory.

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