This article was published on July 3, 2015

UberPOP has been suspended in France to protect drivers

UberPOP has been suspended in France to protect drivers
Owen Williams
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Owen Williams

Former TNW employee

Owen was a reporter for TNW based in Amsterdam, now a full-time freelance writer and consultant helping technology companies make their word Owen was a reporter for TNW based in Amsterdam, now a full-time freelance writer and consultant helping technology companies make their words friendlier. In his spare time he codes, writes newsletters and cycles around the city.

Following taxi drivers rioting in France and the arrest of key executives, the company has suspended UberPOP in the country until further notice.

Thibaud Simphal, Uber’s French director who was also arrested this week, announced the news in an interview with Le Monde saying that the company has decided to suspend UberPOP in France tonight at 8pm.

UberPOP is the company’s name for UberX in Europe, which doesn’t require a taxi license or training to drive passengers around.

The company will wait until September’s Constitutional Court ruling before reinstating UberPOP.

France ordered a nationwide crackdown on UberPOP on June 25 following the riots. Prime Minister Manuel Valls said that the service “[gives] a deplorable image to visitors to our country.”

Simphal said in the interview that the suspension is to preserve safety of Uber’s drivers and to open a dialogue with authorities and show it does take responsibility.

He also said that the rioting didn’t put drivers off the service, with 4,000 active UberPOP users last week despite the riots and that it worked as “advertising for the platform.”

Despite the risk of a prison sentence Simphal says he isn’t going to leave Uber and there are still “great things to do.”

Uber issued a statement to TNW, saying that “the current licensing process has become too much of an obstacle course” in the country and that “we have 12,000 partners who have applied for one and are needlessly waiting.”

Here’s the full press release:

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.

Uber annonce la suspension d’UberPop en France [Le Monde]