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UberPOP to suspend service in France in wake of protests

AFP

Uber will suspend its low-cost UberPOP car service in France starting at 8pm, the US-based company announced on Friday, following a series of strikes by irate taxi drivers who blocked roads and assaulted Uber drivers in protests last week.

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The UberPOP service connects customers to unlicenced private drivers, unlike its mainstream Uber service which is staffed by private chauffeurs.

Taxi drivers in France, who have to pay up to €240,000 for their licenses, are furious at Uber, which they say is endangering their livelihoods by taking customers away from licensed cab companies.

A number of protests have been launched against the UberPOP app – several of which have turned violent, with Uber clients and drivers reporting being assaulted.

While popular with consumers, Uber is facing increasing limits on its activities in EU countries and a barrage of legal challenges spurred on by a furious taxi lobby, which says Uber drivers should be regulated the same way as normal cabs.

UberPOP has been present in Paris since 2011 and has expanded to other cities, but still faces a legal battle. A law from October 2014 instituted a ban on putting clients in touch with unregistered drivers but Uber had contested the ruling, saying it would remain operating the service until it could appeal.

Uber France chief Thibaud Simphal said in an interview in Le Monde that Uber changed its mind "in a spirit of bringing peace" with authorities.

Simphal and Pierre-Dimitri Gore-Coty, general manager for western Europe, were detained for questioning on Monday and ordered to stand trial in September on charges including "deceptive commercial practices" and complicity in illegal activities.

Following the announcement, Prime Minister Manuel Valls said that the government's "firmness" had paid off.

"This is a profession that needs regulation, we do not live under the law of the jungle," Valls told journalists.

"Our society needs authority and rules," he added.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)

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