The ministry said a new law that takes effect in France on 1 January to strengthen regulations for chauffeured rides will effectively ban the peer-to-peer carpooling service offered through the ‘UberPop’ app, provided by San Francisco-based Uber.
Interior ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet reportedly told France’s BFM television network that those who use UberPop would not be protected in the event of an accident, “so not only is it illegal to offer this service, but for the consumer there is a real danger”.
France is the latest country in which Uber has faced challenges to its services. The move follows protests from Paris taxi drivers over alleged unfair business practices by Uber.
Earlier this month, a French court stopped short of banning Uber, but ordered the company to make changes, including “omitting all mention suggesting it is legal” for Uber drivers to act like taxis, such as driving around and waiting for clients.
Paris-based IT law and data privacy expert Annabelle Richard of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said: “This situation is a good example of technology triggering changes in business models and even consumers expectations much faster than the law can accommodate.”
Richard said: “Uber offers a technology-based alternative competitive model to the traditional taxis services. It is not because it is possible technologically and viable commercially that it should be considered as fair practice or fair competition. Our regulators have to find the right balance between allowing new services, even when they compete with established industries, and establishing a regulatory framework which will warrant fair competition and protection of consumers’ interests.”
Uber operates in a number of major cities across the world, including New York, London, Shanghai and Sydney. However, it has come in for criticism from taxi drivers in a number of cities as a result of the potential disruption they see to their market.
Earlier this year, a court in Frankfurt, Germany, overturned a country-wide ban imposed on Uber, after ruling that the request for an urgent injunction against Uber's operations by taxi industry body Taxi Deutschland had been submitted too late. Taxi Deutschland said it would appeal against the judgement.
According to a BBC report last September, Uber said UberPop "is revolutionising transport in cities and beyond by helping to create smarter cities with more transport choices" and that it is planning to double the size of its business before the end of 2014 and expand into more German cities.