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Saturday, July 4, 2015

Uber in trouble .... this time in France !!

Air travel is preferred for its speed – but in many cities, Airports are outside the city and travel to the airport is a hassle……. 

Till a couple of decades ago, black Ambassador were the ones available inside.  Now they have been replaced by Maruti Swift Dzire special version and Etios.  Several taxi drivers  used to park their vehicles outside the airport – some found it convenient to walk out of the airport and engage these taxis, as they were cheaper than the ones inside.  When call-taxis first made their way into Chennai airport, they were only allowed to drop but not pick-up; later, when they were granted permission for this – ugly clashes between Airport taxi drivers and call taxi drivers followed, again inconveniencing the passengers. 

In Nov. 2014, at Hyderabad, over 600 cab drivers employed with Meru Cabs stayed off the roads protesting alleged harassment at the hands of the management. The strike was most severe at Rajiv Gandhi International Airport (RGIA), where drivers beat up their supervisor and even burnt down a Meru cab parked in the PTC (Passenger or Public Transportation Center) area.   It was stated that high parking fee was one of the reasons. 

If you ever thought that situation is chaotic in India, read this report in BBC on Uber protests blocking Paris and Marseille transport.  

French taxi drivers have blocked the roads to Paris airports and the main ring road around the city in a protest against Uber, prompting riot police to fire tear gas at some. It is reported that the drivers set up blockades and burned tires as part of a nationwide strike; barriers also appeared around Marseilles and Aix-en-Provence in southeast France.

Uber, a US taxi app, has been expanding its UberPOP ride-sharing service in France despite government objections.Riot police responded to protests in Paris after French taxi drivers overturned cars and set fire to tires in protest against taxi app Uber.  Aeroports de Paris, the operator of the French capital's Charles de Gaulle (CDG) and Orly airports, warned passengers to travel by train."Access by road is completely blocked," the company said on its website. "The only way to get to CDG is (by train)."

With traffic at a standstill in places, some travellers walked along the side of the motorway to reach the airport.Taxi drivers also blocked access to Marseille and Aix train stations and protested on the main access to Marseilles-Provence airport.The drivers - who have to pay thousands of euros for a licence - say they are being unfairly undercut by Uber, which is not licensed by the authorities.

Prosecutors have cracked down on Uber, filing almost 500 legal cases involving complaints about UberPOP. About 100 attacks on Uber drivers and passengers have been reported in recent weeks."Many taxis drivers are infuriated," AbdelkaderMorghad, a representative of the FTI taxi union, told Bloomberg."We're demanding that the Thevenoud law, which clearly forbids unlicensed drivers, be implemented. There's a lack of political will to do it."The law, which came into force in October, bans services that put passengers in touch with unregistered drivers. Uber has appealed against the rule, arguing that it gives licensed taxis an unfair advantage.

The nationwide protests saw violence in Marseille as well as Paris.  According to Mr Morghad, France's licensed drivers have lost between 30% and 40% of their income over two years because of the growth of Uber.The San Francisco-based firm says it has a million users in France, including 250,000 for its basic UberPOP service. Uber also operates a luxury service which is not banned.

Uber has faced similar teething problems in cities all over the world, with traditional taxi drivers protesting against being undercut by the unlicensed company.But licensed taxi drivers have been criticised for being slow to adopt the app-based geolocation technology behind Uber's success.

In India, Uber was in different controversy  – in Dec 2014, a 27-year-old woman was allegedly raped by the driver of the cab she had hired to return home from a dinner party in Gurgaon.   The incident took place when the woman, who works for a finance company in Gurgaon, headed back to her home in north Delhi's Inderlok area.  A massive search operation involving 12 Delhi police teams was on in Mathura and other parts of Uttar Pradesh to nab the accused. The accused, Uber cab driver Shiv Kumar Yadav, is 32-year-old, a repeat offender and was also involved in a rape case in 2011 as well for which he spent 7 months in jail.  The incident caused outrage in India.  Subsequently,  Indian Court imposed a ban on Uber – the company filed appeal. 

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

25th June 2015.

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