Uber is finally big enough to piss off French taxi authorities

Dec 12, 2012
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angry cabbieIf the sign of success is having the incumbent leader publicly announcing his desire for you to not exist, then it’s been quite easy to watch Uber’s city-to-city success over the past 9 months. It all started when D.C. Taxicab Commission Chairman Ron Linton performed a “sting” on a Uber cab, riding in the car until the destination and then towing the car for being an illegal cab. Since then, whether it’s all of California suing Uber, or New Yorkers rallying behind Uber’s ongoing availability during Hurricane Sandy, the grassroots growth has always had its critical mass coupled with a lawsuit. Well, it seems Uber is about to learn a bit more about how the French legal system works, as LeFigaro quoted Secretary General of the Fédération nationale du taxi (FNDT) saying “These companies are overstepping their rights, walking a fine line by using a regulation that is poorly defined.” This is one of the first public reactions that the FNDT has made to their newfound competition, and you’ll notice it’s not just Uber, it’s “companies.” That’s because, shortly after Uber launched at LeWeb Paris 2011 just over a year ago, competitors were quick to recognize a high-growth, pure profit model and step in. Uber’s first competitor to arrive, Chauffeur Privé, distinguished themselves by telling passengers an estimation the price of the trip before they ordered the cab – this feature has now been released on Uber’s most recent iOS update, but Chauffeur Privé had plenty of time to cut out a share of the market for themselves. Also mentioned in the article is SnapCar co-founder and business angel Yves Weisselberger, who has been quite successful in his launch in Paris, and plans expansion across major cities in Europe. The article notes that Paris has the same number of taxis as 30 years ago, and the lowest ratio of taxi cabs to inhabitants of any major city in Europe. Technology is a revolution, and the revolution has reached Paris. The question is how a revolution of technology and change will stand up against a party of people who have been fighting for 30 years to keep things the same? One thing’s for sure – all three of these startups have been very active about timing their communication strategy around the regular protests/manifestations by the taxi unions, making the appeal towards a new mode of transportation all the more appealing. It seems that FNDT’s usual means of getting what it wants won’t work here, so we’ll see what they resort to in times of crisis.