15-minute law against smartphone chauffeurs will pass in favor of Taxis, or not.

Sep 5, 2013
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UPDATE: We have heard that as of Thursday October 11th, the law was set to impact only users having signed up for smartphone apps 24 hours prior to ordering a chauffeur. On Friday, a last-minute push from the Taxi Commission pressured the government, who ultimately removed the exception. This means that all Chauffeur apps will be required to observe the 15-minute delay for all passengers. As of now, no chauffeur apps have expressed interst in complying with this law.

Early this year, a debate between Taxi Unions and smartphone-operated chauffeur services sparked a proposal for a law that would require operators like SnapCar, Uber et al. to wait 15 minutes between the time a ride is ordered and pick-up for a client. Sources within the government have told the Rude Baguette that the law will indeed pass, likely by the end of the month, but that it will only apply to those users who have been registered for less than 24 hours.

The restriction of the law to only apply to very new users seems to neutralize any threat that it might have had to the fast-growing chauffeur app market in France. In order for companies to be fined for infringement of the law, a user would have to have signed up within the last 24 hours, ordered a chauffeur, received it in less than 15 minutes, and be caught in the act – nothing short of a sting by the taxi union will suffice, something which US chauffeur app Uber underwent in DC last year.

The fight between taxi unions and smartphone chauffeur apps has been on-going, and has presented itself in various forms in different cities: bans, sting operations, and proposed laws with varying levels of restrictions seem to be the modus operandi of taxi unions, who feel that they are simultaneously seeing new competition (other than their fellow drivers) enter the market, and seeing the value of their coveted taxi license, which goes for around 200,000€ in France today, decrease drastically.

In response to the law, Dave Ashton, CEO of chauffeur app SnapCar, published an open letter[fr] to André Rousselet, president of G7, the largest taxi company in France. In the letter, he rejects the accusations of “unfair competition,” calling services like SnapCar complementary to Taxi companies like G7, pointing out that it is well-known that there are not enough taxis to service the 6.1 Million Paris inhabitants. In response to Ashton’s letter, the head of the Taxi Union, Didier Hogrel, wrote:

“If the constraints of French legislation are not agreeable for you, I invite you to return to California or turn your sights to other emerging countries…” – Didier Hogrel.

With the law now set to pass in favor of Taxis, but in a manner much less effective than desired, Hogrel may find himself in front of an angry group of taxicab drivers having to explain why the “unfair competition,” of which there is 1 chauffeur to every 15 taxicabs in Paris, is eating away at their market.

Image Credit: Timeout.