July 27, 2015 / 5:45 PM / 2 years ago

Taxi laws need post-Uber rethink, French economy minister says

(Reuters) - Taxi legislation needs to adapt to the arrival of online ride-hailing services like Uber, France’s Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron said on Monday as he convened talks to address the controversial issue.

The logo of car-sharing service app Uber on a smartphone over a reserved lane for taxis in a street is seen in this photo illustration taken in Madrid on December 10, 2014. REUTERS/Sergio Perez

Uber has had a rough ride in France to date. A law passed in October last year attempting to address the issues it raised restricts the use of the localization software Uber uses.

The law is being challenged by Uber, which faces similar opposition in other countries around the world.

Earlier this month, the company suspended its UberPOP ride-sharing service in France in the face of sometimes violent protests from the country’s traditional cab drivers.

Speaking at a function dedicated to startup companies that was attended by visiting British Finance Minister George Osborne, Macron said the talks would take place in late August and involve all the key players in the dispute to “rethink the economic model” of the industry.

“We will find a new set of regulations that will take into account the new dynamics of the sector,” he said.

Uber’s applications allow urban smartphone users to find and hail online potential rides from private drivers at prices that undercut traditional taxis.

Traditional Paris cab drivers say the service amounts to unfair and illegal competition because the drivers pay no license fees or tax.

Uber says the service is a legitimate part of the burgeoning ‘sharing economy’ and should be allowed to compete with traditional cabs, whose numbers are kept artificially low and price many consumers out of the market.

A Spanish judge last week asked Europe’s top court for a ruling on what kind of service Uber is, launching a case that could set a precedent for legal battles across the continent.

In France, direct action protests by taxi drivers are commonplace. They can pay in the hundreds of thousands of euros for their rare permits, and are particularly protective of their livelihoods as a result.

Macron said the talks would aim for a situation in which both taxis and car-sharing services can co-exist and said there was no reason ride-sharing apps should kill off the taxi industry.

“You created a new service, which has created a new demand,” he said to the CEO of Hitch, a France-based ride-sharing app service.

Reporting by Tommaso Mazzanti; Editing by Andrew Callus and Tom Heneghan

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