May 22, 2015 / 9:04 AM / in 2 years

French court sets rules for alternative taxis such as Uber

A striking Paris taxi takes part in a demonstration over the Paris ring road December 15, 2014. REUTERS/Charles Platiau

PARIS (Reuters) - France’s highest administrative court on Friday approved two out of three main restrictions on private chauffeured vehicle services such as Uber that were introduced last year after complaints from traditional cab drivers of unfair competition.

Uber, an online service that links its drivers with passengers through a smartphone app, claimed a victory in its challenge to the regulations because the court decided to allow it to charge by the kilometer (mile) instead of giving a price at the moment of booking.

But the French taxi drivers’ organization UNT said the court had “confirmed the illegality of Uber’s practices” and called on the government to shut down Internet applications that do not conform to the rules.

France’s constitutional council said drivers of private chauffeured vehicles must return to their bases after dropping off a customer, or await new fares from a parking lot, upholding a ban on them driving around looking for new clients.

It also backed the restrictions on apps like Uber’s that indicate to potential clients on their smartphones both the location of nearby drivers and their availability.

San Francisco-based Uber faces legal challenges in several European countries where licensed taxis drivers have protested.

An Uber spokesman said that being allowed to charge by the kilometer was central to its business model, and that the limitation on location apps would not make much difference.

But the UNT said the ruling would end a period in which Uber drivers had been allowed to “roam illegally on the public highway in search of customers”.

A Paris appeals court had been waiting for the decision before ruling on whether to ban Uber’s separate UberPOP online service, a more informal operation which links ordinary private drivers with potential passengers at cheaper rates than traditional cabs.

The case before the appeals court was brought by three competing car services -- LeCab, GreenTomatoCars and Transdev Shuttle -- and taxi unions.

Created by two Silicon Valley entrepreneurs frustrated by difficulties encountered when trying to hail a cab in Paris, Uber launched an app in 2010 and now operates in nearly 270 cities.

In France, the government sought to calm conflicts between taxis and Uber by reworking the rules on how traditional taxis compete with chauffeured cars.

Reporting by Jean-Baptiste Vey; Writing by Leigh Thomas; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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