PARIS (Reuters) - France plans to defend its traditional taxi drivers from the threat posed by Uber by creating a national “electronic availability register” for them that mimicks the car-sharing app’s geolocation software.
The plan was outlined in a draft decree registered with the European Commission earlier this month.
The decree would put flesh on the bones of a law that restricts UberPOP and other car sharing schemes. The law was put in place in October last year, and bans private car owners from “electronic cruising” - using the geolocation software that allows drivers and would-be passengers to find each other.
“The purpose of implementing the taxi availability register is to modernize the taxi driver profession and optimize the monopoly over cruising, extended to electronic cruising, in order to improve the meeting of supply and demand for taxis,” the draft decree said.
France is one of several countries where U.S.-based Uber and car sharing apps like it face hostility from traditional cab drivers, and where governments are grappling with legislation for a new era.
Taxi drivers in some French cities pay sums rising into the hundreds of thousands of euros for licences whose numbers are restricted.
Last year’s legal restrictions at first failed to dissuade Uber from expanding its unlicensed taxi service UberPOP across France, but this summer, the company suspended the service after facing sometimes violent protests from cab drivers.
Uber has complained that the European Commission should have had prior notice of the law, under rules governing the offering of “society services”, and says the French restrictions are illegal and disproportionate. Both complaints are being considered by the Commission.
An Uber spokesman said the notification of the decree was a tacit admission by the French government that the legislation breaks EU law.
“The legislation is designed to protect incumbent taxi operators from new digital services such as Uber, which is contrary to EU law,” he said in an emailed statement. “This news would seem to show that the French government now agrees.”
A government spokesman said the way the Commission notification had been made was normal procedure.
“The draft decree is the application of the law of Oct. 1 2014,” he said, adding that it was “one of the elements of the modernization of the taxi profession,” agreed after a July meeting between ministers and taxi industry leaders.
Privately-owned Uber Technologies Inc [UBER.UL] operates in 57 countries and has been valued at over 50 billion euros.
Reporting by Andrew Callus and Elizabeth Pineau, editing by David Evans