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Uber and executives fined in French trial over taxi practices

Published 09/06/2016

The low-cost UberPop service was accused of unfair competition because it uses non-professional drivers (AP)
The low-cost UberPop service was accused of unfair competition because it uses non-professional drivers (AP)

A French court has convicted Uber and two of its executives of deceptive commercial practices and illegal business activity over its low-cost ride service.

The court fined the company 800,000 euros (£625,000) and fined regional Uber executive Pierre-Dimitry Gore-Coty 30,000 euros (£23,440), and Uber's France general manager Thibaud Simphal 20,000 euros (£15,630). Half of all the fines were suspended.

The court did not hand prison terms, and rejected a prosecutor's request that the two executives be barred from running any company for five years.

And the fines were much lower than the 100 million euros (£78 million) that traditional taxi services had sought.

They accused the low-cost UberPop service of unfair competition because it uses non-professional drivers.

UberPop is now banned in France but Uber still operates a service with professional drivers.

It is the latest legal tangle for the app-based business, which has faced protests from taxi unions and regulators around the world, reflecting larger tensions between long-regulated industries and the borderless, online economy.

It was the first trial for Uber managers in France. During the trial, lawyers for Uber argued Simphal and Gore-Coty are not the legal representatives for Uber in France, have no such mandate from the shareholders and are only salaried managers dealing mostly with marketing and advertising.

More than 200 UberPop drivers have been fined under fast-track procedures in France, and the company has already been convicted of deceptive commercial practices and fined 150,000 euros (£117,360) over UberPop by a Paris court.

The French Parliament voted to outlaw UberPop and other similar services in 2014, and Uber suspended its UberPop service in France last July. But its standard app-based service still prompts occasional strikes and clashes with taxi drivers.

In Spain and Italy, Uber is outlawed entirely.

Also on Thursday, a court in Frankfurt upheld a ban on the UberPop ride service in neighbouring Germany.

Judges threw out an appeal by Uber against a March 2015 ruling by a lower court that banned UberPop from offering rides with drivers who do not have taxi permits.

That ruling stemmed from a case brought by a German taxi association. It was heard in Frankfurt because it was one of several cities where Uber had launched operations.

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