Feb. 10 (Bloomberg) -- Parisian taxi drivers blocked traffic from the French capital’s airports today to protest against a court ruling that threw out a government plan to restrict competition from private car services.
France’s constitutional court struck down a decree by Socialist President Francois Hollande’s government, which imposed a 15-minute delay on Uber Technologies Inc. and other private car services, saying it was against the “principle of freedom of commerce.”
Taxi drivers say the private car services represent unfair competition, in part because they haven’t had to purchase one of a limited number of permits at a cost of more than 200,000 euros ($273,000).
We risk “eradication because of unfair competition,” Said Bejtetyene, who has been a taxi driver for 11 years, said in an interview at Orly airport on the southern outskirts of Paris. “They have no exams, no rules. Anyone can now buy a vehicle and put themselves out for hire. We have very severe regulations. We need to get loans to buy our license. We’re very angry.”
The tensions -- which broke out into vandalism of cars by taxi drivers in January -- underline the challenge faced by Hollande as he seeks to revive a French economy that has barely grown in two years. Hollande and his predecessors have been repeatedly advised to increase competition among taxis.
Under pressure from taxi drivers, the government had imposed a rule on private services, requiring a minimum 15-minute wait between the time a car is booked and the passenger is picked up.
Pierre-Dimitry Gore-Coty, head of Uber France since 2012, says his service doesn’t present a threat to taxis. He points out that his cars can’t be flagged down in the street and that his service is needed in the face of growing demand.
“Uber isn’t operating taxis,” he said in an interview. “It’s a technological platform that puts users in touch with transport providers. We focus on adding something that doesn’t exist in the city. We’re complimentary.”
Paris has fewer than a third of the taxis and cars for hire than London or New York. Paris’s 17,000 taxis and 2,000 private cars for hire compare with 22,000 and 50,000 respectively for London and more than 13,000 and 50,000 for New York.
Parisian taxi drivers aren’t alone in resisting new competition by limousine services that have taken advantage of mobile Internet technology to increase business.
Chicago-area taxi operators claimed in a lawsuit filed Feb. 6 that the city is violating their rights by allowing the unregulated ride-share services run by Uber and Lyft Inc.
The failure to apply taxi and limousine rules to the two San Francisco-based companies threatens to devalue the more-than 6,800 operating permits issued by the city, which have a total market value of $2.38 billion, according to a complaint filed by the cabbies and their trade association in federal court in Chicago.
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