Uber Avoids Ban in France as Global Legal Battle Spreads

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Uber Technologies Inc. dodged a legal setback today when a Paris judge ruled not to block its UberPop service, which lets users get rides with private cars.

The decision is a relief for San Francisco-based Uber, which suffered numerous obstacles this week. The startup was sued by the district attorneys of Los Angeles and San Francisco over claims it makes false assurances about drivers’ background checks. That followed a ban in Spain, while Rio de Janeiro declared the service illegal and the Netherlands halted its ride-sharing service.

The company will maintain its UberPop service in France in light of the judgment, Pierre-Dimitri Gore-Coty, Uber’s general manager for western Europe, said in a phone interview. The startup is gaining customers, increasing revenue and creating jobs in France, he said. A representative of the Paris commercial court declined to discuss the ruling over the phone.

“Today’s French court ruling is good news -- it’s a very positive message for our entire industry,” Gore-Coty said.

Mixed Welcome

Uber’s other services, including the more expensive UberX, whose drivers are required to have a permit, weren’t at risk in the decision. There’s no question of banning Uber entirely in France, Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron has said.

“Uber is a reality in Paris, but you have to protect people,” Macron said yesterday at a conference. “It doesn’t make sense to have a crazy driver without a license because one day you’ll have an issue.”

Uber says it has 500,000 regular users in France. The startup operates in some 20 cities in Europe, of which Paris was the first. The French capital has the company’s second-largest customer-base after London, Gore-Coty said.

France so far has given Uber a mixed welcome. While the company has gained users and said it has created jobs in the country, it faced protests from taxi drivers who blocked roads and airports and have waged a legal war on the company.

Criminal Complaint

“There’s enormous appetite for our services in Western Europe, the market is growing very strongly,” Gore-Coty said. “All the court decisions, the difficult week we’ve had, they just show we’re innovating in one of the world’s most regulated industries. That creates tensions.”

A Paris court fined Uber 100,000 euros ($125,000) this year for labeling UberPop as carpooling, a decision the company contested. Veolia Transdev SA, which owns some taxi activities, is among rivals that have taken the battle against UberPop to the commercial court in the French capital.

The Brussels government today said it filed a criminal complaint against Uber. The company was also sued by the city of Portland, Oregon, this week for allegedly violating local laws, while in India, New Delhi banned the company after one of its drivers was accused of raping a passenger.

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