When in France, Uber Does as the French Do by Going on Strike

  • Uber suspends app from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. in support of drivers
  • Drivers are protesting police crackdown on chauffeured cars

When in France, do as the French do. For Uber Technologies Inc., that means going on strike.

As cabs wage war on chauffeured-car services in France, Uber is suspending its service in the country for four hours Tuesday to protest alongside its drivers against recent government decisions. The California-based startup is taking a leaf from taxis and turning to striking to make a point after France promised stricter police controls on chauffeured cars.

Uber drivers protest in Paris on Feb. 9.
Uber drivers protest in Paris on Feb. 9.
Photographer: Geoffroy van der Hasselt/AFP via Getty Images

Customers won’t be able to book cars via Uber’s mobile application from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., a company spokesman said in an e-mail. Staff from the San Francisco-based company will join drivers who plan to demonstrate at Place de la Nation in the French capital, the spokesman said.

The protest is the latest round in a dispute that pits the highly regulated taxi industry in France against upstarts such as Uber and its drivers, who are independent contractors. The government is trying to walk a line of supporting the growth of new app-based businesses while not angering drivers of traditional taxis.

In the aftermath of a messy strike in January -- taxi drivers burnt tires and clogged traffic -- Prime Minister Manuel Valls met with cabbies and promised that a special police unit nicknamed the Boers will step up enforcement against chauffeured cars. Taxis in France recently have focused their criticism on drivers with a license specifically to do collective transport, such as driving vans for tourists, whom they’ve accused of instead transporting individuals using platforms like Uber.

Drivers of chauffeured-car services have been protesting in Paris for the past few days, causing some slowed traffic at rush hour, the police has said. The driver grouping organizing the strikes called on Uber to join the movement.

Uber has been facing regulatory challenges in cities from San Francisco to Munich. Executives for its French unit are due in court this week in the latest episode of a legal battle that led to Thibaud Simphal, Uber’s head of French operations, and the car-booking company’s general manager for Western Europe, Pierre-Dimitri Gore-Coty, being detained by police.

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