The strategy of the French taxi drivers against Uber

Alain-Patrick Umucyo By Alain-Patrick Umucyo, 24th Nov 2015 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL http://nut.bz/sru5_nof/
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>Columns & Opinions

The lack of organisation on the part of the French taxi drivers these past months has blunted the effect of their tenacity. They are slowly loosing the support of the State while being at odds with the trap UberPop.

1 The late reaction

“Uber (..) is only the visible element of a cohort of enterprises whose activity shakes established economic or legal models.”(1)
This observation became indisputable in the summer 2014 when it was announced that the American start-up company, launched only four years earlier,(2) would count a new senior member : the Vice-President for Policy and Strategy.(3) Rather than investing “in infrastructures”, Uber chose to focus on “technicalities related to the policy environment.”(4) The company was thus fully engaged in the battle started by taxi drivers all over the world.

The French taxi drivers were the first to endure the competition from Uber whose initial operations outside the US debuted in Paris.(5) However, they were first unconcerned by the arrival of the start-up. Then they went from indifference to uncontrolled outcries.

While Uber's services are gaining traction, the French taxi drivers are now contemplating a better organisation to counteract that irresistible force. After a law in their favour published in October 2014 and with numerous court cases introduced without any coordination against the American company, “professional syndicates and federations are going to meet (…) in the outskirts of Paris in order to decide on a national plan of action.”(6)

2 The fatal disorganisation

The French taxi drivers are in disarray, lacking any clearly defined goal. They are being trapped into focusing exclusively on UberPop, the low cost service from Uber. The current Chief Communication Officer of Uber France Grégoire Kopp,(7) noticed some months before being recruited that the creation of UberPop was “very clever” : “#UberPop, illegal on purpose, for concentrating discontent & making Uber better accepted.”(8) This analysis was confirmed during the succeeding months.

French media have so often associated the words “Uber” and “UberPop” without precisely distinguishing them that the company Uber became reduced to its service UberPop. And when the Prefect of the region Nord-Pas-de-Calais undertook by decree to specifically forbid “the activity of transport of persons of the type Uber Pop”(9), Uber could consequently maintain its UberX service in Lille(10), the capital city of the region.

The Prefect's decree was published few hours after a meeting with “the representatives of the taxi drivers of Lille's greater urban area”(11). With their concentration on UberPop, the French cab drivers expose themselves to the venom of the hydra Uber. The snake slowly extends its presence “all over the country”, observed the president of the National Federation of taxi while expressing “a real anger with regard to UberPop”(12).

3 The blinded determination


3.1 The ignorance of the European Union's power

To battle against the creature Uber, the French taxi drivers are planing actions whose “details (…) are unknown for the moment. But the goal is clear : “to hold the State accountable”(13). Their incessant appeal to the French public authorities is vain. They prove incapable of understanding the structural mechanisms of the system they are operating in.

The French cab drivers are forgetting that France is subject to “the shackles of the European Union”(14) particularly when it comes to the economic policies. They thus reinforce the French insufficiency(15) in lobbying matters while opposing an American business fully engaged in the “political campaign”(16) against “the Big Taxi cartel”(17), as expressed by Travis Kalanick, the co-founder and CEO of Uber, on 19 August 2014. At the European Union level, that campaign has been won by the American company.

3.2 The disregarded alienation of the European Commission

On 15 April 2014, the then vice-President of the European Commission, Neelie Kroes, vilified the unfavourable position of Brussels' authorities with regard to Uber. She already talked about the “taxi cartel”(18). Introducing her personal point of view while using the EU Commission's internet facility, she emphasised that : “Uber is 100% welcome in Brussels and everywhere else as far as I am concerned.”(19) She had nevertheless highlighted the popularity of Uber's services among her staff.(20) Since then, Neelie Kroes has left the Commission but the American start-up is still present and pressing.

“In November Uber filed a complaint with the Commission”.(21) The company questioned the validity of the French legislation favouring the taxis.(22) The European Commission asked “France for more information on” that legislation.(23) The procedure has yet to be concluded but the French government already reacted, to the detriment of the taxi drivers.

3.3 The loss of the State support

Ségolène Royale, whose Minister oversees the Secretariat in charge of transports,(24) confirmed the disengagement of the executive branch from the battle opposing the taxi drivers and Uber.(25) She recommended that the members of Parliament look “closely at which regulation there need to be introduced for” the business enabled by UberPop to “be fair”.(26)

The deception did not even pass through the filter of the media. Indeed an article reporting about the position of the Minister explains that : “the Parliament does have passed last September a bill whose goal was to appease the relations between the taxis and the” companies like Uber. The article avoids however to mention the very republican principle that would have exposed the impotence of the Minister : the Parliament passes the bill, the government implements the law. The French government will thus implement nothing, the taxis are alone against the hydra Uber.

The present article was first published in the newsletter | APs | of 17 June 2015.

Sources

(1)UMUCYO Alain-Patrick. Why firms need lobbyists now more than ever ? I. The Uber example (online). 17 October 2015. Wikinut. <http://www.wikinut.com/in/xgdhii/business.wikinut.com/Why-firms-need-lobbyists-now-more-than-ever-I.-The-Uber-example./3ju4h9zf/> accessed 17 June 2015

(2)KALANICK Travis. We’re Going Global With Big Funding (online). 07 December 2011. Uber. <http://newsroom.uber.com/paris/fr/2011/12/xxx/were-going-global-with-big-funding/> accessed 24 November 2015

(3)KALANICK Travis. A leader for the Uber campaign. (online). 19 August 2014. Uber. <http://blog.uber.com/davidplouffe> accessed 18 June 2015

(4)UMUCYO Alain-Patrick. PhD proposal - The legal recognition of the lobbyists in France, Germany, the United Kingdom and at the European Union level. March 2015.

(5)KALANICK Travis. We’re Going Global With Big Funding (online). 07 December 2011. Uber. <http://newsroom.uber.com/paris/fr/2011/12/xxx/were-going-global-with-big-funding/> accessed 24 November 2015

(6)LABBÉ Chine. Des syndicats de taxi veulent agir contre UberPOP (online). 13 June 2015. Reuters France. <http://fr.reuters.com/article/topNews/idFRKBN0OT0NE20150613> accessed 6 June 2015

(7)FRANCETV INFO. Le conseiller en com du secrétariat d'Etat aux Transports roule désormais pour Uber France (online). 11 June 2015. FranceTV Info. <http://www.francetvinfo.fr/france/greve-des-taxis/un-conseiller-en-communication-du-secretariat-aux-transports-roule-desormais-pour-uber-france_946779.html#xtref=http://t.co/tVQFejjG2c> accessed 6 June 2015

(8)KOPP Grégoire. Très malin d'avoir créé #UberPop … (online). 15 December 2014. Twitter. <https://twitter.com/_GRK/status/544423495825096704> accessed 6 June 2015

(9)CORDET Jean François. Arrêté portant sur l'interdiction de l'activité de transport de personnes de type Uber Pop dans le département du Nord (online). 27 May 2015. Nord.gouv.fr. <http://www.nord.gouv.fr/content/download/24959/162654/file/150527_arrete_uberpop.pdf> accessed 16 June 2015

(10)UBER. Lille (online). Uber. <https://www.uber.com/fr/cities/lille> accessed 02 August 2015

(11)LECLUYSE Frédérick. Métropole lilloise : le préfet du Nord interdit pour quatre mois le service de covoiturage rémunéré UberPop (online). 28 May 2015. La Voix du Nord. <http://www.lavoixdunord.fr/region/metropole-lilloise-le-prefet-du-nord-interdit-pour-ia19b0n2850332> accessed 16 June 2015

(12)LABBÉ Chine. Des syndicats de taxi veulent agir contre UberPOP (online). 13 June 2015. Reuters France. <http://fr.reuters.com/article/topNews/idFRKBN0OT0NE20150613> accessed 16 June 2015

(13)Ibidem

(14)UMUCYO Alain-Patrick. 2/2 : The new era of lobbying - Part 5 : The French insufficiency (online). 07 December 2014. Wikinut. <http://www.wikinut.com/in/xgdhii/news.wikinut.com/2-2-%3A-The-new-era-of-lobbying-Part-5-%3A-The-French-insufficiency/3gpkvcvp/> accessed 21 June 2015

(15)Ibidem

(16)KALANICK Travis. A leader for the Uber campaign. (online). 19 August 2014. Uber. <http://blog.uber.com/davidplouffe> accessed 21 June 2015

(17)KALANICK Travis. A leader for the Uber campaign. (online). 19 August 2014. Uber. <http://blog.uber.com/davidplouffe> accessed 21 June 2015

(18)KROES Neelie. Crazy court decision to ban Uber in Brussels. (online). 15 April 2014. EC. <http://ec.europa.eu/archives/commission_2010-2014/kroes/en/content/crazy-court-decision-ban-uber-brussels-show-your-anger.html> accessed 21 June 2015

(19)Ibidem

(20)Ibidem

(21)FIORETTI Julia, ROCHE Andrew. EU Commission asks France for more information on taxi law (online). 28 May 2015. Reuters. <http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/05/28/us-france-uber-eu-idUSKBN0OD2LI20150528?feedType=RSS&feedName=technologyNews> accessed 21 June 2015

(22)Ibidem

(23)Ibidem

(24)Ministère de l'écologie, du développement durable et de l'énergie (online). Developpement durable. <http://www.developpement-durable.gouv.fr/> accessed 16 June 2015

(25)CAPITAL, REUTERS. Ségolène Royal veut serrer la vis à l'activité UberPOP (online). 14 June 2015.Capital. <http://www.capital.fr/a-la-une/politique-economique/segolene-royal-veut-serrer-la-vis-a-l-activite-uberpop-1047906?utm_content=buffer7f74f&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer> accessed 16 June 2015

(26)Ibidem

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