French court confirms ban on UberPOP ride-sharing service

A file photo shows taxis blocking an area of Paris in protest at competition from Uber.
A file photo shows taxis blocking an area of Paris in protest at competition from Uber.AFP

PARIS (AFP) - France's highest court on Tuesday confirmed a ban on controversial ride-sharing service UberPOP, dismissing a constitutional appeal by the US company.

France in January banned the low-cost service, which puts customers in touch with private chauffeurs at budget prices, after furious taxi drivers protested around the country.

The San Francisco-based company filed a complaint with the European Union over the ban and also contested it at France's constitutional council.

However as the ban was hard to police, Uber kept operating the service in France, leading to a spate of violent protests in June that saw cars set alight and a number of Uber drivers and passengers attacked.

The company finally gave in after its two French bosses were arrested and charged with "misleading commercial practices (and) complicity in the illegal exercise of the taxi profession", and suspended the application in July.

The constitutional council said the ban was in line with laws against "an organised system that puts clients in touch with people" offering taxi services but which are not part of an official transport company.

Uber said the ruling was "obviously disappointing".

"We will continue to work with the government to define a modern and pragmatic regulatory framework," the company said in a statement, adding that the decision did not impact its professional driver service available via the Uber app.

Uber, which offers several types of ride-sharing services, claims to have had 400,000 UberPOP users in France.

The company has become one of the world's most valuable startups, worth an estimated US$50 billion (S$70 billion), as it has expanded to more than 50 countries.

But its meteoric rise has been accompanied by a wave of protests, bans and legal actions as taxi drivers across the world complain of unfair competition.

Faced with the ban, Uber has launched an upmarket alternative service called Uber X in several European markets which requires professionally licensed drivers.