We reported yesterday that Pierre Dimitri, Uber’s general manager for Western Europe, and Thibaud Simphal, Uber’s general manager for France, had attended a meeting with police voluntarily, but they remained in custody and were not free to leave off their own accord. While it was believed that no charges had been brought against Uber or the representatives in question, things have now changed.
The two executives will face charges based on carrying out “deceptive commercial practices,” permitting “illegal taxi services,” and “illicit storage of personal data.” Uber has confirmed to VentureBeat the two employees have now been released from custody, however.
The charges come amid mounting pressure on French authorities to curb what critics have called unfair, anti-competitive practices by Uber. UberPop — the local ride-sharing equivalent of UberX in the U.S. — connects travelers with private car owners. It lets anyone become a taxi driver, with no regulation or licensing, and it has raised the ire of taxi drivers across France. Mass protests have hit major cities across the country, with local taxi drivers accusing authorities of creating one rule for them and another for Uber.
However, UberPop’s legal status has been challenged in France before, and a law was passed last October that apparently banned UberPop and other similar services operating in the country. But Uber continued to offer the service anyway, and even won a temporary reprieve in a Paris court, pending further clarification of a law it argued was unclear and unconstitutional.
Following the wave of violent protests in France last week, the country’s interior minister publicly called for a nationwide ban on UberPop, a move that looked like it was designed to placate disgruntled taxi drivers more than anything else. However, authorities are now pulling no punches in its endeavors to stop UberPop from operating, and it’s clear that it’s willing to hold Uber employees personally responsible.
This is the latest in a long line of legal wrangles Uber has faced around the world. Back in March, Uber’s Paris offices were raided by police, and a month later an Amsterdam-based Uber employee was arrested for failing to “cooperate” during a raid on its hub in the Netherlands. Elsewhere, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick was charged in South Korea for running “an illegal taxi ring,” though he’s not likely to travel to South Korea to face the charges any time soon.
[VentureBeat News Report]