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Uber suspends low-cost service in France following government crackdown

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Suspension of UberPop follows nationwide taxi strike and increased hostility with cab drivers

Uber today announced the suspension of its low-cost UberPop service in France, amid heightening tensions with taxi unions and French authorities. In a blog post published today, the company said the service will be officially suspended in France Friday evening, with the option disappearing from the app by 8PM local time.

UberPop, which connects users with non-professional drivers, has come under increased scrutiny from French regulators and taxi unions, who say it gives the San Francisco-based company an unfair competitive advantage. A law passed late last year requires all chauffeurs to hold costly professional licenses and insurance, which UberPop drivers are not obligated to obtain. French authorities have repeatedly called for a ban on the service, but Uber has appealed it in French courts and at the European Union.

Uber says suspension is in the interest of safety

The service had been allowed to continue during the appeals, but the French government has moved to crack down on it in recent days, after taxi unions staged a nationwide strike in protest of the service last week. This week, two Uber France executives were taken into police custody and later charged with operating an illegal taxi service. They are slated to go on trial in September.

In its blog post, Uber France said it was suspending the service not because of ongoing legal disputes, but because of increased hostility between UberPop chauffeurs and taxi drivers across France. On at least two recent occasions in Strasbourg, taxi drivers posing as Uber customers reportedly ordered rides to remote areas and attacked Uber drivers, as part of an ambush operation. Other drivers reported being attacked and intimidated during last week's protests.

"These last weeks, the intimidations, mostly violent aggressions, or organized ambushes against drivers and UberPop customers have multiplied in France, due to an out-of-control minority of individuals," the company said in a French-language post. "Uber does not wish to put any UberPop drivers and passengers at risk."

In an interview with Le Monde published prior to Uber's official announcement, Thibaud Simphal, general manager of Uber France, said the company also wanted to position itself "in a spirit of appeasement, of dialogue with public powers, and to show that we take our responsibilities." Simphal was one of the executives charged this week, together with Pierre-Dimitri Gore-Coty, Uber's general manager for Western Europe. The company says it will now await a decision from France's constitutional court, which is expected to rule on the legality of UberPop in September.