Uber has faced a series of PR disasters in the past weeks, including the quadrupling of prices in downtown Sydney during yesterday’s hostage crisis and a ban by the government in New Delhi following a rape allegation against an Uber driver. This kind of bad press may give Uber’s opponents more ammunition, but even if the company ran the most polished of operations, taxi drivers and bureaucrats would still be up in arms against a service that threatens their entrenched interests. As a result of such opposition, France has announced that it plans to ban Uber’s low-cost service in the upcoming year. As the New York Times reports:
The potential ban — Uber says that it will challenge any legal ruling to block its services — has put the spotlight on UberPop, which has been attracting criticism across Europe and elsewhere that Uber does not comply with local licensing laws. It also follows steps by policy makers from Amsterdam to Delhi to ban the ride-booking company as not complying with local laws.
The low-cost service, which allows any approved driver with a car and a proprietary Uber device to pick up passengers, is similar to the UberX product offered in the United States. Neither service requires drivers to have specific licenses demanded of traditional taxi drivers.
Uber has weathered bad publicity in the past, and, as we said then, this kind of tech-enabled service job isn’t going away. Due to different cultural attitudes toward entrepreneurship, Europe is less willing than the United States to deal with innovators barging into sectors that traditionally have been regulated. As the French Economy Minister noted at the end of the Times article, however, “You have to be disruptive.” Eurocrats don’t like disruption, but it’s happening whether they want it or not.