French take Uber ex­ecs into cus­tody

The two are sus­pected of ‘ in­cit­ing illegal em­ploy­ment’ by op­er­at­ing the ser­vice.

Los Angeles Times - - TECHNOLOGY - By Tracey Lien tracey. lien@ latimes. com Twit­ter: @ traceylien

Two ex­ec­u­tives for the San Fran­cisco com­pany Uber were taken into po­lice cus­tody Mon­day in Paris af­ter a week of tur­moil in which lo­cal taxi driv­ers vi­o­lently protested the on- de­mand trans­porta­tion ser­vice.

Ac­cord­ing to French news­pa­per Le Monde and busi­ness pro­gram BFMTV, Uber France Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Thibaud Sim­phal and Uber Europe Gen­eral Man­ager Pierre- Dim­itri Gore- Coty are sus­pected of “in­cit­ing illegal em­ploy­ment” by con­tin­u­ing to op­er­ate UberPOP ( bet­ter known as UberX in Cal­i­for­nia), the arm of Uber’s busi­ness in which driv­ers use per­sonal ve­hi­cles as a taxi ser­vice, con­nect­ing with pas­sen­gers through Uber’s app.

“Our gen­eral man­agers for France and Western Europe to­day at­tended a hear­ing with the French po­lice,” an Uber spokesper­son said in a state­ment. “We are al­ways happy to an­swer ques­tions the author­i­ties have about our ser­vice — and look for­ward to re­solv­ing these is­sues.”

Ac­cord­ing to Uber, nei­ther ex­ec­u­tive has been charged.

This is not the first time that French author­i­ties have taken busi­ness ex­ec­u­tives into cus­tody with­out charge. In 2006, the chief ex­ec­u­tive of online gam­bling plat­form Bwin. Party, Nor­bert Teufel­berger, and a fel­low ex­ec­u­tive were ar­rested af­ter a news con­fer­ence and held for ques­tion­ing on sus­pi­cion of break­ing French gam­bling laws. Af­ter an in­ves­ti­ga­tion, a judge re­leased them three days later, and Bwin. Party con­tin­ues to op­er­ate in France to­day.

French author­i­ties be­gan in­ves­ti­gat­ing UberPOP in 2014 and searched its Paris of­fice in March, seiz­ing com- put­ers, phones and doc­u­ments. Like other Euro­pean mar­kets such as Spain and Ger­many that have pushed back against the ser­vice, French author­i­ties ac­cused Uber of op­er­at­ing il­le­gally be­cause driv­ers for its UberPOP ser­vice are not li­censed to of­fer such rides. France’s Theve­noud Law re­quires driv­ers for hire to carry spe­cial per­mits and in­sur­ance.

In re­sponse, Uber filed a le­gal com­plaint with the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion against France, ques­tion­ing the le­gal­ity of the Theve­noud Law.

Although the French in­ves­ti­ga­tion is un­re­lated to last week’s protests, which re­sulted in over­turned cars and burn­ing tires in the streets, it may have put pres­sure on po­lice to speed up the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Last week, France’s In­te­rior Min­is­ter, Bernard Cazeneuve, re­it­er­ated his po­si­tion on UberPOP, de­scrib­ing it as an “illegal ser­vice [ that] must be closed.” On Mon­day, he an­nounced that an ad­di­tional 200 po­lice of­fi­cers would pa­trol the streets look­ing for UberPOP driv­ers.

In the U. S., Uber had some pos­i­tive news as it an­nounced that it had ac­quired map- tech­nol­ogy as­sets from Mi­crosoft’s Bing search busi­ness and said it would bring on 100 Mi­crosoft em­ploy­ees.

“Map­ping is at the heart of what makes Uber great,” a spokesper­son said.

Miguel Me­d­ina AFP/ Getty I mages

THIBAUD SIM­PHAL, CEO of Uber France, was one of the two ex­ec­u­tives taken into cus­tody.

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