French prosecutors have charged two key Uber executives with deceitful commercial practices, operating an illegal taxi service, and illicit storage of personal data.
The pair were collared as they visited Paris cops to discuss the ongoing protests in the city over the taxi-booking app. The charges relate to the Uberpop service, which allows people to hire unlicensed amateur taxi drivers and, according to the authorities, is illegal in France.
Thibaud Simphal, general manager of Uber in France, and Pierre-Dimitri Gore-Coty, GM of Uber Western Europe, will go on trial on September 30. If found guilty, they face both a heavy fine and possible jail time.
“We are keen to continue talking to the French government about the regulatory framework for services like Uber," an Uber spokesman told The Register in a statement.
"New technology can be disruptive, especially for established industries but Uber is helping to create tens of thousands of new economic opportunities--as well as a reliable, convenient way to get from A to B. There is a way forward, with regulation that is focused on the needs and safety of the public, while also allowing more people to take advantage of these new opportunities.”
The arrests came after rioting French taxi drivers paralyzed Paris (and scared Courtney Love) last week in protest over the Uberpop service. Similar protests took place earlier in Nantes, Strasbourg and Marseille earlier this month.
Paris police have since been cracking down on Uberpop drivers. The Interior Ministry reports [PDF] that more than 202 cars have been impounded for breaking the rules against unlicensed cabs.
Uberpop was ruled illegal in France last year, and again on appeal last month, but there is still further legal wrangling to go through. In September, the French constitutional court will deliver judgement on the matter, and there is also an appeal pending with the European Commission on competition grounds.
This raises the interesting possibility of charges being dropped against the two Uber managers if the constitutional court rules in favor of the US biz. In the meantime a handful of protesters who attacked and overturned cars are facing minor charges. ®