Think apps are useful, think again. At least, if you’re a European taxi driver. It seems the useful software programs millions have come to enjoy and rely on have become a hamper for the average taxi driver. Tired of dealing with illegal and unfair competition from app-using car services, thousands of European taxi drivers showed their displeasure at a recent Europe-wide protest.
From key European cities — Paris, Rome, London, Milan and Berlin — traditional cabbies stood firm as they protested the rise in unlicensed chauffeur and taxi drivers they claim, are eating away at their client base.
Their main aggravator is Uber, an app that, at the tap of your smartphone, connects you with a driver anywhere in the world. The Uber app also allows users to pay via smartphone. Taxi drivers feel it’s unfair that smartphone-dependent car services are allowed to bypass the strict regulations in which they have to adhere.
France currently has about 10,000 motorcycle and taxi vehicles run by this type of non-traditional firm. While smartphone car service drivers are only permitted to collect passengers via a reservation — they’re not permitted to stop if hailed along the street — this non-traditional way of operating has allowed them to avoid the €240,000 fee that’s required for an official taxi license.
Serge Metz, chief executive of France’s Taxi G7, says, “Uber is deliberately not respecting regulations and on top of that has significant financial means.” The uproar began mere days after the application company was valued at $17 billion (€12 billion), one of the highest ever for a tech start-up.
Rage and revenge has caused taxi drivers across Europe to stage protests and clog major roads. In Rome, taxi drivers banded together charging only €10 per trip to stay in line with the price of their competitors, but Uber said it was offering a 50 percent discount to their email subscribers.
The Uber app, which was launched in 2009, allows people to instantly connect with a ‘black car’ service. Uber and others like it have become a globally thriving business.