Uber will suspend its UberPOP service in France tonight following taxi driver riots and the arrest of senior executives in the country.

Uber’s French director Thibaud Simphal – one of those arrested last week – confirmed in an interview with Le Monde that the budget version of the Uber service would be suspended tonight in France at 8pm.

Fires and fights broke out during anti-Uber protests in Paris (Michel Euler/AP)
Fires and fights broke out during anti-Uber protests in Paris (Michel Euler/AP)

Last week, a nationwide protest by French taxi drivers saw roads to airports and train stations blocked, with fights and fires also breaking out. The French courts are also currently examining new laws introduced that target UberPOP, to decide whether they are constitutional.

UberPOP is similar to UberX in the UK, where drivers do not need a taxi licence or training. However, new French laws require all chauffeurs to be professionally licensed, but POP continues to operate due to an ongoing constitutional court case on the legality of the laws. This led to the protests by taxi drivers over the unfair competitive advantage UberPOP drivers gained by not having to pay licence fees.

Mr Simphal said the suspension of service was to preserve the safety of Uber’s drivers, and added that despite the risk of a prison sentence he did not want to leave Uber as there are still “great things to do”.

A French cab with a poster reading stop Uber
Many taxi drivers see Uber as unfair (Bob Edme/AP)

In a further statement, the US firm said: “In the light of last week’s violence, we have today decided to suspend UberPOP, our ride-sharing service, until September’s Constitutional Court decision.

“It’s a tremendously sad day for our 500,000 French UberPOP passengers, as well as the drivers who used the platform. However, safety must come first. Our regular UberX service, which uses licensed cars and makes up a majority of our trips each day in France, will continue to operate as usual.

“Unfortunately, the current licensing process has become too much of an obstacle course. It once took two weeks to get up and running with a licence. But today we have 12,000 partners who have applied for one and are needlessly waiting – with only 215 applicants licensed since the Thevenoud Law came into force.”

The Uber on a mobile phone
The app’s regular service will continue to operate (Mosa’ab Elshamy/AP)

“Finally a heartfelt thanks to the thousands of drivers who made UberPOP possible. And to all our million-plus French riders for their support. In September the Constitutional Court will decide whether the provisions in the Thevenoud Law targeting UberPOP are constitutional or not. In the meantime we’ll be working hard to get all the partner-drivers affected by today’s suspension back on the road again as quickly as possible.”

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said those involved in the riots give “a deplorable image to visitors to our country”, before adding that all available legal measures would be taken to halt UberPOP activity, ordering a nationwide crackdown.