2014 has been a big one for car-ordering service Uber. Unfortunately for Uber, we mean in terms of controversy, not accomplishments. While the company is still expected to rake in a projected $10 billion by the end of 2015, according to Business Insider, Uber's image is now all but synonymous with "shady business." In its most recent setback, France proposed banning UberPop, its low-cost Uber service, after taxi unions went on strike in Paris in protest of aggressive competition and unfair business practices. But France is far from the only country giving Uber the cold shoulder.
On Monday morning, taxis from three unions blocked major highways around Paris by forming slow-moving motorcades, heavily disrupting morning rush-hour traffic. The strike was prompted by a court's refusal on Friday to hear a lawsuit seeking to ban Uber for unfair competition. However, it looks like a ban is happening after all, based on other grounds. France's UberPop ban will be enforced starting January 1 in accordance with new regulations that will require Uber drivers to have professional licenses and insurance, a policy they've been lax with thus far.
Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet told BFMTV in an interview on Monday:
Currently, those who use UberPop are not protected in case of an accident. So not only is it illegal to offer the service, but for the consumer, it's a real danger.
Uber doesn't seem to be taking the proposed ban very seriously, saying that it will continue operating in France until a court forces a ban.
Pierre-Dimitri Gore-Coty, Uber's general manager for Western Europe, told The Verve:
As of today the product is live, it's not been banned, and I don't see anything changing on January 1.
It is precisely this kind of aggressive attitude that has made Uber arguably the most hated company in the world. Already banned in a slew of countries, Uber's faced some pretty major controversies and setbacks over the last year. Take a look.
- In December 2013, an Uber driver ran over a 6-year-old girl, killing her and also seriously injuring her mother and brother. Because he wasn't working for Uber at the time of the accident, the company denied liability.
- In June 2014, an Uber driver was arrested on suspicion of kidnapping a drunk female passenger and sexually assaulting her at a motel.
- In July 2014, a NYC CEO recounted his own kidnapping story after taking Uber in Washington, D.C. on a business trip. His Uber driver drove recklessly, running red lights and speeding down the highway, in order to shake a taxi inspector. The CEO had to physically force the driver's leg to step on the brake.
- In August 2014, rival ride-sharing service Lyft reported that Uber employees had ordered and canceled more than 5,000 Lyft rides in an attempt to disrupt and sabotage their business. In the same month, sources also revealed that Uber even has a playbook on sabotaging Lyft and a script for poaching drivers mid-ride.
- In November 2014, BuzzFeed published remarks made by Uber Senior Vice President Emil Michael at a private dinner, in which he suggested hiring investigators to look into the personal lives and families of journalists who had criticized the company. This plummeted Urban's image to an all-time low, supporting the company's reputation for being aggressive.
- In December 2014, a woman in south Delhi, India, alleged that an Uber driver raped and beat her, leading to the city to ban the car company.
- The same month, Uber was also banned in Thailand and Spain on similar grounds as France — that Uber's unlicensed and uninsured service is unlawful.
- Also in December, the city of Portland, Oregon, issued a cease-and-desist order and filed a lawsuit against Uber, claiming that Uber violates the city's Private for Hire Transportation Regulations and Administrative Rules.
- Perhaps Uber's most egregious controversy of the month was when the company jacked up its fares during Sydney's ongoing hostage crisis. It's baffling how the company even allowed that to happen in the first place, but it certainly worked overtime to backpedal when people criticized the price surge, apologizing and offering free rides out of Sydney's Central Business District.
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