People who were trying to get around Paris yesterday, or more accurately trying to get to any of the airports in the capital, ran into nothing but trouble after taxi drivers set up traffic blocks. These traffic jams were set up in protest against the court’s ruling that blocked a government plan to restrict competition that taxi drivers face from the private car industry.
President Francisco Hollande was originally going to sign a deal to impose a 15-minute delay on private car services such as Uber Technologies. Unfortunately for taxi drivers and for the government, the court ruled that this move went against the country’s principles of freedom of commerce. As a result, the court had little choice but to block this scheme.
According to taxi drivers, the private car sector has an unfair edge over them. That is because this sector does not have to purchase permits that cost up to €200,000. Taxi drivers say that they risk being eradicated because of unfair competition, and the courts have just ensured it. Private car services have no exam that they have to do and have no rules. In short, anyone can buy a car and put themselves up for hire. Taxi drivers have very severe regulations that have to be followed.
So this just begs the question, “What was the 15-minute wait time that the president tried to put into effect?” This wait time was going to give taxi drivers an edge because it would have put a rule on private car services that requires them to wait at least 15 minutes between the time a passenger books a car and the time that they are picked up. If people want to get a car quicker, they could hire a taxi, which would have no such wait time.
Of course, drivers in the private car industry say that their services do not pose any kind of threat to taxis. Unlike taxis, they simply cannot be flagged down in the street. Actually, the private car service sector is needed in the face of growing demand from consumers. Companies like Uber are not taxis. They are platforms that put people in touch with transport providers. The focus is adding something that currently does not exist in Paris.
Right now, Paris has less than one-third of the taxis that other big cities such as New York and London have. In total, the city has only 17,000 taxis and only about 2,000 private cars. Most of these taxis can be found at airports, where taxis hope to take advantage of people who are just arriving. It also works out well because they can pick up people and take them to the airport; while they are there, they can wait around to take someone from the airport. This is a service that taxi drivers say the private sector is cutting into. They believe something has to be done or taxis will become a thing of the past. They are dying a slow death, and the court is helping them suffer.