6/12/2014

Taxi Drivers Across Europe Protest Car-Sharing Services

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Thousands of taxi drivers in France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the U.K. snarled traffic on Wednesday in protest of the smartphone-based car-sharing service by California-based Uber Technologies Inc. and others.

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Thousands of taxi drivers in France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the U.K. snarled traffic on Wednesday in protest of the smartphone-based car-sharing service by California-based Uber Technologies Inc. and others.

The services allow customers to summon a private-livery car by using an app that can determine the price and tells them when their ride will arrive. Uber, the largest of the group, has encountered numerous challenges in Europe and the U.S. from taxi operators who complain that such services undercut their prices by avoiding the licensing, training and regulatory structure that governs traditional taxi services.

Proponents argue that Uber and others offer a cheaper and more convenient service akin to hitching a ride with a friend in exchange for paying fuel costs. Opponents don't necessarily object to the concept. But they want such services to abide by the same laws that govern conventional livery services.

Observers point out that Wednesday's protests provided huge publicity to Uber, which offered discounts in several affected cities. The company also debuted a new feature in London that enables customers to use its app to hail a licensed black taxi.