Excuse My French. What Did Uber Get Wrong in France?
In our previous post we have described Uber’s expansion to Germany. Europe has been a bumpy road for Uber. It includes: Netherlands, Italy, Britain. However, one particular case steals the spotlight, France. For Californian cab-hailing service this country turned out to be one of the toughest market entries. Starting with the violent protests from the local drivers to the criminal charges of Uber’s top management in France.
Backlash, Strike & Courtney Love
In France, getting a taxi license can cost up to € 240,000. We can therefore understand why the local cab drivers were not exactly happy when UberPop (service that uses unlicensed drivers) started poaching their clients. And it is not at all surprising that after some time, the unhappy drivers decided to do the most French thing imaginable – go on strike against Uber. Around 2000 drivers blocked traffic across the country. As it often happens during the strike, things got out of hand and resulted in violent actions against Uber drivers. For example, Courtney Love got caught up in the backlash at the Charles de Gaulle airport where protesters attacked the car she was in. She tweeted:
they’ve ambushed our car and are holding our driver hostage. they’re beating the cars with metal bats. this is France?? I’m safer in Baghdad
— Courtney Love Cobain (@Courtney) June 25, 2015
French government was quick to react and indicted two Uber top-level executives: general director for France, Thibaud Simphal and the company’s director for Western Europe, Pierre-Dimitri Gore-Coty.
Pouring gasoline on fire
Yes, Uber did enrage local cab drivers who consequently went on strike. However, they were not the only ones unsatisfied with current state of the economy. For example in January 2016 teachers, doctors and other social workers went on strike demanding better wages. It just happened that Uber poured some more gasoline into the existing fire.
Did Uber underestimate the cultural thing?
Well, let’s take a quick look at the France’s cultural dimensions.
It ranks 43 on the Masculinity scale, which means that French culture is somewhat feminine. What does it mean for the business world? It means that modesty, cooperation and overall social prosperity are regarded as the highest value. Standing out from the crowd is not very tolerated. In the light of these facts we can see that Uber did exactly the opposite, as the company threatened the whole taxicab industry by providing unfair advantage to independent drivers.
As for the collective well-being, France has one of the most advanced social security systems in the world, moreover wealth redistribution is in some degree in the country implemented too. This is why income tax can go as high as 45%.
Uber operates with a different philosophy: no security checks or social benefits. These are the typical signs of the sharing-economy. It destroys an established order and creates a new one. The French government couldn’t allow such business behavior in their country and cracked down on it.
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