We English tend to be rather suspicious of the French. These strange ideas they have that alcohol is anything other than a way to get drunk, and that food might be enjoyed rather than just being bland fuel. All most, most, un-English. However, we’re well aware of the ability of the French, especially their politicians, to be interestingly devious, duplicitous even. And so it is with the new proposed regulations just issued concerning the spats between Uber and other ride-sharing companies and the taxi drivers in Paris.
The report comes from “le député Thomas Thévenoud” a député being equivalent to a member of the House of Representatives over here. He makes a few odd suggestions, one being that Uber and the other competing services (for there are several French firms in this market as well) should not be able to use geolocation services, but that traditional cabs should. It seems a very odd distinction to make and I’m not sure that it’s really technically possible to insist on that split. It would be easy enough to switch the proximity being shown from that of a car on its way to pick you up to being the smartphone of a driver who is on his way. That’s how it’s currently being calculated anyway.
But then comes the interestingly devious part. For what is also being suggested is the following:
“Autres changements préconisés: la suppression de la course d’approche, la création d’un forfait pour les aéroports et une généralisation du paiement par carte bancaire dans les taxis.”
For those whose French is even worse than my own, he’s proposing three quite significant changes there. The first covers something that rather bugs consumers currently. If you book a cab in Paris then the meter starts ticking from the moment that the cab starts moving to pick you up. The proposal here is to make the paid ride start only once you’re actually in and being transported yourself.
The second is that there should be a fixed fee to go to the airports. This is expected to make the cab drivers rather grumpy. And the third is going to cause great complaint: for it’s stating that the whole system should move to only accepting bank (ie debit) or credit cards for payments in taxis. This, of course, will mean that the income of the drivers will be easily checkable by Le Fisc. Not something that’s likely to bring joy to anyone’s life let alone people used to having a significant portion of income in untraceable cash.
And Thévenoud has gone one stage further too. He’s said that all of his 30 points are a package. It’s all of nothing, and they won’t be discussed individually. So, the government gets more control over the cab drivers and their incomes, consumers get a better deal on pricing and Uber and LeCab get a mild shafting. And if the cab drivers reject it, or any part of it, or even if they go on strike, then the government won’t make any changes to the rules at all and then, presumably, Uber and LeCab get to clean up the market.
It would be too much to say that this is nicely Machiavellian for that’s far too much praise for an Englishman to offer a French politician but it is all at least interestingly devious.
[Illustration by Cam Floyd for Pando]