Uber, the world’s most valuable venture capital-backed startup, has become embroiled in many legal battles as it has expanded to 60 countries.
By now, Uber POP has also been declared illegal by courts in Italy and Spain, while appeals are pending in Belgium and the Netherlands, yet bad news for Uber appeals no sign to cease.
This time, bad news originated in France, Uber’s second biggest market in Europe just behind Britain. The company had a turnover of roughly 6 million euros in France in 2014 and made 500,000 euro in profits.
On Thursday, in France, Uber has a turnover of about 6 million euros and a 500,000 euro profit, a criminal court fined Uber Technologies 800,000 euros ($907,000) for running an illegal taxi service with non-professional drivers and slapped smaller fines on two of its executives in the first such criminal case in Europe. The court ordered Uber to pay 400,000 euros, with the other half of the fines suspended.
The court did not follow the prosecutor’s recommendation that the managers be banned from running a company in France. They had faced a possible maximum sentence of five years in jail and a 1.5 million euro fine. Instead, it found Pierre-Dimitri Gore-Coty, director for Europe, Middle East and Africa, and Thibaud Simphal, the company’s manager in France, guilty of deceptive commercial practices and being accomplices in operating an illegal transportation service and violating privacy laws. Eventually, Gore-Coty was fined 30,000 euros and Simphal 20,000 euros. In each case half of the fine was suspended.
The Uber spokesman noted that the European Commission, the top Europe’s business regulator which stated that EU member states should only ban “sharing economy” services like Uber and home-rental site Airbnb as a last resort, had just published guidelines that support such innovative services.
“We stopped Uber POP last summer and we are still disappointed by this judgment,” an Uber spokesperson said. “It has no impact on Uber’s activity in France today. The app connects 12,000 professional drivers with 1.5 million clients.”