UBER PROBE IN FRANCE General director of Uber France, Thibaud Simphal, is one of two executives detained by French police. Image: AFP / Miguel Medina
PARIS, France - French police have detained two executives from Uber for questioning as a government clampdown intensifies on the US-based taxi and ride-sharing service.
Thibaud Simphal, manager of Uber France, and Pierre-Dimitri Gore-Coty, general manager for western Europe, were detained as part of an investigation that earlier led to Uber's offices being raided by police in March 2015.
The probe focuses on one of the company's several local transport options known as UberPop (Uber's lowest-cost service), which allows passengers to book rides with non-professional drivers via their mobile phones, infuriating taxi operators.
Uber has provoked protests by taxi drivers from London to New Delhi as it upends traditional business models that require professional drivers to pay often steep fees for licences to operate cabs.
In the past five years, the company has expanded into some 250 cities and 57 countries with its smartphone app that connects drivers with passengers with little concern for local regulations or practices.
In France, the backlash intensified earlier in June 2015 when taxi drivers blockaded major transport hubs to protest against what they call unfair competition.
The French government also filed a legal complaint against Uber on Friday (June 26) over UberPop, with Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve calling the company's attitude "cynical" and "arrogant".
The protests were among the fiercest in a series of strikes and demonstrations across Europe against San Francisco-based Uber, whose backers include Goldman Sachs and Google .
An Uber spokesman in an email said: "Two representatives of Uber today went voluntarily to a police hearing that is part of an ongoing legal proceeding. Uber is always willing to work with authorities to overcome possible misunderstandings."
The Wall Street Journal reported in May 2015 that Uber was in talks to raise the equivalent of R24-billion to fund its global expansion, putting its value at more than the equivalent of R490-billion and making it the world's second-most valuable venture-capital backed start-up, after Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi.
Uber aims to move beyond its taxi and ride-sharing offering into an array of local transportation options, ranging from takeaway food and grocery delivery to freight logistics.