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French president calls for crackdown on Uber service

Vehicles were damaged in clashes near Orly airport, 25 June 2015.
Vehicles were damaged in clashes near Orly airport, 25 June 2015. Reuters/Christian Hartmann

French President Francois Hollande has condemned violent protests against online driver-booking service Uber but says its ride-sharing app UberPop should be banned.

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Taxi drivers on strike Thursday blocked roads and access to major airports and railway stations in the country and set fire to vehicles. Taxi unions called for demonstrations to continue on Friday.

Hollande, who was attending a summit of European Union leaders in Brussels Friday, described the protests as "unacceptable violence in a democracy, in a country like France."

But he said he understands taxi drivers’ frustrations with Uber, which puts customers in touch with private drivers at prices lower than those of traditional taxis.

"UberPop should be dismantled and declared illegal," Hollande told reporters.

UberPop, which allows anyone to sign up without a professional chauffeur licence and pick up fares through the Uber smartphone app, was ruled illegal by the French government last year. The law has been difficult to enforce, however, and continues to operate as the American company, which has not yet exhausted all legal recourse, tells its drivers to keep working.

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said Thursday after meeting taxi drivers' unions that UberPop “must be shut down."

Until then "the vehicles of UberPop drivers should be systematically impounded when they are openly breaking the law", he said, ordering police and prosecutors to immediately enforce the ban.

Police in Paris fired teargas Thursday to break up protests on the ring road around the capital, while ten people were arrested, seven police officers were injured and 70 vehicles were damaged in the clashes.

Singer and actress Courtney Love fired off an angry tweet addressed to the French president Thursday, claiming that strikers had "ambushed our car and are holding our driver hostage", adding "I'm safer in Baghdad."

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