Two European executives of the ride-sharing service Uber face possible prison time as their trial began in France Wednesday. The trial is just the latest setback Uber is facing, in addition to fines, regulations, protests and bans in several European and Asian nations.
Uber France chief Thibaud Simphal and Pierre-Dimitri Gore-Coty, the company's general manager for Western Europe, were briefly detained earlier this year, and are facing trial on behalf of the California-based company on charges that include “deceptive commercial practices,” illegal storage of data and complicity in illegal activities, the Associated Press reported.
The trial comes one week after French authorities upheld a 2014 law that banned the low-cost UberPop service, which allows any driver to transport passengers for a fee without a professional license. The government banned UberPop in June after a series of violent nationwide protests by taxi drivers over what they claimed were unfair business practices, that resulted in smashed Uber vehicles and blazing tires.
Uber’s standard service -- banned entirely from Italy and Spain -- uses registered and authorized drivers, and remains legal in France, where officials have said that the service is legitimate and in demand.
The executives face up to two years in prison and fines of 300,000 euros ($337,000). The trial is expected to last one day, but the verdict will not be announced until a later date. At the start of the trial, Uber’s attorneys called into question the entire process behind the trial, claiming that the French government was pressuring prosecutors to move faster than usual to make an example of Uber.
“Why such speed?” Eric Deseuze, a lawyer for Uber, asked, according to the Wall Street Journal. “They had to reassure taxis that the government was reacting.”