PARIS: Uber was fined 800,000 euros ($900,000) by a French court on Thursday, half of which was suspended, over its controversial UberPOP ride-sharing service that was banned in the country after violent protests last year.
Uber suspended its low-cost UberPOP offering in France in July following a storm of opposition to the service from taxi drivers and the arrest of two of its French bosses.
UberPOP was subsequently banned in France, but the company still operates its full-price service using professional drivers.
In the court case that ended Thursday, Uber was charged with “the illegal organization of a system that puts clients in contact with providers of road transport for payment.”
The verdict accused Uber of “repeated and lasting violations” and said the company had “encouraged a large number of people to take part in an activity which led to them being convicted of criminal offences.”
Uber France’s chief executive, Thibaud Simphal, and the company’s director general for Western Europe at the time the charges were brought, Pierre-Dimitri Gore-Coty, were fined 30,000 euros and 20,000 euros respectively. Half of those sums were also suspended.
A spokesman for San Francisco-based Uber said the company would appeal “immediately.”
The fine for Uber was, however, lower than the 1.0 million euros that prosecutors had asked for.
The court also chose not to grant a prosecution request for the executives involved to be banned from running a company for five years.
France was the first country after the United States to have UberPOP when it was launched in February 2014.
But Uber soon became a victim of its success in Europe, with taxi drivers and hotel owners up in arms at the inroads made by one of the main players in the so-called sharing economy.
Jean-Paul Levy, a lawyer for the complainants, hailed a “landmark decision.”
“It demolishes the edifice put in place by Uber to try to conceal the responsibility of a number of individuals,” he said.
Uber was also accused of producing advertisements that portrayed the service as fully legal by claiming UberPOP was a normal taxi service rather than a ride-sharing service.
Uber has filed complaints with the European Union against France and other EU members, arguing that national policies that are hostile to its operations violate European law.
Brussels is currently deliberating its response to those complaints.
Uber has become one of the world’s most valuable startups, expanding to more than 50 countries.
Earlier this month, the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia pumped $3.5 billion into the company, in a major boost for its global expansion plans.
The injection of funds gives Uber a valuation of $62.5 billion, according to the company.