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Public transport servants as well as cab drivers of Paris decided to strike today. Amongst other resasons, they protest against the access of amateur drivers like UBER to the personal transportation market, which in so many European countries typically requires licensing. The bulk of UBER drivers go along with the strike in order not to stir up emotions even further.

While this is true for the majority of drivers, some appear to defect, most likely due to a lack of information and more importantly to realize potentially huge gains from offering a scarce good. UBER prices are determined by an algorithm depending on supply and demand for rides within a given period in a specific area. Prices this morning were already 8.3 times higher than the base fare. In addition, some foreign cab drivers, in particular Belgian residents, are expected to take on this unique arbitrage opportunity.

I am not aware of the specifics of French competition laws but it seems highly likely that this behavior, while rational, must violate racketeering guidelines. Due to the immense cost of identification, prosecution seems unlikely though. Thus, it remains only to hope for a more subtle resolution than last time this conflict erupted. If not, the French government might have a decent case to blame UBER executives for not disabling their algorithm during the strike. Since this seems to be in the interest of strike participants-and potential rioters-in the first place, an undesirable scenario seems possible.

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