Alicia Sotherland

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Taxi drivers in France kicked off their protest on Wednesday morning by teaming up in large numbers to slow traffic to a snail's pace on major motorway access routes into the capital.

But it's only the latest in a variety of apps for summoning taxis that threaten the traditional model in European cities such as London, where strict rules govern which cars can stop on the street to pick up hailing customers and which cars have to be pre booked.

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killing us off, starving us out," said Mick Fitz, who has been driving a London black taxi for 15 years. He and other black cab drivers allege Uber's technology is effectively a taximeter and thus contravenes a 1998 British law reserving the right to use a meter for licensed black taxis.

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"If we don't use digital technology then millions of jobs will simply move elsewhere and Europeans will get angry that they are denied the conveniences that people in Asia and Australia and America Vans Era 59 Black Sneakers

Reactions from Germans on Twitter overwhelmingly supported the smartphone app companies, with one user tweeting that she joined Uber because of Wednesday's protests.

Uber chief executive officer Kalanick last week announced US$1.2 billion in new Mbt Shoes Kiburi

"With their taximeter, their apps that they use, their technology, those are taximeters basically, which by law only we are allowed to use," Fitz told Reuters.

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car service which allows people to summon rides at the touch of a button. (1300 GMT).

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Neelie Kroes, the European Union commissioner in charge of digital and telecoms policy, said responding to companies like Uber with strikes was pointless.

It was an argument that was not likely to sway taxi drivers around Europe, however.

"What you are seeing today is an industry that has not faced competition for decades," Uber's Regional General Manager for Western Europe, Pierre Dimitri Gore Coty, told Reuters. "Now finally we are seeing competition from companies such as Uber which is bringing choice to customers."

Uber hit back in Germany by emailing Mbt Shoes Birmingham Uk its clients in the morning offering a 50% discount on all shared rides for the duration of the day. In London the company offered new customers 20 pounds ($36.51) off their first journey.

and Africa take for granted."

Taxis were also striking in Madrid and Barcelona. The two biggest taxi unions in Madrid, who represent around 90% of cabs in the capital, had called for a 24 hour strike from 6 in the morning.

San Francisco based Uber Technologies Inc., valued last week at US$18.2 billion just four years since its 2010 launch, has touched a raw nerve by bringing home the threat of technological advances to one of the world's most visible trades.

Taxi drivers in Europe protest Uber

"It's just not fair that somebody can come in and start taking our business just because multi billionaires are running the company," said one London black cab driver who gave his name only as Gary.

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In Berlin, more than 300 out of an expected 1,000 taxi drivers joined a protest against companies like Uber from 1000 GMT, trying to snarl traffic between the Olympic Stadium and Tegel Airport, Berlin Central Station and S Station.

Uber, backed by investors such as Goldman Sachs and Google, contends its smartphone application complies with local regulations and says it is being targeted because of its success in winning customers.

funding, valuing the company at US$18.2 billion, one of the highest valuations ever for a Silicon Valley startup.

Adding to the gridlock, a strike at the SNCF state railway company over planned reforms reduced high speed TGV and Intercity services by as much as 50%, while international rail links were also reduced by about 30%.

"We cannot address these challenges by ignoring them, by going on strike, or by trying to ban these innovations out of existence," she said in a blog published on Wednesday.

Taxi drivers across Europe say the applications of companies like Uber break local rules as well as endanger their livelihoods.

Spain's Ministry of Public Works has warned that companies or individuals offering Uber type services faced fines of up to 6,000 euros, while users could be fined up to 600 euros. The ministry has not specifically named Uber, which is operating in Barcelona but not Madrid.

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"They're Mbt Shoes Jp

Transport for London, the city's transport regulator, has so far supported Uber's position, but has referred the decision to the High Court. technology entrepreneurs, Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp, and now operates in 128 cities across 37 countries.

But it has faced a series of hurdles from the beaches of Miami to the piazzas of Rome.

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