oBike users in Australia say they are having problems getting deposit refunds

A row of oBikes are seen along the Yarra River near the Melbourne city centre.
A row of oBikes are seen along the Yarra River near the Melbourne city centre.PHOTO: OBIKE AUSTRALIA

MELBOURNE - Days after bike-sharing company oBike abruptly announced it was closing down in Singapore, it is facing new criticism from users in Australia who said that it has removed from its app the button that allows customers to refund deposits, Guardian Australia reported.

The button has been removed in oBike's latest app update, according to the Guardian Australia report on Tuesday (June 26).

The latest complaint against oBike came only weeks after it closed its operations in Melbourne and days after it made a surprise exit in Singapore.

Hundreds of oBike customers in Singapore have complained that the company is refusing to refund deposits and is uncontactable. When The Straits Times visited oBike's headquarters on Monday, it found that the building had been abandoned.

According to Guardian Australia, oBike removed all its bikes from Melbourne on June 12 after the mayor threatened to impound them and charge the company A$3,000 (S$3,016) for littering. However, a spokesman for the city of Sydney said oBike continued to operate in Sydney.

"The city of Sydney has agreed on a set of guidelines with five other inner-city councils which set out minimum standards and expectations for dockless bike share operators."

But a former oBike customer, Gao Yang, told Guardian Australia he had been waiting three weeks for a refund.

 
 

"I came to Australia last July and was happy to learn that they were here, but shortly I realised how wrong their entire system is," he said.

"Pricing, app design, customer service, back-end IT support, promotions. Everything they did signalled to the market that they were in deep s**t. Now they have problems refunding our money."

Users in Australia pay a deposit of A$69 (S$69.50).

Some customers in Australia have told The Age that they applied for a refund, only to find their deposit had been turned into a long-term subscription without their knowledge.

Melbourne-based IT consultant William Wen said he went onto the app to apply for a refund when he noticed his deposit had "disappeared".

"I logged onto my app, which I haven't used for a long time, and found that one of my accounts - I have one in my name and another in my partner's name - had automatically, without my permission, been changed to a subscription for two years," he told The Age.

The consumer group Choice said customers could pursue their money under the Australian consumer law.

"The Australian consumer law has clear protections to stop companies using unfair terms in contracts," said Erin Turner, Choice's director of campaigns.

Meanwhile, oBike said it is still operating in Malaysia and many parts of the world, according to Free Malaysia Today (FMT) website.

A source from the company's Malaysian branch told FMT that only oBike Singapore had stopped operations as it was unable to pay off its debts.

"It's only happening in Singapore. We are still running in other countries right now," the source said.