The more than 770 complaints received by the Consumer Association of Singapore (Case) asking for the return of deposits placed with oBike should serve as a wake-up call to both the regulator and the consumer (oBike told to remove bikes by Wednesday; June 29).
In the Government's eagerness to promote a car-lite nation, it opened the door too quickly to bike-sharing operators without carefully evaluating its impact and pitfalls.
Such operators would likely have registered companies with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority, often with just a few dollars of capital.
Affected users have now been asked to approach Case.
However, those who have approached Case before would have been advised that it can mediate only if the company is CaseTrust-accredited.
Case has also said that it does not have any enforcement powers against the wrongdoer. The consumer also needs to pay fees, which will escalate depending on the process.
Under the law, when a company folds, the owners are not personally liable for any debt which their company owes to creditors or even depositors. It is always the consumer who loses out.
Wouldn't all this have been prevented if the regulator, which allowed these shared-bike companies to operate freely, had the foresight to plan regulations and control measures?
Furthermore, bicycles also occupy road space, especially considering the safety distance cars need to observe to prevent an accident.
If the Government is working towards a car-lite nation, then encouraging the public to take public transport and walk would be a better option.
Koh Tai Kiang (Madam)