oBike told to remove bikes by Wednesday

The shared bicycles are now all over the island but cannot be hired as oBike has stopped operating since Monday.
The shared bicycles are now all over the island but cannot be hired as oBike has stopped operating since Monday. ST PHOTO: YEN MENG JIIN

Otherwise, LTA will clear them and oBike or liquidator must pay towing, storage fees

Bike-sharing firm oBike, which abruptly shut down operations earlier this week, has been given the deadline of next Wednesday by the Land Transport Authority (LTA) to remove its bicycles from public spaces.

The shared bicycles, which number at least 14,000, are now all over the island, but they cannot be hired as oBike stopped operating on Monday.

LTA said yesterday that it met oBike representatives on Wednesday and instructed the firm to work with its liquidator to collect its bicycles in a week's time, failing which the authority will step in to progressively remove them.

LTA said oBike or its liquidator will then have to pay the relevant towing and storage fees to claim the impounded bicycles.

The authority and the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) also said they had "emphasised to oBike the importance of refunding users their deposits which were placed earlier with the company".

Case said that, as of yesterday afternoon, it has received more than 770 complaints from consumers asking for oBike to return their deposits of up to $49, which were required to use the rental service.

The majority of complaints were lodged in the last four days.

When announcing its closure, the Chinese-founded firm said it foresaw difficulties in meeting LTA's new licensing regime for bike-share firms, aimed at tackling indiscriminate parking and controlling fleet sizes.

While the licensing scheme will ensure that only responsible bike-share operators are allowed to operate here, it is not intended to address "non-parking issues such as service standards and user deposits", LTA said.

Members of the public have called for LTA to take more action against oBike for the unreturned deposits. LTA said users can choose from different subscription models offered by the bike-share companies, including those which do not require deposits.

"Over-regulation could lead to higher compliance costs for operators which could in turn be passed on to users, and stifle innovation," the authority added.

Meanwhile, Case said that once oBike's liquidation starts, its customers will not be able to take legal action against the firm for the return of their deposits.

They should instead file a Proof of Debt against oBike with the appointed liquidator, which has not yet been made known.

SEE OPINION

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 29, 2018, with the headline 'oBike told to remove bikes by Wednesday'. Print Edition | Subscribe