Work to remove bikes has started: oBike boss

Rows of oBikes in a field in Sengkang yesterday evening. Mr Shi Yi said the firm would not be able to clear all its bikes by yesterday's deadline and was likely to need an extension.
Rows of oBikes in a field in Sengkang yesterday evening. Mr Shi Yi said the firm would not be able to clear all its bikes by yesterday's deadline and was likely to need an extension.ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

Firm used deposits to fund operations, says Case, calling it 'unethical and unacceptable'

Work to remove oBike's bicycles from public places has started, according to the chairman of the beleaguered bike-sharing firm.

Mr Shi Yi said several companies have been appointed to clear the two-wheelers from public areas, and work to remove them started on Monday. One firm - which declined to be named, citing an agreement with oBike - said it had deployed more than five lorries since Tuesday, collecting about 800 bikes to be sent to the scrapyards.

However, Mr Shi said the firm would not be able to clear all 70,000 of its bikes by yesterday, the deadline set by the Land Transport Authority (LTA). "Due to the scale of oBike's operation and capacity restraints, we will highly likely require an extension," he said.

The LTA said on Tuesday that it would consider extending the deadline if oBike demonstrated its commitment to the "full and prompt" removal of its bicycles. If oBike failed to do so, LTA will begin clearing the bicycles today, and impose fees on the bike-sharing firm.

The Straits Times understands that agencies such as LTA, town councils and the National Parks Board are monitoring the situation, and also checking if oBike is making progress in areas such as user refunds and data protection.

oBike owes $6.3 million in user deposits, as well as more than $140,000 in fines to town councils.

 
 

However, the payment of these amounts is subject to the decision of a liquidator whose appointment will be announced today, said Mr Shi.

He sought to clarify statements made to Channel NewsAsia suggesting that oBike would not be able to refund users their deposits, of up to $49 each, if additional fees were imposed on it. He blamed an "internal mistake", saying oBike staff had responded to the media on his behalf.

In a statement yesterday, the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) said oBike had informed it that the deposits had been used to fund the bike-sharing firm's operations. This was "unethical and unacceptable", Case said, adding it had received 1,044 complaints from users asking for a refund as of yesterday.

"Using these deposits to purchase bicycles and fund their operations means that oBike would be financially hard-pressed to provide the deposit refunds to consumers without new sources of funding," said Case. It added that oBike's conversion of these deposits to an annual membership, without the express consent of users, was a violation of the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 05, 2018, with the headline 'Work to remove bikes has started: oBike boss'. Print Edition | Subscribe