SINGAPORE - Work to remove oBike's bicycles from public places has already started, according to the chairman of the beleaguered bike-sharing firm.
Mr Shi Yi, oBike's founding investor and chairman, said several companies have already been appointed to clear the two-wheelers from public areas, and work to remove them started on Monday (July 2).
However, he reiterated that the firm may not be able to clear all of its bikes by Wednesday (July 4), the deadline given earlier by the Land Transport Authority (LTA).
oBike, which began operations in Singapore in January last year, has about 70,000 bikes here.
"Due to the scale of oBike's operation and capacity restraints, we will highly likely require an extension," said Mr Shi.
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, the LTA would begin clearing the bicycles on Thursday, and impose fees for doing so on the bike-sharing firm.
The Straits Times understands that various agencies such as the LTA, town councils and the National Parks Board are monitoring the situation to see if oBike will remove a significant number of bicycles, as well as whether it is making progress in areas such as user refunds and data protection.
The firm's abrupt closure on June 25 left users wondering whether they would be able to get a refund of their deposits of up to $49, which they had to pay to rent the bicycles.
Mr Shi told The Straits Times on Monday that oBike owes its users here about $6.3 million in deposits.
Separately, ST reported on Wednesday that oBike owes more than $140,000 in fines to at least five town councils.
However, the payment of these amounts is subject to the decision of the liquidator, said Mr Shi.
"We will do our best in the interest of our users," he said, adding that an official announcement regarding the appointment of a liquidator would be made on Thursday.
Mr Shi also said statements made to Channel NewsAsia suggesting that oBike would not be able to refund users their deposits if additional fees were imposed on it were the result of an "internal mistake". He said oBike staff had responded to the media on his behalf.
In a statement on Wednesday, 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 Wednesday.
“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.