Earlier this week, bike-sharing firm oBike sent waves of panic across Singapore after it announced the abrupt ceasing of its operations on 25 Jun (Mon).
Waves of panic, not because people were now left without any bicycles to use, but because they weren’t able to retrieve their $49 deposit from their oBike accounts.
oBike should just change their name to oNoWheresMyDeposit.
The lesson here is, don’t buy packages or put money into deposits.
Look at what happened to California Fitness and those massage/spa businesses who asked for money upfront.#ReturnMyDeposit
— mrbrown (@mrbrown) June 25, 2018
To make matters worse, when local paper The Straits Times went down to oBike’s Singapore office on the day of the announcement, it was found to have already been vacated.
LTA shared that it will “step in to engage oBike on its exit plans […] including the removal of shared bicycles from public places”, and urged disgruntled users facing oBike refund problems to bring the matter up to CASE (Consumers Association of Singapore).
In an update on 26 Jun (Tues), it was announced that oBike has gone into liquidation, and co-founder Edward Chen finally broke his silence, stating that “the company has an existing plan for the whole process (of refunds)”.
It was also revealed that firm “recorded some S$4.25 million in losses” at the end of 2017, and currently has $22.7 million in liabilities.
Its PR agency, Ruder Finn, had also put their contract with oBike on hold after “several months of fees” were not paid.
LTA: Remove All oBikes By 4 July
LTA has put its foot down and instructed oBike to remove its bicycles from public spaces by 4 Jul (Wed).
“Should there be unremoved oBike bicycles after this date, LTA will progressively remove these bicycles from public spaces,” it said in an announcement released 28 Jun (Thurs).
oBike or its liquidator will have to pay the relevant towing and storage fees in order to claim impounded bicycles from LTA. In addition, LTA and CASE have emphasised to oBike the importance of refunding users their deposits which were placed earlier with the company.
There are reportedly around 14,000 oBike bicycles currently abandoned all over Singapore.
It is uncertain what will happen to the bicycles should oBike choose to not claim them back.
CASE also revealed that as of 5pm of 28 Jun (Thurs), it had received “772 complaints from oBike customers asking for deposit refunds”.
It added that as soon as oBike’s liquidation commerces, customers “should file their Proofs of Debt against oBike with the appointed liquidator. Consumers should also attach copies of any relevant receipts or other supporting documents to the Proof of Debt form.”
CASE also encouraged consumers to minimise pre-payments or deposits where possible, as these fees may be lost when businesses abruptly close.
Perhaps in response to this, competitor Mobike has just announced that it will remove its $49 deposit policy for existing and new users in Singapore.
Featured Image Credit: Bharath Reddy on Twitter