It is oBike’s responsibility to come up with a “concrete plan” to refund user deposits and remove its bicycles from public spaces, said Senior Minister of State for Transport Janil Puthucheary on Monday (9 July).
Responding to parliamentary questions on regulations for bicycle sharing operators and the aftermath of oBike’s sudden exit from Singapore, Dr Puthucheary noted that oBike chairman Shi Yi “publicly and personally committed” on 1 July to a full refund of user deposits.
“oBike is now working out a process with CASE to refund user deposits…If LTA has to step in to remove its bicycles, we will impose fees on oBike for doing so,” said the SMS.
On 25 June, oBike abruptly announced that it was ceasing operations in Singapore due to new regulations imposed by the authorities. This left almost 1 million users who had paid a $49 security deposit in the lurch, with many reporting that they were unable to obtain a refund.
By the following day, the Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE) had received some 259 complaints from consumers claiming that they were unable to retrieve their deposits.
In response to Dr Puthucheary’s remarks, Member of Parliament for Marine Parade Seah Kian Peng asked if anything could be proactively done to help consumers get their refunds. The SMS replied, “It is ultimately oBike’s responsibility to refund the user deposits and we should not minimise (the fact) that this is something for them to settle, something for them to seek out means and ways to serve their consumers.”
Seah also alluded to the light touch that the government had adopted with regard to bicycle sharing operators like oBike. The Marine Parade MP asked if recent developments meant that the light touch had to be recalibrated.
In response, Dr Puthucheary said, “The imposition of (a) new licensing regime is a recalibration of the light touch we have taken in this space…The licensing regime will reduce indiscriminate parking by requiring operators to internalise the costs of the social disamenities caused by their businesses, failing which they should not be operating at all.”
The licensing regime will kick in by October, while the Land Transport Authority (LTA) has received seven applications from bicycle operators.
“Ultimately, these types of bike-sharing services are good for us because it will allow Singaporeans to make use of bicycles to close that last-mile gap in personal transport. It’s also good for health, a possible leisure activity. So we don’t want to remove this type of service in particular.”