Netizens and oBike users have been left confused and frustrated over the status of their deposits following the bicycle-sharing operator’s announcement on Monday (25 June) that it was ceasing its Singapore operations.
As of 7.30pm on Monday, over 1,500 comments had been left on oBike’s Facebook post regarding the move, with many using the hashtag #RefundMyDeposit. The post had also been shared over 1,000 times.
Users of oBike’s services are required to place a $49 deposit when they first sign up, which is “refundable in the event the user decides not to continue” with it, according to the company’s website.
However, some users told Yahoo News Singapore that they were unable to do so following oBike’s announcement.
Freelance video editor Rudi Osman logged into the oBike app after hearing the news but said he found no option that allowed him to get a refund.
“Since I couldn’t find any direct ways of getting a refund within the app, I resorted to reaching out to them via their feedback option,” said the 32-year-old. He added that he received an auto-generated reply stating that he would receive a response in two working days.
“oBike ceasing their service isn’t a surprise to me, as I tend to see more cyclists using MoBike and Ofo, myself included. I’m more concerned about getting my deposit back,” said Osman.
Website editor Isabelle Laporte faced a similar problem. “My deposit got converted into a subscription (without my knowledge), so the deposit amount is now zero,” said the 46-year-old.
“I try to rationalise the issue by thinking that I used their bikes a number of times during all those ‘free’ weekends. But, honestly, I don’t dare to use any bikes at all now,” she added.
In its Facebook post, oBike said that those looking to still use its services could turn to the GrabCycle bicycle and e-scooter sharing marketplace app, adding that users should “contact GrabCycle directly for further enquiries”.
However, a spokesperson for ride-hailing service Grab – which operates GrabCycle – said that it is “no longer be able to offer oBike’s bicycles on the GrabCycle marketplace effective today (Monday), as oBike will not have the appropriate bike-sharing license to operate in Singapore, nor will they be maintaining their fleet of bicycles”.
Regarding oBike users’ deposits, the spokesperson said that Grab “cannot comment on another company’s behalf” and that those seeking refunds should contact oBike directly.
“With one fewer partner, we understand that our customers’ experience will be impacted,” said the Grab spokesperson. In light of this, the company will waive its existing GrabCycle subscription fees and deposits as well as offer a free four-week free trial for current users.
With oBike exiting Singapore’s market, GrabCycle users will now have access to three local mobility partners GBikes, Anywheel and Popscoot. However, GBikes, which started in September last year, will cease operations on 7 July, according to an earlier Straits Times report.
Industry players react to new regulations
In its Facebook post, oBike – which launched its services in February last year – cited “difficulties foreseen to be experienced to fulfill the new requirements and guidelines released by the Land Transport Authority (LTA)” as the reason for ending its services here.
Under the LTA’s new rules, bicycle-sharing services here will have to submit their applications for operating licenses by 7 July. The move is aimed at addressing growing complaints of indiscriminate parking by shared bicycle users.
Responding to queries from Yahoo News Singapore, SG Bike said it had no plans to increase the prices of its bicycle-sharing services despite the regulatory changes.
“However, following the licensing requirements, SG Bike will need to charge users an additional rental fee for each instance of indiscriminate parking,” said SG Bike’s marketing director Benjamin Oh.
“A grace period to relocate the indiscriminately parked bicycle will also be provided for users to unlock the bicycle and park it within the designated areas. A message will also be shown to users to educate them to park the bicycles properly at the designated areas.”
RJ Seet, Anywheel’s strategy manager, said that the company foresees itself incurring additional costs in complying with the LTA’s new regulations – which includes expenditure on more patrol activities to minimise the indiscriminate bicycle parking and enhancing its online management system.
Despite the difficulties faced in meeting the LTA’s technical requirements, Seet added that Anywheel is “well prepared and hopes that LTA would give us a chance to stay and grow in Singapore as a local start-up”.
An ofo spokesperson told Yahoo News Singapore, “We will take steps to ensure that users impacted by the exit of other bike operators have an alternative means of getting to their destinations with great ease. We are currently in the process of applying for the license and will be ready to submit before the stipulated deadline.”