Two firms fined for providing e-scooter sharing services without licences

Wan Ting Koh
Photo of Telepod e-scooters impounded at a bus stop along Bayfront Avenue on 14 July 2018: LTA

SINGAPORE — Two companies that provided e-scooter sharing services in public places without licences were fined on Monday (16 September), the first such cases to be prosecuted.

Neuron Mobility and Telepod did not remove their e-scooters in various public places despite the Land Transport Authority (LTA) ordering them to do so.

The companies were illegally providing services for riders to rent and return e-scooters to their stations placed around Singapore.

Neuron was fined $38,000 while Telepod was fined $16,000 by District Judge Lorraine Ho. Each had representatives who pleaded guilty to breaches under the Parking Places Act.

Effective on 8 May 2018, the provisions under Section 8C of the Act mandated that a person can no longer provide sharing services of personal mobility devices such as e-scooters to end in or at public places undocked unless with a licence or that such services are located within One-North, CleanTech Park or Republic Polytechnic.

Operators like Neuron and Telepod were given a two-month grace period to either change their business model or to cease operations.

On 28 September 2018, LTA said that new operators who wished to provide such services may apply for a license in January this year. LTA has not granted a license to any operator thus far.

On three occasions in May and July last year, LTA told Telepod that it was not allowed to operate e-scooter sharing services without a licence in public places. LTA separately notified Neuron on 16 July 2018 on the same issue.

Both firms’ chief executive officers received the copies but they did not cease the services.

The frequency of breaches committed by Neuron and Telepod after the two-month grace period was 58 and 25 times within five months and seven months, respectively.

In her grounds of decision released on Monday, DJ Ho stated that Neuron had argued that “it was logistically difficult to require an operator to ensure that users commence and conclude their rides in private land as in a land scarce Singapore, both public and private land sit ‘cheek by jowl’”.

The judge further noted that interested operators could only start to apply on LTA’s website from 4 January this year.

Both companies submitted their applications before the 11 February deadline. LTA then informed the companies that the applications were pending the court proceedings against them.

Neuron and Telepod ceased operations in Singapore in July and August, respectively, when it was no longer financially viable.

DJ Ho said, “It has been more than a year since s8C of the PPA came into force. It therefore comes as little surprise that both Neuron and Telepod have ceased their operations in Singapore given that there is still no outcome of their applications by now.”

At one stage, Neuron had a fleet of up to 400 e-scooters and 50 employees while Telepod had 700 e-scooters and 30 employees.

DJ Ho lauded the LTA for its prudent introduction of a rigorous licensing regime in order to ensure the safety of PMD users and the general public, and to curb indiscriminate parking of PMDs.

But she added, “Unfortunately, the rather long deferment in awarding such licences would inevitably have an impact on businesses, like our local start-ups in this case.”

As such, she proposed a private-public partnership between the regulator and the private sector to enhancing the licensing process.

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