When bicycle sharing service oBike abruptly announced that it would be pulling its operations out from Singapore today, its statement left a couple of questions unanswered. Firstly, who’ll be clearing all the abandoned silver-and-yellow bikes from the city streets and ditches? Secondly — and more importantly — where’s our damn deposit refund?
The Land Transport Authority (LTA) answered those questions. Sort of.
According to LTA’s media statement (reproduced in full by TODAY), the authority will be engaging oBike on their exit plans, “including the removal of shared bicycles from public places”. According to this Business Times report from last year, the local startup’s fleet size is in the “tens of thousands” — so best of luck to all parties involved in the cleanup.
Regarding our refunds, well, LTA is simply handing off the matter to the Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE). Hundreds, if not thousands of oBike users were left severely frustrated today after attempts to get their deposits refunded failed to see any results.
You see, oBike users have to plop a $49 deposit to use the company’s bike-sharing services to ensure user “responsibility while using (their) service”. Refunds can be requested anytime, according to oBike’s FAQ section — it would just take 14 working days for the whole thing to process.
But today, it seems like nobody could get their deposit righteously returned. According to online chatter, the button to get deposits refunded mysteriously disappeared. Even if one did manage to tap it, nothing would happen. It was so maddening that someone started a petition about the issue.
Ok is it just me or the obike refund deposit button just disappeared mysteriously??????????? WHAT?!!!!! EXCUSE ME OBIKE JUST BC YOU ARE PULLING OUT OF SG DOESN’T MEAN THAT YOU CAN’T RETURN US OUR DEPOSIT.
— C✨ ｢woojin💓｣ D-18 (@chamwoojin_x) June 25, 2018
behold the Magically Disappearing Obike Refund Deposit Button 💨
— 여은이 🐥 (@ilchodo) June 25, 2018
Dammit la oBike how to get my deposit back now that the app doesn’t work wtf
— Michael Evan James Teo (@michaelevanteo) June 25, 2018
It came to no surprise to some who requested their S$49 deposits refunded even before today — this Reddit thread has former oBike users complaining that the process takes months.
While the firm has yet to issue any statement regarding the #refundmyobikedeposit hullaballoo, LTA believes that the best move for anguished users is to simply contact CASE. The thing is, CASE is just a non-governmental organization which acts as a watchdog and has no legislative powers at all. In the past, critics have called CASE “toothless”, capable of simply sending strongly-worded warnings to errant businesses without having the authority to actually penalize them.
Unless CASE really has a strong case (hur hur) against oBike, we might as well wave goodbye to our S$49 deposits. You have to remember that oBike also pulled out from Melbourne earlier this month, and Australian users too had issues getting their deposits returned. Like them, Singaporean users probably had their deposits converted into long-term subscription plans without their knowledge.