Unable to meet the requirements and guidelines implemented by the Land Transport Authority (LTA), bicycle sharing service oBike officially announced its decision to end its operation in Singapore today.
“oBike strongly believes and is committed to provide dock-less bicycle sharing services that would benefit users’ commuting and Singapore’s transportation system, however it is with regret that the new regulation measures do not favor this belief of ours,” noted the company in a statement.
Earlier in March, the Parking Places (Amendment) Bill was tabled to tackle the indiscriminate parking of about 100,000 shared bicycles around the country. Operators such as oBike, ofo, Mobike and more would have to apply for a license by the LTA to regulate bike fleet sizes, use geofencing technology and remove illegally parked bicycles within a stipulated period of time.
Bike-sharing operators would also have to pay LTA a license fee and be liable to fines of up to S$100,000 for each instance of non-compliance.
Clearly, this didn’t sit well with oBike — the local startup that was the first to launch a dock-less bicycle sharing service here in April last year. Current oBike users can still use its services in other cities where the firm operates, including Malaysia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Germany, UK and more.
oBike is also no longer listed on the GrabCycle marketplace app. On their end, a Grab spokesman stated that they will no longer be able to offer oBike’s bicycles on the GrabCycle marketplace as the bike-sharing firm does not have the appropriate license to operate in Singapore.
This wouldn’t be the first time oBike called it quits. The company pulled out of Melbourne amidst tough rules implemented to prevent shared bikes from being abandoned — rules that were administered after hundreds of its two-wheelers were ditched indiscriminately across the city. A total of 76 oBike bicycles had to be retrieved from the bottom of the Yarra River back in April.
That leaves a couple of questions unanswered. Who will be in charge of picking up all the forsaken oBike bicycles across the city? According to this Business Times report from last year, the firm’s fleet size is in the “tens of thousands”. If the company has called it a day, who’ll be in charge of picking up the leftovers?
But more importantly, what’s going to happen to the $49 deposit we made to use their bike-sharing services? The deposit was required to use oBike “to ensure user’s responsibility while using (their) service” — a deposit that is refundable “in the event the user decides not to continue with (their) service”. Refunds would take 14 working days, according to oBike’s FAQ section, which also assured that the company will immediately look into cases if users don’t receive them after 30 working days.
In the wake of oBike’s exit, users are finding it really, really hard to start the refunding process.
great the deposit page for obike cant even be loaded. bloody scammers
— Darren Tan (@darrentan_) June 25, 2018
obike’s refund deposit button mysteriously disappeared. GG
— how! (@howzh) June 25, 2018
So obike is gonna cease operations in Singapore without returning us our deposit? 🙃🙃🙃🙃
— Izzati (@superduperweird) June 25, 2018
Looks like I can kiss my $49 #oBike deposit goodbye as their damn app got issues with issuing the refund!
— Taz (@tashabakar) June 25, 2018
The issues with refunds became such a huge thing (understandable, considering that it’s nearly $50) that an actual petition on Change.org was launched today.
Perhaps users should have acted quicker. A Reddit user raised some alarm earlier this month about oBike having “secretly converting” deposits in idle accounts (without explicit user permission) into a membership subscription that allows members to get unlimited rides for 1,095 days across all countries where it operates. Other users reported that refunds will take months to process.
And that was when oBike still was operating here. Now with no business stake left in Singapore, users might very well not see their $49 anymore. We’ve contacted oBike for their comments on the matter.
Editor’s Note: Article updated to include Grab’s statement on GrabCycle.