Sat, Jul 14, 2018 - Page 12 News List

Obike chased by authorities after liquidation

AFP, SINGAPORE

A commuter rides an Obike during evening rush hour in Singapore on June 15 last year.

Photo: Reuters

Embattled bike-sharing firm oBike must refund Singapore customers’ US$4.6 million in deposits, authorities said, after the company quit operating in the city-state last month, leaving about 14,000 bicycles strewn across the nation.

In the latest clash between Singaporean authorities and oBike, an official this week said it was “possible” that the government would take legal action against the firm if it does not refund money owed to almost 1 million users.

“I would like to emphasize again that it is oBike’s responsibility to have a concrete plan to refund user deposits and remove its bicycles from public spaces,” Singaporean Senior Minister of State for Transport Janil Puthucheary said in response to a parliamentary question.

OBike last month suddenly wound up operations in Singapore, citing difficulties in complying with new regulations, which included controlling its fleet size and ensuring that bicycles are parked in designated areas.

The company, which is headquartered in Singapore, later revealed that it had gone into liquidation, leaving customers scrambling to recover mandatory deposits of between S$19 and S$49 (US$13.90 to US$35.85).

Since then, oBike has missed deadlines to remove its fleet of silver-and-yellow bicycles and, when threatened with a fine, has said that the penalty could eat into funds to repay customer deposits, a move that the Singaporean Land Transport Authority slammed as “deeply disappointing.”

While it has wound up operations in Singapore, the company said that its service would still be available in other markets.

“This decision will not affect oBike’s operation in anyway in countries outside of Singapore,” it said in a statement on Facebook, without going into further details.

However, oBike has also faced challenges in Europe. In Switzerland and Germany, bikes were vandalized and dumped in car parks.

Liquidators in Singapore are now working with the authorities to provide refunds, the Consumers’ Association of Singapore said in a statement.

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