The Consumers’ Foundation yesterday accused city governments who have launched bicycle-sharing systems of failing to protect users’ rights and shirking responsibilities in the standard-form contracts provided during the membership sign-up process.
Taipei’s YouBike, New Taipei City’s (新北市) NewBike and Greater Kaohsiung’s C-bike bike-sharing systems have made traveling in the municipalities more healthy and environmentally friendly, but the foundation said the contracts for the systems, which most riders do not properly read, are against the principle of fairness that is supposed to be guaranteed by a standard-form contract, the foundation said.
“In practice, there are ways for a cyclist to extend the free hours or be guided to other available stations if the station the cyclist is at is full,” said Chen Ju-yin (陳汝吟), a member of the foundation’s law committee.
“However, the contracts only state that the systems do not guarantee the availability of bikes or docks at every docking station, suggesting that the users who cannot find an empty dock would be liable for charges until the bike is properly returned,” it added.
The foundation also said the two-minute limit set by the contracts to return bikes that are found to be broken was unreasonable.
“Does that mean that users will be charged if they find that the bike is malfunctioning three minutes after renting it?” foundation chairman Mark Chang (張智剛) asked, adding that there should be no time limit imposed because the provider should only offer bicycles that are in good condition from the outset.
According to the contracts, users would have to pay NT$10,000 for a missing Newbike and NT$9,000 for a Youbike in compensation, and the payment would not be returned even if the bike is found.
“Although Kaohsiung’s C-bike takes the depreciation rate into consideration when asking for compensation after three months of unsuccessful searching, the city is also entitled to the ownership of the bike if it is later,” Chang added. “This is surely a no-loss situation for the city governments.”
The city governments have also included disclaimer clauses that are clearly against the existing regulations on the standard-form contract for car rental and transportation as that for the bike-sharing systems has yet to be drafted, the consumer rights watchdog said.
“While the existing regulations on relevant businesses forbid contracts to include provisions that sanction the providers’ arbitrary changes to the service or disclaimers that exempt the operators’ liabilities, the cities’ bike contracts contain both,” said Chen Chih-yi (陳智義), publisher of the foundation’s Consumer Reports Magazine, adding that the contract-drafter “was unprofessional and disregarded basic consumer rights.”