The Land Transport Authority (LTA) has expressed disappointment over bike-sharing operator oBike’s failure to return the latter’s users' deposits.
oBike's chairman Shi Yi was previously quoted as saying that the company hopes that the LTA will not levy fees against them in the event that the company fails to remove its fleet of bicycles from public spaces throughout Singapore.
Speaking to TODAYonline in response to queries about Shi Yi's remarks, an LTA spokesperson said that "(We are) deeply disappointed that oBike has now reneged on its earlier commitment to refund customer's deposits and in turn conveniently linked this to potential fees by LTA."
In a statement on 3 July, the LTA said that oBike's management "had committed" to leave the local market responsibly by removing their bicycles from public spaces islandwide as soon as possible and refunding deposits that were owed to customers.
oBike further pledged in their meeting with the LTA on 30 June that "it would pay for the clean-up of bicycles using funds from its shareholders or other sources, and not user deposits", added the LTA.
The LTA also noted that on 1 July, about a week after oBike announced its exit, Mr Shi "had also publicly and personally committed to a full refund of customers' deposits".
"It is oBike's responsibility to have a concrete plan to refund customers' deposits. Similarly, it is now incumbent on oBike and its management to source for funds to cover the costs needed for it to properly wind down its operations," the LTA spokesperson said.
The LTA spokesperson warned that they will have no qualms about enforcing levy fees and relevant penalties should other bike-sharing operators fail to remove their bikes from public spaces the way oBike has failed to do.
"We will not hesitate to do the same for any other irresponsible bike-sharing operator should they flout the rules."
However, the LTA is willing to consider extending the 4 July deadline for oBike to remove its entire fleet of some 14,000 bicycles in Singapore if the company consistently demonstrates "its commitment to ensure the full and prompt removal of its bicycle fleet from public places".
However, in the event that the LTA has to intervene by having to remove the bikes even after an extension has been granted to oBike, fees will be imposed on oBike "so as to avoid having taxpayers bear the burden of the operator's irresponsible actions", the spokesperson said.
Just last week, oBike received an order by the LTA to remove its fleet of bicycles from public spaces throughout the island, failing which the company or its liquidator would have to pay to reclaim the bicycles impounded by the authority.
An oBike spokesperson then said that the company and its liquidators "will try our best to comply" with the LTA's request.
Last Monday, oBike — which had more than one million users locally — abruptly announced its departure from the Singapore market. Later, the company announced that it was liquidated. Approximately a couple of hundred riders went into panic over the news and promptly sought their mandatory deposits — up to S$49 — that they had placed with the firm.