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2 e-scooter startups fined for providing illegal sharing services in public spaces

SINGAPORE — Two startups running electric-scooter sharing services were ordered to pay fines on Monday (Sept 16), after pleading guilty to providing unlicensed services for members of the public on public land.

2 e-scooter startups fined for providing illegal sharing services in public spaces

E-scooters from Telepod and Neuron Mobility impounded along Esplanade Drive in February 2019. The two firms were not licensed to operate e-scooter sharing services in public places.

SINGAPORE — Two startups running electric-scooter sharing services were ordered to pay fines on Monday (Sept 16), after pleading guilty to providing unlicensed services for members of the public on public land.

Neuron Mobility was fined S$38,000, while Telepod received a S$16,000 penalty.

Both firms operate station-based services, where users of their e-scooters are required to park at designated stations around the island.

After the Parking Places (Amendment) Act 2018 came into force in May last year, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) told the companies that they could not operate their e-scooter sharing services in public places, as they did not have a licence or exemption. 

The change in regulations was meant to curb widespread indiscriminate parking of shared bicycles outside designated parking places. The licensing regime applies to all dockless vehicle-sharing operators.

The court heard that LTA informed Telepod of this new prohibition twice in May last year, and again two months later through registered post and an email.

Telepod's chief executive officer, Ms Gan Jin Ni, confirmed that she had received the notifications. However, between July 14 last year and Feb 19 this year, LTA enforcement officers found a total of 48 e-scooters at various public places.

These included a bus stop along Bayfront Avenue in the Marina Bay area, and the public bicycle racks under the Jubilee Bridge at Esplanade Drive.

Similarly for Neuron Mobility, LTA sent the firm a letter and email on July 16 last year, asking it to stop providing e-scooter sharing services in public places. 

However, between Oct 10 last year and Feb 12 this year, enforcement officers found 93 of its scooters at areas such as Boat Quay and the Pinnacle@Duxton housing estate.

In seeking a lower fine, the companies’ lawyers argued that the firms could not obtain a licence to operate sharing services of personal mobility devices at the time of their offences. 

Applications for licences opened on Jan 4 this year, but no licences have been issued yet, as LTA steps up enforcement following a series of accidents involving PMDs

LTA’s prosecuting officer Daniel Marini responded that little weight should be placed on that. 

It did not “unjustly prohibit or restrict” the operators’ scope of business, but “only slightly curtails the manner in which their operations may be conducted so as to achieve the legislative intent of preventing indiscriminate parking in the public places”, the prosecutor added.

Operators were also given two months from the date that the Parking Places (Amendment) Act was passed to adjust their business model.

During sentencing, District Judge Lorraine Ho accepted that the companies’ culpability was lower than those that refuse to apply for a licence.

Telepod and Neuron Mobility had applied for a licence before the deadline of Feb 11 this year, but when it was no longer financially viable, Neuron Mobility ceased its operations in July and Telepod stopped operating here in August.

The judge praised LTA for wanting to provide a “rigorous licensing regime”, but lamented that the delay in issuing licences would “inevitably have an impact” on businesses for startups such as Telepod and Neuron Mobility.

“Such startups may have sought to foster their entrepreneurship spirit by being the forerunners of their trade or field even before new laws are enacted and new policies implemented,” she said, suggesting a private-public partnership between LTA and private-sector entities to enhance the licensing process.

“A robust licensing framework can then be produced to address both operational and safety requirements including, in this case, the need for UL2272-certified e-scooters to be used for hire to ensure fire safety, mandatory third-party insurance as well as measures to facilitate responsible riding and prevent indiscriminate parking of e-scooters,” she added.

Related topics

e-scooter startup PMD Telepod Neuron Mobility fine PMD-sharing

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