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LTA ‘deeply disappointed’ with oBike for not keeping pledge to refund customers’ deposits

SINGAPORE — On the eve of a deadline it set for bike-sharing operator oBike to remove its fleet of bicycles from public spaces, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said it is "deeply disappointed" that the firm has failed to keep to its word to refund deposits to users.

With oBike's departure, some town councils around Singapore have been taking measures to remove the shared-bicycles from obstructing public spaces. At Fernvale, 195 oBikes were found clustered at a field on Tuesday, July 3, 2018.

With oBike's departure, some town councils around Singapore have been taking measures to remove the shared-bicycles from obstructing public spaces. At Fernvale, 195 oBikes were found clustered at a field on Tuesday, July 3, 2018.

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SINGAPORE — On the eve of a deadline it set for bike-sharing operator oBike to remove its fleet of bicycles from public spaces, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said it is "deeply disappointed" that the firm has failed to keep to its word to refund deposits to users.

This is on the back of recent comments by oBike's chairman Shi Yi saying that the company is doing what it can to refund the money and hoping that LTA will not levy fees if it fails to clear the bicycles.

In response to queries about his remarks, an LTA spokesperson told TODAY: "(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."

It also highlighted that it is oBike's responsibility to remove its bicycles from public areas.

In an interview with Channel NewsAsia, Mr Shi had said that any extra cost the company incurs "might affect" its available funds to refund customers, and the firm will do what it can to meet the requirements that LTA has set.

In its statement on Tuesday (July 3), LTA said that when it met with the oBike founders, including Mr Shi, on June 30, oBike's management "had committed" to exit the market responsibly by removing their bicycles from public spaces as soon as possible and refunding monies owed to customers. oBike further pledged that "it would pay for the clean-up of bicycles using funds from its shareholders or other sources, and not user deposits", it added. LTA 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 spokesperson said.

Saying that it is also oBike's responsibility to remove its bicycles from public areas, the spokesperson added: "We will not hesitate to do the same for any other irresponsible bike-sharing operator should they flout the rules."

LTA is open to consider an extension of the July 4 deadline for oBike to remove its fleet of some 14,000 bicycles in Singapore if the firm demonstrates "its commitment to ensure the full and prompt removal of its bicycle fleet from public places".

However, if it has to step in to remove oBike's bicycles after they are found to be parked indiscriminately beyond the grace period, LTA will have to impose the relevant fees on oBike, "so as to avoid having taxpayers bear the burden of the operator's irresponsible actions", the spokesperson said.

Last week, LTA had ordered oBike to remove its fleet of bicycles, failing which the company or its liquidator would have to pay to reclaim the bicycles impounded by the authority.

Should there be unremoved oBike bicycles after the date, LTA will progressively remove these bicycles from public spaces, and oBike or its liquidator will have to pay the relevant towing and storage fees in order to claim impounded bicycles.

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 has more than one million users here — abruptly announced that it was ending its operations in Singapore. It later revealed that it had gone into liquidation. Scores of riders had to scramble to recover their mandatory deposits — up to S$49 — that they placed with the firm.

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