As students, and as commuters, I am sure we are all familiar with the bike sharing services that started in Singapore last year, and might have heard of bike sharing company oBike’s recent decision to stop operating in Singapore. But what prompted this?
oBike, a homegrown firm that only started two years ago, had managed to spread its roots to various countries in Asia, such as South Korea, Hong Kong, and Indonesia, and has garnered more than a million users in Singapore alone.
But following new regulations imposed by the Land Transport Authority (LTA)- in which operators are required to apply for a license, restriction of fleet size, as well as remove any illegally parked bicycles in a given time frame, and installing a QR code geofencing technology that continuously charge users who do not park their bikes in designated areas- oBike has decided to stop bike sharing in Singapore starting from June 25, “as a result of difficulties forseen to be experienced to fulfill the new requirements and guidelines”. This exit follows the same decision made in Melbourne, Australia due to similar regulations.
In a meeting with LTA, oBike had pledged to refund users their initial deposits, and clean up the bicycles on the streets by a given deadline- but failed to do so. It later revealed that it had gone into liquidation, owing $6.3 million to user, and with bikes still strewn in various estates well after the deadline.
Users have taken to various platforms to demand for their refund, with Consumers Association of Singapore receiving more than a thousand complaints, and a petition on change.org accumulating more than four thousand signatures for oBike to refund their users. According to Channel NewsAsia, LTA will also step in to remove the bicycles and impose a fee on oBike should they not take any action.
This decision to leave Singapore has brought many inconveniences to local users, from fighting for their refund, to transitioning to a new platform or app. I think that oBike should have taken the responsibility to take action to help alleviate these troubles and done what they should have instead of relying on LTA to remove their bikes and leaving their users without their refund. As a company, especially one with roots in so many countries, their relationship with their millions of users- who have chosen oBike as their go-to, even with the increasing competition in the bike-sharing industry- should be built on a foundation of trust for the company to efficiently clear their bikes out of Singapore and clearly convey their plans concerning local users, as well as respect for the rights of the users to have their money refunded back to them. The irresponsibility shown by the company could set a bad example for those hoping to start their own companies.
Chen Yu Yang