Ways to Get Back oBike Deposits & Alternatives to oBike

Image: ENCIK KOPI O / Shutterstock.com

It’s official. oBike Singapore has left the building. Citing difficulties in adhering to the regulation imposed by LTA; oBike has ceased operations in Singapore. Here is where the plot thickens. There have been reports that oBike users have been unable to get their deposits (ranging from $19 – $49) refunded on the oBike mobile app following its Singapore exit. In total, about S$6.3 million in deposits is owed to an estimated 100,000 users in Singapore.

As a lot has been happening, we will be breaking down what is really going on with the whole saga, telling you about the players involved, explaining things from their perspective and tips on whether you can get your deposit back. In addition, we will provide you with safer alternatives for your bike-sharing needs.


Players Involved

Shi Yi

As the founding investor and chairman of oBike with a 23.58% stake in the company, Shi Yi is in the center of this storm. There have been many allegations thrown Shi Yi’s way, chief of which is an extensive exposé published on Sohu in Chinese. The translated version on Livejournal has since been taken down.

This exposé reads like something out of a Korean drama with lots of intrigue, betrayal and shady dealings.

Here are the main allegations leveled against him.

  1. Shi Yi was alleged to have withdrawn money raised from the Initial Coin Offering (ICO) of the cryptocurrency OCN. 50,000 Etherum was raised from the ICO which is currently valued at around 30 Million SGD. (An initial coin offering (ICO) or initial currency offering, is a type of crowdfunding using cryptocurrencies. The lack of regulation by banks and other regulatory bodies means that this method of fundraising is more prone to scams. Moreover, this method of fundraising has been banned in China and South Korea.)
  2. His accusers claim that he pulled the same stunt with two other China-based cryptocurrencies DatX and CCN.
  3. Supposedly, his grandparents are the directors at Avazu, the company that he started.

Yi Shi produced this on his public LinkedIn profile in response.

Shi Yi oBike
Image Taken From Shi Yi’s public LinkedIn profile

Additionally, Shi Yi has stated in interviews with The Straits Times that he will try his best to find a solution to the deposits problem.


CASE and LTA

As such, many have taken the case up to the Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE), a nonprofit non-governmental organization committed to protecting consumer interests. As of July 4th, CASE had received 1,044 complaints from customers demanding a return of the deposits.

In response, CASE has issued a statement to Channel News Asia stating:

“Since the announcement that oBike would be ceasing operations, CASE has engaged oBike together with the Land Transport Authority (LTA). We were informed by oBike that consumers’ deposits have been used to purchase the bicycles and fund their operations.”

CASE has also condemned oBike’s actions as “unethical and unacceptable.” and stated that since oBike used these deposits for operational costs and buying bikes, CASE notes that oBike might not process refunds without finding new funding.

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Similarly, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) has issued a statement, instructing oBike Singapore or its liquidator to remove its bicycles from the streets by  Jul 4. If the deadline is not met, LTA will start removing bicycles from the streets and charge oBike or its liquidator the removing fees.

Latest Update

In an interview with CNA on July 9, Senior Minister of State for Transport Janil Puthucheary stated that it is “Possible’ for Government to file a police report against oBike if deposits are not refunded.” This is good news for the consumers as the issue is being escalated. Moreover, there are new license requirements put in place by LTA to regulate existing and potential bicycle sharing operators.


oBike Singapore Users

oBike Singapore

The dream has turned into somewhat of a nightmare for some 100,000 oBike Singapore users. Even though the amount of $19-$49 may not seem like a huge amount; it adds up. According to Mothership, a total of S$6.3 million in deposits is owed to users. The possibility of losing your deposit is high as oBike is undergoing liquidation. As uninsured creditors, users are last on the liquidator’s priority they will seek to pay off bank loans and debts first. Furthermore, any subscription amounts or VIP packages you have signed up for are considered non-refundable.

However, if you are one of the affected customers. Here is what you can do:

  • For those who have paid this deposit with a credit card within the last 120 days; you’re in luck. Contact your bank to submit a chargeback claim as soon as you read this.
  • Otherwise, you can approach CASE to issue a complaint. Each complaint will cost $10 to process. Before you proceed, please do a cost-benefit analysis if you would like to go down this route.

CASE Hotline:
61000315 (Operating hours: 9am to 5pm, Mondays to Fridays)

Office:
170 Ghim Moh Road, Ulu Pandan Community Building, #05-01, Singapore 279621 (Operating hours: 9am to 4pm, Mondays to Saturdays)

Online:
CASE Online Submission

Additionally, CASE has advised affected users to file their Proofs of Debt against oBike with the business advisory firm FTI Consulting as they have been appointed as their liquidators. Advice on how to file a Proof of Debt can be found here

*Do note that as the oBikes are still the property of oBike, taking them home will amount to committing theft.


Safer Alternatives to oBike Singapore

1. Mobike Singapore

moBike
Image Credit | Alvan Nee on Unsplash

Alternatively, you can consider going with Mobike Singapore who has since waived all the deposit fee for existing and new customers. Seeing that there is no deposit needed you can use this bike sharing service with a peace of mind. If you have been burnt by oBike, do consider not committing to the more expensive packages.

Bicycle

As for the ride itself, the bicycles used by Mobike are smaller in size and lighter than the oBikes. Despite this reduction in weight and size, it does not affect the sturdiness of the bike. This makes it a smooth ride that is easier to peddle and get used to. Plus, the basket for a Mobikes has a base that allows you to put things inside without slipping out.

2. ofo Singapore

ofo Singapore
Image Credit | Alvan Nee on Unsplash

Similarly, ofo does not require you to put down a deposit to use their bikes. Their bikes can be found almost everywhere you look. The ofo is also a dockless bike like the Mobikes, so remember to park them in a safe spot.

Bicycle

As for the Bicycle itself, ofo offers up three different kinds of bicycles. The first is a bicycle without a basket making it lighter and easier to peddle compared to its competitors. The second type of bicycle you can get is the one with a basket seen in the picture above. I found that the basket was not useful as I could only put big items that could not slip through. Lastly, they have a newer model that is a nicer ride than most of its competitors and even ofo’s own bicycles. Plus, the newer bike does not have the basket problem as well. However, there are not as many of them in the wild.


Buying a Bicycle Online

Foldable Bicycle
Image Credit | Jiji Sports Qoo10

Alternatively, you can consider buying a bicycle online. Sites like Qoo10 offer up bicycles like a foldable bicycle from Shimano for around $89.90. Although this is not a like for like replacement for bike sharing; there are other benefits. In the long run, buying a foldable bicycle will be more affordable than subscribing to the bike-sharing services. Plus, these bicycles offer a better ride than the bike-sharing services and can be taken around the MRT as well.


Now that you’ve gone through this guide of sorts, I hope that you will be able to get back your deposit or at least learned a lesson from this experience.

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