So far, more than 3,000 people have pursued refunds from beleaguered bike-sharing company oBike, which ceased operations in Singapore late last month. The number of refund claimants is still expected to rise.
oBike has since filed for insolvency, and has gotten into trouble with the Land Transportation Authority (LTA), which had given the company a July 4 deadline for removing their bikes from the nation’s streets.
This is quite a reversal of fortunes for the company, which at its peak in late 2017 boasted 2 million users across Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, and had been awarded as Singapore’s Best Digital Startup.
This could mean that the 3,000 refund claimants is but the tip of the iceberg.
With oBike’s sudden closure in Singapore, its founder Shi Yi, has found himself at the receiving end of numerous complaints especially from clients who have been unable to obtain their S$49 deposit, which was supposed to be refundable.
Earlier this month the Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE), which had investigated oBike’s abrupt closure, reported that the company delayed refunding deposits to its clients because these deposits had been used by the company to buy new bike units. CASE called this practice unethical, and said “Using these deposits to purchase bicycles and fund their operations means that oBike would be financially hard-pressed to provide the deposit refunds to consumers without new sources of funding.”
FTI Consulting, a provisional liquidation company, was tasked to handle what remained of oBike in the country, which include not only the collection and disposal of 70,000 bike units that had been dispersed all over Singapore, but also the distribution of S$6 million in deposits to clients.
However, in order to claim a refund on these deposits, oBike’s clients were required to fill out an online form that clients found unnecessarily invasive and detailed, one that required them to meticulously document the payments they had made to the bike-sharing company.
Clients were asked to give in their telephone bill for the oBike account, contact number, credit card statement, and even their NRIC number.
FTI Consulting claimed that all this information is necessary for verification, but clients are unhappy at the long process just to get the refund.
They had hoped to process their refund via the oBike app.
FTI Consulting has said, “Unfortunately, the oBike mobile application is not under the control of oBike Singapore,” and told consumers that the app is not under their control, as they are distinct company from oBike. FTI Consulting said however that “provisional liquidators are exploring this option and will update if it becomes feasible.”