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Bike-sharing companies may have to pay security deposit in future: Parliament

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THE Land Transport Authority (LTA) will consider requiring bike-sharing operators, which require users to pay a deposit, to themselves pay a security deposit or bond, with the introduction of licensing regulations in October this year.

THE Land Transport Authority (LTA) will consider requiring bike-sharing operators, which require users to pay a deposit, to themselves pay a security deposit or bond, with the introduction of licensing regulations in October this year.

Senior Minister of State for Transport Janil Puthucheary said this in Parliament on Monday in response to questions from several MPs on the refunding of deposits for oBike users, and what recourse consumers have should bike-sharing firms exit the industry in future.

oBike announced abruptly that it was closing here two weeks ago (June 25), leaving its 100,000 users wondering what would happen to their deposits, totalling about S$6.3 million, according to oBike chairman Shi Yi.

Dr Janil noted that following oBike's exit, competitor Mobike announced it was waiving the need for user deposits, and that none of the firms operating here now requires deposits.

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He added: "If there are operators which require user deposits when the licensing regime is implemented from October this year, LTA will study the need for bicycle-sharing operators to place a security deposit or performance bond."

The new licensing regime will place caps on the fleet sizes of each bike-sharing operator, who will also have to ensure their users park responsibly or face fines.

Besides a one-time application fee of S$1,500, firms will also have to pay a S$60 licensing fee for every bicycle deployed.

Noting that the LTA and the Consumers Association of Singapore have met oBike following its closure, Dr Janil said the onus is on the now-defunct bike-sharing firm to have a "concrete plan" to refund its users and remove its bicycles from public space.

Business advisory firm FTI Consulting, appointed last week (July 5) as oBike's provisional liquidators, said it would discuss the issue of whether customers would be refunded with the bike-sharing firm and its shareholders.

Responding to Ms Lee Bee Wah (Nee Soon GRC), who asked whether oBike could be forced to delete its user data, Dr Janil said oBike, in compliance with the Personal Data Protection Act, should delete all its user data once the issue of refunds is settled.

Mr Seah Kian Peng (Marine Parade GRC) asked if the light touch approach taken by the Government towards the bike-sharing operators had been "too light".

In response, Dr Janil noted the business model of bike-sharing operators has existed for only slightly over a year here, and that its advantages, such as helping commuters make last-mile journeys, should not be discounted.

Imposing a licensing regime on bike-sharing operators is intended as a "recalibration" of the light touch previously taken, he said, allowing the sector to innovate while at the same time dealing with its social disamenities.

The LTA announced on Sunday (July 8) that seven companies -Anywheel, GBikes, Grabcycle, Mobike, ofo, Qiqi Zhixiang and SGBike - had applied to offer bike-sharing services here under the new licensing regime.

The LTA is reviewing these applications and will announce the results of the applications in September.

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