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Bike rental wars: ofo, Mobike apply for licences; Mobike scraps deposit

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In a press statement on Friday, the firm announced a deposit-free policy for new and existing users who have registered a Mobike account with a Singapore phone number.

Bike sharing operators ofo and Mobike have applied for operating licences with Singapore's Land Transport Authority (LTA), the companies said on Friday.

Their applications came ahead of a July 7 deadline imposed by the Singapore regulator. Dock-less bicycle rental companies that fail to apply will have to shut down their operations.

Beijing-based ofo said that its application was for its current fleet of 80,000 bicycles. ofo Singapore general manager Yau Fun Heng said in a statement: "The company remains confident in the bike-sharing industry in Singapore and will continue working with our partners to positively contribute to the Singapore government’s vision of a car-lite nation."

Mobike Singapore, whose parent company is also based in Beijing, also said on Friday that it will no longer require security deposits in Singapore, announcing its move as competitor oBike came under criticism for failing to return monies to its customers.

In a press statement on Friday, Mobike announced a deposit-free policy for new and existing users who have registered a Mobike account with a Singapore phone number. The one-time, fully refundable deposit of S$49 was previously introduced at Mobike's launch in Singapore in March 2017 to encourage the use of the smart bikes.

According to Mobike, the company has determined through data-driven analysis that its services are widely used in Singapore, and thus riders can be freed from a deposit.

Upon receiving a request, Mobike will start the refund process immediately, and the credit will be refunded into users' account within 10 working days, the company said.

Added Sharon Meng, country manager of Mobike Singapore: "We would like to thank our riders in Singapore for helping to cultivate a healthy and enjoyable bike sharing experience for all. In our show of appreciation, we are waiving deposits for Singapore-registered users."

"We are also thankful to the local authorities for their support for user education and improving infrastructure. We are fully prepared to work with local authorities, and will continue investing in technologies to improve our services."

Mobike's latest announcements came after oBike on Monday announced the shutdown of its Singapore operations, citing difficulties in complying with the new LTA regulations. oBike customers have raised concerns about their ability to recover their security deposits because oBike removed the refund-request feature in its app prior to announcing its shutdown.

Earlier this month, GBikes, which is supported by financial technologies firm FinTechSG, also told users that it would not apply for the LTA licence, and would stop its service in July.