Difficulty to draw back shared-bike deposit breeds scalper intervention
China's booming bike-sharing services have once again made the headlines, but this time for the difficulty their customers encounter to reclaim their deposits, reports the Beijing Youth Daily.
Customers queue at the headquarters of Kuqi Bike, a shared-bike company in the center of the deposit refunding controversy, in Beijing, to claim their deposits on November 4, 2017. [Photo: VCG]
Many shared-bike users have reported that they have to pay scalpers to retrieve their deposits after failing to do so through the service providers themselves.
Online quotations show that scalpers charge 130 to 150 yuan (around 20-23 US dollars) for each case, which is about half of the usual deposit amount charged by bike-sharing companies.
The scalpers reportedly ask for the user's name, a photo copy of the user's ID card and the mobile phone number with which the service was registered. They then go to the shared-bike companies to get the deposit back on behalf of the user, as many such companies have closed their online refunding channels.
Many companies in the industry have promised to return the deposit within seven working days after the user submits such a request. However, the customers of some failed or struggling companies said they still did not receive their deposits after waiting for as long as two months.
The phenomena have aroused heated online discussions, as many customers say they indeed received the refunds after turning to scalpers to recover their losses.
The photo taken on October 27, 2017 shows abandoned Kuqi bikes in Beijing. [Photo: VCG]
A commentary published by Chinese newspaper Legal Daily points out that the difficulty to recover deposits not only harms the interests of consumers but also the sharing economy as a whole, as it reduces consumer confidence in the new economic mode.
Instead of turning to scalpers for help, the commentary suggests the customers defend their rights by making legal complaints or suing the companies for violating their agreements.
The Chinese government issued guidelines to regulate bike-sharing services in August.
According to the guidelines released by the Ministry of Transport and nine other government departments, companies are encouraged to offer bike-sharing services without requiring deposits to avoid cash pooling, which could lead to illegal funding concerns.
Companies that have already collected deposits should set up special accounts to avoid any misuse of the money, improve the refund system and accept supervision from transport and finance departments, according to the guidelines.
Many bike-sharing apps require users to deposit between 99 and 299 yuan before using their services. Some pioneers have introduced discounted or no deposits for users based on their credit histories.