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Piles of dumped bikes can be seen in many Chinese cities. (Picture: Bloomberg)

Users say bike-sharing app isn’t returning their deposits on time

Amid a rapidly imploding market, can Ofo survive?

This article originally appeared on ABACUS

Users say embattled bike-sharing company Ofo is taking longer and longer to return their deposits -- and they’re not happy about it.

Ofo, which charges a deposit of 199 yuan (US$ 28.65) from each user, keeps extending the time limit for returning deposits. It started at 3 days, went to 10 days, and now says it’ll take 15 days, state-run China News Service reported. Their report added that some users say they never received their refunds, despite Ofo telling them that refunds had been successful.

(Abacus is a unit of the South China Morning Post, which is owned by Alibaba, who has a stake in Ofo.)

Angry users have flooded the comment section of Ofo’s recent Weibo posts, where there are hundreds of comments asking the company to give back their deposit soon. Many say they’re not able to reach customer support.

An Ofo spokesperson has yet to respond to our request for comment.

Piles of dumped bikes can be seen in many Chinese cities. (Picture: Bloomberg)

China’s bike-sharing industry grew very quickly… and then declined just as fast, as competitors flooded the scene. Chinese cities were first littered with bikes to rent, then littered with bikes dumped, some stacking up in huge piles.

One of the biggest operators, Mobike, found a way out by selling itself to consumer giant Meituan -- but it’s still struggling to turn a profit. And Ofo, who now claims the most monthly active users, proposed a merger with smaller competitor Hellobike, who’s growing strong in China’s lower-tier cities.

Meituan Dianping: Settle all your local needs on one app

As the last independent startup in an industry rapidly imploding, Ofo has been caught up in a series of troubles recently.

In August, its was sued by multiple suppliers over unpaid bills and “contract disputes”. Founder and CEO Dai Wei, who asked his staff to “ fight till the end”, removed himself as the company’s legal representative, even though Ofo says he remains in charge and that it does not affect the company’s operations.
It has also been scaling back from overseas markets, which it once made big forays into. Following Germany, Australia and Israel, it’s also planning to pull out of Japan.

Ofo wants users to watch a video ad when unlocking a bike

For more insights into China tech, sign up for our tech newsletters, subscribe to our Inside China Tech podcast, and download the comprehensive 2019 China Internet Report. Also roam China Tech City, an award-winning interactive digital map at our sister site Abacus.