Beijing car-sharing firm Ezzy crashes, leaving customers fuming and out of pocket

Ezzy luxury car ‘sharing’ app closes down after 18 months amid accusations it failed to pay staff, return deposits

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 26 October, 2017, 4:04pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 26 October, 2017, 5:51pm

A Beijing-based electric vehicle-sharing company that launched just 18 months ago appears to have gone bust, leaving customers clamouring to get back their deposits.

The business, based around the Ezzy app operated by Beijing Da Dreams Technology Co, terminated its services on Tuesday and told users to apply for refunds, state-run news website reported on Wednesday.

“We have suspended our platform’s services, and are actively dealing with follow-up issues,” the firm said via its WeChat social media account, adding that it had set up a liquidation committee.

“We thank everyone again for their long-time attention and support.”

The service allowed users to rent luxury vehicles such as BMWs and Audis after making an initial down payment. Regular users were charged a 2,000 yuan (US$300) deposit plus 1.50 yuan per minute of use, while VIP members paid a 1,200 yuan deposit and 0.50 yuan per minute.

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It is those deposits that people are now trying to reclaim, though many of the comments posted on social media suggest they are having difficulty doing so.

“I applied for a refund long ago, but they refused to pay me back,” a Beijing-based customer said on Weibo on Thursday.

“Ezzy has no way of paying back the deposits!” wrote another, adding she that was planning to go to the company’s headquarters to demand her money back. “It’s not 199 yuan or 299, it’s 2,000!”

The website report also quoted unnamed employees as saying that they had not been paid in recent weeks.

When a Post reporter called the company, the woman who answered said she was “unclear” about the company’s current situation and the allegations of it withholding wages and deposits.

“My job is just to answer the phones and address individual queries from users,” she said, declining to be named. “All I know is that our services were discontinued after October 24.”

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Ezzy launched in Beijing in March 2016. Its founder, Fu Qiang, said in earlier interviews that the service had more than 100,000 users and a fleet of about 500 cars.

Its failure is another blow to China’s red-hot, but frequently charred, sharing economy, which has spawned everything from bicycles and electric cars to sleeping pods, mini workout booths, battery packs, basketballs and even shared folding stools. The business model, however, has faced significant growing pains, as companies contend with high operational costs, questions over sustainability, vandalism and theft.

Jiangxi-based Sharing E Umbrella lost nearly all its 30,000 brollies after just three months of operation, while Chongqing-based Wukong Bikes went bankrupt after most of its 1,200 bicycles went missing or were stolen.

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Car-sharing in particular has attracted a lot of interest in recent years, but the road to profitability for such firms has been “anything but smooth”, according to German consulting firm Roland Berger. Although 600,000 cars are expected to operate under the “sharing” model in China by 2025, there are significant concerns over licensing, parking and the effective use of fleets.

Ezzy was dogged by several such problems, including high investment costs and a too-small fleet, unnamed industry observers were quoted as saying in the website report.

“In this industry, without the proper scale, it cannot be profitable,” one said.

Ezzy’s founder told China Youth Daily in May that the company faced a “small problem” with high investment costs. And almost prophetically, he remarked in a speech last year: “Death is the ultimate fate of all time-based rental companies.”