Consumer Advisory - oBike: Consumers who paid with credit cards to lodge chargeback request with card issuer
 

In view of oBike Asia Pte Ltd’s (“oBike”) termination of operations in Singapore, the Consumers Association of Singapore (“CASE”) would like to advise consumers who had paid via credit card to the company within the last 120 days to lodge a chargeback request with their card issuer as soon as possible.

A chargeback is an existing form of consumer protection which allows credit card users to dispute a charge and reverse the transaction should a purchase goes awry. oBike consumers who wish to obtain a refund of their deposit and/or membership fees paid should lodge the following chargeback(s) with their card issuer:

Issue Type of Chargeback Reason
Refund of Deposit Goods/Services Not Received Consumers had placed a $49 deposit to use the bicycle-sharing service provided by oBike. However, this service is no longer available.
SVIP Membership Goods/Services Received or Rendered but Not as Described/ Defective/ Returned  Consumers had purchased the Super VIP (SVIP) membership with the predominant goal of unlimited free rides in Singapore, in addition to across all oBike-operating countries. However, free rides in Singapore are no longer available.

For more information on lodging a chargeback, please refer to CASE’s Chargeback Guide for Consumers.

CASE is deeply concerned about the abrupt decision by oBike to cease operations in Singapore and its failure to provide clarity to consumers about their deposit paid and/or membership purchased. oBike is still contractually obligated to provide a refund to consumers if they are not able to deliver the promised bicycle-sharing service and we expect them to do so.

We have reached out to oBike to verify the number of consumers with an existing deposit and/or membership as well as their plans for refunding consumers and will provide an update in due course. Meanwhile, we urge consumers with unresolved disputes to contact us for further assistance (hotline: 6100 0315, website: www.case.org.sg).

Consumer Advisory - Consumers to be wary of pre-ticked boxes in their online purchases
 

The Consumers Association of Singapore (“CASE”) wishes to warn consumers to look out for pre-ticked boxes when shopping online. Pre-ticked boxes are typically used by businesses to obtain consent from consumers to perform an action, be it the purchase of additional goods or services, or to seek permission to send marketing materials to consumers. However, consumers may not realise that they need to opt out of these pre-selected options if they do not want such goods or services.

In 2015, CASE received hundreds of complaints from consumers who reported that when they bought products online from websites like StreetDeal.sg, RivaLife.com, OlaPrice.com and Straitsdeal.com, the membership subscription option was automatically selected when they made payment to the company. After CASE intervened, we persuaded Asia Deal Group (the holding company for the above companies) to sign a Voluntary Compliance Agreement to stop their practice of having such pre-ticked boxes.

Earlier this year, several Singapore Airlines (“SIA”) customers complained about the auto-inclusion of travel insurance when booking their air tickets. They felt that travellers were likely to overlook this detail and may end up paying for insurance that they did not want or need. CASE conveyed our concerns to SIA about the lack of transparency of prices for this option. After some deliberation, SIA agreed to remove the auto-inclusion of travel insurance feature on their booking website and offer it as an opt-in feature.

CASE also reached out to Scoot Tigerair Pte Ltd (“Scoot”) and Jetstar Asia Airways Pte Ltd (“Jetstar”) to do the same. We are glad that Scoot has changed their pre-selection of travel insurance to “opt-in” selection with effect from 31 May 2018. However, Jetstar declined and replied that each pre-selected item (e.g. travel insurance) is clearly drawn to the attention of the consumers through their booking flow. This is not acceptable to CASE and we will continue to engage Jetstar on this matter.

In the European Union, companies cannot infer consumers’ consent for additional payments by using pre-ticked boxes, and must obtain express consent of consumers. In Australia, pre-ticked boxes (e.g. for mailing lists) are not deemed as effective consent under the Spam Act 2003. Hence, businesses cannot send marketing messages to consumers by using pre-ticked boxes to obtain consent.

CASE has been advocating for increased protection for consumers when transacting online, such as not allowing the practice of pre-ticked boxes. We are of the view that it is unethical for businesses to use pre-ticked boxes when transacting with consumers as there is no express consent given by the consumer. This may set a precedent for other industries to adopt or continue to do the same. We had previously surfaced this matter to the relevant authorities for further review.

Meanwhile, consumers are advised to look out for pre-selected options and make sure that they de-select anything they do not want to purchase. Consumers should always remember to thoroughly check their bookings before making any final payments.

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