With China’s third-biggest bike-share startup on the verge of collapse amid unpaid wages and its CEO gone AWOL, users are struggling to get their deposits refunded.
Many Bluegogo users – an estimated 15 million are registered with the year-old service – are now taking to social media to vent their frustration.
This guy applied for the refund on his RMB 99 – that’s US$15 – Bluegogo deposit on November 3, yet the app says it’s still being processed:
Another customer, who paid the higher RMB 199 (US$30) fee on November 5, requested its return two days later – but that’s also still being dealt with.
One individual took to Weibo yesterday, tagging several media outlets as well as the Beijing12345 consumer complaints hotline in the missive.
On the Twitter-esque Weibo, where many companies interact with customers, Bluegogo’s account has been silent since November 10.
Bluegogo’s terms of service do not specify how long the refund process takes. The dockless bikes charge riders based on usage time, with their deposit a safeguard against theft or damage. According to Bluegogo’s terms, they keep users’ payment details on file and can charge more on top of the deposit – “determined by us on our sole discretion” – if significant damage is detected.
Beijing-based Bluegogo also expanded to San Francisco and Sydney, where its deposits were higher – US$99 in the States, and US$15 to $45 in Australia – but its popularity seemed limited.
Once valued at US$140 million after raising US$58 million and rolling out over 350,000 bicycles, Bluegogo is now on the brink of bankruptcy and collapse, with one Chinese paper yesterday quoting a company insider who said the startup is US$30 million in debt. The whereabouts of CEO Li Gang are unknown, with other media outlets reporting that he has been overseas for some time.
The startup has been struggling to refund deposits even before this week’s crisis, with Bluegogo last month promising to issue any delayed refunds by November 10.
Multiple copycat bike-share startups popped up in China throughout 2016 after seeing the rapid growth of Mobike and Ofo, which remain the market leaders.
“Our deposits are safely stored and overseen by CITIC Bank,” an Ofo spokesperson told Tech in Asia today. Mobike has a similar safeguard with China Merchants Bank. It’s unclear how Bluegogo kept its deposits. Emails sent to Bluegogo yesterday and today have seen no replies.
China’s central bank, the People’s Bank of China, is this week working with the Ministry of Transport to discuss regulatory measures for services that require deposits, reported Yicai yesterday.
Firms “should indicate an operator’s commitment to holding a number of deposits in a dedicated account and invite oversight from a trustee endorsed with their signatures and seals,” said an unnamed official.
Watch: The two drivers behind China’s ride-hailing giant
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