Auckland man Vaughan Rivett has tangled with US e-scooter giant — and appears to have won.

He was facing a $100 penalty from Lime over a "missing" scooter — which he says he did not even ride.

An upset Rivett planned to to take his dispute to the Commerce Commission after the US multinational advised it was going to charge his credit card.

Lime scooter user Vaughan Rivett is upset at the $100 fine he is being threatened with. Photo / Jason Oxenham.
Lime scooter user Vaughan Rivett is upset at the $100 fine he is being threatened with. Photo / Jason Oxenham.

Lime contacted the Herald after the original version of this story was published to say it has now decided to remove Rivett's fine. An Australian-based spokeswoman could offer no immediate reason for the change of heart but said she was seeking more information from Lime's NZ team.

Advertisement

Rivett said he had been phoned by Lime this evening but was waiting to see the decision in writing. He added that Lime had also put credit onto his account. "But this is pointless because I will never use them again," he said. The company had lost his trust.

Lime had claimed Rivett was the last known rider of one of its hire-by-the-minute scooters, which it could not locate. An email from "Lime support" to Rivett on October 19, which appears to be automated, said: "I'm reaching out with Lime about a missing bike report on Fri, 19 Oct 2018 05:54:14 +0000. It seems we are unable to recover the Scooter 185088 since that time. Please remit the vehicle to the public right of way so that our team can retrieve and recharge it."

Rivett told the Herald that not only did he not remove the scooter in question from a public place, but that he did not use it at all.

"The scooter had been left outside my work," Rivett says. "I had seen it there during last week and tried to use it but a message came up saying that it needed servicing."

The email from Lime included a number to call in the US. Rivett says he replied to the email saying he did not want to incur the cost of an international toll call. He asked for a local contact.

He received no reply to that email, but did receive a second message from Lime support on October 20, imposing a financial penalty.

"I'm reaching out to let you know that a penalty in the amount of $100 will be applied to your account for misuse of scooter 185088," the email said.

"Our records indicate that you were the last known user and our operations team is not able to recover the item because it has not been released to the public right of way [sic]. This is a direct violation of the user agreement that you signed when you began using the service."

At clutch of Lime e-scooters outside NZME. Riders park their
At clutch of Lime e-scooters outside NZME. Riders park their "bike" after the end of a journey. The next rider locates it via GPS and a smartphone app. Photo / Chris Keall.

This morning, Rivett located the "missing" scooter near his St Mary's Bay office. He messaged Lime. But by mid-afternoon, it had not been collected.

He could not contact a human at Lime and the company's robotic system was still set to fine him $100.

Consumer head of research Jessica Simpson says: "Given Mr Rivett has informed the company he didn't take the scooter and that the payment is disputed, it should not charge his credit card.

If he is charged the $100, he should ask his bank or credit card company for a chargeback – a reversal of the payment, Simpson says.

"We'd also recommend he make a complaint to the Commerce Commission."

Lime employs casual contractors known as "juicers" to collect and recharge its scooters overnight.

Anti-theft precautions range from an annoying beep to the back wheel locking up if payment isn't received. The scooters are also tracked by GPS (used by riders to locate a free scooter, via a smartphone app, and juicers for end-of-day retrieval).

The San Francisco-based Lime launched in New Zealand on October 14, putting 600 scooters into Auckland and 400 into Christchurch. The scooters are unlocked by scanning a code with your phone and cost $1 plus 30c a minute (or $18 an hour) to ride.

Safety concerns have been raised over the scooters, which can be ridden at up to 25km per hour through pedestrians or traffic, with a helmet optional. After a crash on Tamaki Dr that necessitated an X-ray, ACC confirmed it has already fielded a string of claims from Auckland and Christchurch riders.