SINGAPORE: When around 20 personal mobility device (PMD) retailers shuffled out of a meeting with the Land Transport Authority (LTA) on Thursday (Sep 13) afternoon, there was an air of resignation.
The retailers, who are part of the PMD Retailers Association of Singapore, were invited by LTA to discuss the recent announcement that all motorised PMDs must conform with UL2272 fire safety standards by 2021.
The requirement has drawn criticism from retailers and users, as it would render around 90 per cent of the e-scooters in the Singapore market illegal in less than three years, according to Mr Eugene Ng, a spokesperson for Falcon PEV, a big PMD industry player.
One retailer who attended the meeting on Thursday, Motocycle's owner Leong TK, told Channel NewsAsia that he was hoping for an opportunity to air his concerns. But according to him and fellow retailers Channel NewsAsia spoke to, there was little room for reconsideration on the fire safety criterion.
"The (UL2272) requirement is already set in stone, it will commence from 2021. The meeting we had was just a formality, a discussion to tell us what we have to do as retailers," said Mr Leong.
Responding to Channel NewsAsia's queries, LTA said the meeting on Thursday followed a previous session in February, where it spoke about the rising number of PMD-related fires and shared its review of suitable fire safety standards.
"Feedback from retailers was sought at the (February) session and also post-session through email and feedback forms on whether they could propose other standards that could sufficiently address fire risks, the timeline they would require for implementation, and other issues," LTA said.
"Their feedback subsequently was taken into account in the review."
LTA insisted that the new UL2272 safety standard is "a necessary step" that needs to be taken to reduce the risk of fires involving PMDs, though it acknowledged that the requirement will affect retailers in the immediate term.
And Motocycle's owner Mr Leong said sales has already been hit.
"All sales have been held back. Of course, as retailers we want to sell, but how can we sell these PMDs and tell our customers they can only use it for two years," Mr Leong said.
Jay, general manager for Kernel Scooter, said retailers will have to find ways to comply with the requirements.
"We have to embrace it," he said with a sigh. "From the customers' point of view, they're buying something that has an expiry date ... but we have to get our scooters certified. Otherwise, it will be very hard to survive."
Another retailer who declined to be identified told Channel NewsAsia that the briefing was "merely a dissemination of information".
"We raised the point that UL2272 is not an international standard. It's from a privately owned US company - Underwriters Laboratories - and the cost for certification is higher than European standards. That's why I'm angry," he said.
LTA said it has studied other possible standards but they currently do not cover most types of motorised PMDs commonly used in Singapore.
"LTA is studying other standards, such as the draft European standard prEN17128, and is open to considering other standards as and when these are deemed sufficiently able to reduce fire risks for motorised PMDs, and are suitable for our local context," it said.
PETITION PREPARED, LETTER SENT TO MP
Meanwhile, Mr Ng of Falcon PEV told Channel NewsAsia that 12 retailers have signed a petition to protest the UL2272 standard and ask that authorities reverse their decision.
The petition reads: "We the stakeholders of the PMD Industry and representing the PMD Retailers in Singapore, hereby DISAGREE with the UL2272 Safety Compliance Standard proposed on Sep 10 in Parliament and seek the relevant authorities to review this proposal."
According to Mr Ng, more retailers will likely sign the petition before it is presented to authorities on Friday.
Additionally, the PMD Retailers Association of Singapore posted on Facebook a copy of a letter addressed to Member of Parliament Faisal Ibrahim, who is also chairman of the Active Mobility Advisory Panel.
The letter acknowledged that there was a need for a PMD safety standard, but stated that UL2272 has a high cost of implementation and is difficult to apply to devices in Singapore which are mostly manufactured in China.
Mr Ng further explained that the batteries on motorised PMDs are the causes of most fires, but UL2272 is a safety standard for the whole system - including the wires and motors.
"But is that really a must? What's the cost incurred in looking at the entire system when the whole system may not be a contributing factor?" he asked.
"This requirement, simply put, blows things out of proportion."