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BC Ferries hits customers with double whammy

 

BC Ferries delivered a double dose of bad news to passengers last week.

On April 1, fares will go up an average of more than three per cent on major routes and more than six per cent on others. Fares on major routes will increase by $2 to $61.50 for a car and driver while passenger fares will be $14.25, up from $13.75. To calculate the impact on your pocketbook, visit www.bcferries.com.

While few would consider the April Fool's Day fare hike a laughing matter, many more are decidedly not amused with the corporation's decision to seize $1,190,927 in pre-paid fares.

BC Ferries will not honour 15,765 prepaid trips purchased through Assured Loading Tickets (ALT) or Coast Cards. In the past, the pre-paid passes were good for two years but could reloaded or redeemed.

Last April, BC Ferries changed the rules, making the cards worthless six months after the two-year expiry date.

Complaints have been voiced by those who had purchased ALT and Coast Cards, expressing outrage their cards had no value and couldn’t be reloaded as they had in the past, due to the changed rules.

In an interview with the Record, Deborah Marshall, media director for BC Ferries, explained the corporation's move.

“We do want to clarify for your readers in your area that when we’re talking about the Experience Card we don’t mean the pre-paid or pre-loaded value that customers have.

“You probably have customers going over to Denman-Hornby or Quadra-Cortes, something like that. That’s not those customers. It’s the assured loading product.

"It’s a little bit confusing, because with the stored value on the Experience Card for the minor routes, that is like a gift card that the customers would load on a particular value, such as a Starbucks card.

(According to the BC Ferries’ website, the Experience Card gives cardholders the opportunity to purchase ALT and load money onto their card while Coast Card holders are able to purchase only ALT on their cards).

“Assured loading is for the Lower Mainland-Vancouver Island routes, the three big routes. And that it is a premium product customers can purchase that has a two-year expiry on it,” Marshall explained.

“You want to differentiate because I know there’s been some confusion with customers calling us from the minor routes saying, ‘Oh I didn’t realize my stored value expired.’

“We’ve always had a rule they (ALT) had a two-year expiry. That’s been in place since 1983. As of April of last year we started enforcing the two-year expiry,” said Marshall.

She added BC Ferries made concerted efforts to let passengers know the two-year expiry was going to be enforced.

“Any customer with an Experience Card registered with us that we had their e-mail address we sent them two separate e-mails.

“There were also handouts at ticket booths. Every time a customer used their Experience Card for assured loading we would give them a brochure that talks about the two-year expiry and the enforcement of the two-year expiry. And also when they used their (ALT) they were given a receipt that said you have x number of assured loading left and they expire on whatever date it was.

“To top it off, within six months after they (ALT) expire we allow the customer, if they have any value left — for example two assured loading trips left — to apply that money toward the purchase of 10 more Assured Loading trips.” (ALT tickets are available only in lots of 10: on the Tsawwassen-Swartz Bay run, 10 ALT tickets cost $1,250).

Paul Ryan of the Ferry Advisory Committee Chairs (representing Quadra-Cortes) said the $1.2 million was for assured loading passes for the major ferry routes (Vancouver-Nanaimo, Vancouver-Langdale and Vancouver-Victoria). "The prepaid passes that we use are for regular tickets," he explained.

sports@comoxvalleyrecord.com

 

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