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A new monopoly on the ferry to Northern Ireland

Change from DFDS to StenaOn 31st January, I traveled by overnight ferry from Birkenhead to Belfast - fare, 40 pounds, to include a dinner in the evening and breakfast the next morning. On February 3rd, I returned - fare 40 pounds, but "as from 1st February we no longer include dinner and breakfast in this fare" - and dinner is priced at 14.95, breakfast at 8.95.

The crossing was booked with DFDS Seaways, who's name in on the outgoing boarding card. But their operation has been bought by Stena, who's name is on the return boarding card. So Stena now operate all the Belfast boats - to Heysham and Stranraer, as well as to Birkenhead. And having a monopoly on the route, I guess there's nothing to stop them charging 63.90 on Thursday for the same product that DFDS charged 40 pounds for on Monday.

I was handed a piece of paper at checking that tells me that the Office of Fair Trading is looking into the takeover, and that Stena are only doing limited integration of the businesses prior to their report. Bookings, for example, are to continue through the DFDS website for the moment. It strikes me that all the Stena have all the advantages for them (such as price rises now that they have a near monopoly) already, but they're leaving customer advantages (such as the ability to book out one route and back another) until the OFT reports. Could it just be that this is somewhat manipulative - by the time the OFT reports it'll be far to late to unravel the routes, and if the OFT objects they would just be seen to be blocking the advantages that customers could gain?

Not my 'battle' this one - but prices rising 60% within the week takes the biscuit!

(written 2011-02-04, updated 2011-02-10)

 
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This is a page archived from The Horse's Mouth at http://www.wellho.net/horse/ - the diary and writings of Graham Ellis. Every attempt was made to provide current information at the time the page was written, but things do move forward in our business - new software releases, price changes, new techniques. Please check back via our main site for current courses, prices, versions, etc - any mention of a price in "The Horse's Mouth" cannot be taken as an offer to supply at that price.

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