The Island’s MP, Andrew Turner, said today that, although disappointed with the final decision of the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) to take no further action at this time to investigate the Cross-Solent ferry market, he is pleased that there will be more information available to the public in future about the levels of pricing and services. He is also pleased that the ferry companies will be undertaking customer satisfaction surveys.
The OFT announced today that, following their market study report published in June, and having considered further evidence they are upholding their provisional decision not to make a referral to the Competition Commission (CC) at this time, in line with their original recommendations to ask the ferry companies to publish detailed information on fares and services. The ferry companies have voluntarily undertaken to publish this information and the OFT have previously indicated that should prices increase above reasonable levels or services decline, the likelihood of a future reference to the CC would increase. They have re-iterated in this report that there is nothing to prevent them making a referral to the CC in future.
Mr Turner said:
“Of course this is disappointing, but the main outcome is that any future excessive fare rises or significant reduction in service levels is likely to lead to action by the Competition Authorities. That is a very much more positive position than we were in before. This is a 122 page report and I will need time to digest it fully and consider any future action but it is clear the OFT recognise that there are certain problems and they hope that this action will begin to address them.
“This has never been about being at war with the ferry companies; the Island needs them and they need the Island. I was simply asking the competition authorities to do the job they are supposed to do and protect the interests of the public. Throughout this process the professional management of Wightlink and Red Funnel have been both courteous and helpful. I hope to work with them in the future to help them meet the needs of the Island and Islanders. I am particularly pleased that Wightlink are looking at helping people who need to travel for hospital treatment and their carers, and hope that Red Funnel will also look at this. I am meeting the new CEO of Wightlink, Russell Kew next week, and I also hope to meet with Red Funnel and Hovertravel management shortly. ”
Mr Turner added:
“I would like to thank the small team of businessmen who have been helping me with this project, my staff who have worked so hard on this massive extra piece of work and the OFT for the work they have done. Most of all though, I would like to thank everyone who has supported the campaign or given evidence. Although it is not the outcome we hoped for, the new regime of disclosure of price and service information and a commitment to customer satisfaction will certainly make a difference in the future.”
Mr Turner spearheaded a long campaign to provide enough evidence for the OFT to persuade them that the fares and services provided by the ferry companies were of such importance to the Island that they should be investigated. He received cross-party support from local and national politicians and more than 13,500 individuals, organisations and businesses supported the campaign, many of them giving detailed evidence of their experience of the ferry services.