The development – which has nothing to do with the new Irish Sea border – is due to a ship, the MS Stena Horizon, which normally operates between France and the Republic of Ireland being moved to the route for 10 days.
A passenger who is travelling on the route this week contacted the News Letter to say that it seemed “outrageous” that British currency was not accepted when travelling between two UK ports.
Because of covid, the ferry is not accepting cash and so that means that currency conversion charges and a non-sterling transaction fee may be charged for anyone using a normal UK bank card.
The Bank of England said that what Stena was doing was legal because although Sterling is legal tender in the UK, that term only applies in a narrow way to money which must be accepted in return for the repayment of debt.
Initially, Stena told passengers – and told his newspaper – that it was offering a 20% discount off the cost of a future sailing on either the Belfast-Liverpool or Belfast-Cairnryan route to compensate “for any inconvenience caused”.
However, yesterday the company contacted the News Letter to change that offer, saying that it would instead be reducing prices by 10% to compensate for the extra charges.
In a statement, Stena said: “The Stena Horizon which normally operates on the Rosslare-Cherbourg service is currently operating as a relief vessel during short notice maintenance works on the Belfast-Liverpool service and is expected to provide cover for the next 10 days.
“As the Stena Horizon operates in the eurozone, it has not been possible to make onboard currency alterations in time which means that onboard payments made with non-euro cards will be subject to variable exchange rates set by the card providers and may attract a non-sterling transaction fee.
“Stena Line has notified all customers in advance of travel and a 10% discount will be applied to all customer onboard purchases to offset any possible currency conversion costs during the 10-day period.”
The News Letter asked the Consumer Council about the issue and it contacted Stena
Richard Williams, Head of Transport at The Consumer Council, said: “The Consumer Council is aware that Stena Line is only accepting card payments in Euro this week on the Belfast to Liverpool route due to a change of vessel.
“As a result, passengers making purchases on board may incur non-sterling transaction fees.
“We have raised our concern about the financial penalty on consumers to Stena Line, which has assured us that all passengers will receive a 10% discount on all on-board purchases and will receive a 20% discount on their next trip to Liverpool or Cairnryan.
“Passengers have been informed of this in advance of travel.
“Any passenger who is not happy with these arrangements should contact The Consumer Council on 0800 121 6022 or email [email protected]”
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