ComCom warns Bluebridge over ferry cancellation and delay representations

After receiving customer complaints, the Commerce Commission has issued a warning to Cook Straight ferry provider StraitNZ Bluebridge Limited, for potentially misrepresenting consumers rights to compensation when sailings were delayed or cancelled during 2023.

Commerce Commission Fair Trading General Manager, Vanessa Horne, says Kiwi consumers have rights under the Consumer Guarantees Act (CGA) when using ferry services. This means consumers may be entitled to compensation for ferry delays or cancellations, where they were not caused by events outside of the operator’s control, such as bad weather.

Ms Horne says Bluebridge’s terms and conditions previously stated it did not have any liability for ferry delays or cancellations, which directly contradicts the rights set out in the CGA.

“In the Commission’s view, this was likely a breach of the Fair Trading Act as it misled consumers of their potential rights under the CGA.”

Ms Horne says the Commission observed that Bluebridge appeared to understand its obligations under the CGA in practice, despite its terms and conditions indicating otherwise.

“From the information we received, Bluebridge honoured consumers’ rights under the CGA when compensation claims were made following a cancellation or delay of a ferry service. However, since Bluebridge’s terms and conditions specifically excluded liability, it’s likely that some consumers did not reach out for compensation that they were entitled to ,” Ms Horne says.

The Commission considers that Bluebridge has taken a reasonable approach in deciding if events were outside of its control, which may give it grounds to decline a claim for compensation under the CGA. In response to the Commission’s investigation Bluebridge has improved its terms and conditions and made other process improvements.

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