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BC Ferries' fuel surcharges distract from the real issue
Editor: In defending itself against criticism of fare increases, BC Ferries has raised the issue of fuel surcharges. Since the ridiculous notion of fuel surcharges was first introduced, surcharges in general are gaining acceptance beyond the travel industry. In addition to standard labour rates or fees, we now find shop supply fees added to car repair quotes, file opening fees added to professional fees and various other surcharges.
Paying for a service used to be simple; you were quoted a fee per job or per hour and knew up front what the bill would be (before taxes). If the service provider experienced increasing costs, he would periodically work that into his budget and increase fee quotes.
By separating fuel costs from the costs included in fares, BC Ferries is suggesting that it is raising fares only a little bit and the rest has to do with some mysterious outside power. This distracts from the real issues affecting fares.
The cost of fuel is no different than the cost of paper or ink. For instance, a client of an accountant would be flabbergasted if the $70 quote has an extra $4 ink surcharge or a $3 paper surcharge added to the bill.
At least in the case of competitive businesses, anyone who quotes a fee and then adds surcharges at the end will likely lose customers to those who are up front about the cost of service. I refuse to do further business with the repairman who tried to charge me a fuel surcharge on top of the home repair quote, after the work was done.
Next time I travel to the island, however, there is no option to use a different ferry provider. As a supporter of user fees for many services, I have no problem supporting fare increases to cover reasonable costs, but I do object to being bamboozled with smoke and mirrors.
The cost of fuel should simply be budgeted into the standard fare. If the public accepts the notion of surcharges, pretty soon we will be paying BC Ferries an employee pension surcharge, rust coating surcharge, and perhaps even a CEO bonus surcharge.
Cos van Wermeskerken,