First Ferry apologises for ban on HK$1,000 notes, but it stays

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 04 January, 2014, 2:57am
UPDATED : Saturday, 04 January, 2014, 4:00am

A ferry operator has apologised to the public for turning down payments made with HK$1,000 banknotes at all its piers amid a festive-season counterfeit scare that is worrying businesses.

New World First Ferry Services responded to customer complaints as police announced they had seized three more fake HSBC banknotes yesterday.

The latest find brings to 100 the total number of counterfeit HK$1,000 notes found in Hong Kong - 56 being passed off as Bank of China bills and 44 purportedly from HSBC - since December 23.

The scare prompted First Ferry to join other businesses in rejecting HK$1,000 notes at its fare counters from December 27.

"First Ferry sincerely apologises for the inconvenience caused," it said yesterday. However, the ban remains in place.

The company carries passengers from Central to Cheung Chau and Mui Wo and from North Point to Hung Hom and Kowloon City.

It said ticketing staff had increasingly come across HK$1,000 banknotes after the news broke.

Counterfeit currency detection equipment at the piers was limited, making it difficult for staff to spot bogus bills in a short time while keeping up with the tight ferry schedule, it said.

A complete ban was imposed to avoid boarding delays, disputes and pressure on frontline staff members, First Ferry said. The operator said the move would have little impact as more than 90 per cent of passengers paid with their Octopus cards.

Retailers and restaurants started to shun HK$1,000 notes at the end of last year. Businesses initially stopped accepting those issued by BOC in 2003, but when the police found HSBC fakes days later, shops broadened the ban to all banknotes of the biggest denomination in circulation.

Some of the fakes seized bore anti-counterfeit features of genuine banknotes.

In Macau, over 150 fakes have surfaced since December 24.