More than $1 million in disputed charges have been waived or refunded through the Charge Complaint process, established by the Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 2022 (OSRA) and administered by the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC). This milestone was reached on May 1, 2023, just over 10 months after the OSRA became law on June 16, 2022.
The OSRA amended the Shipping Act and authorized the Federal Maritime Commission to promptly investigate “information concerning complaints about charges assessed by a common carrier” and order refunds and/or penalties for charges that do not comply with relevant regulations.
Charge Complaints offer a simplified and expedited process for shippers, consignees, truckers, and third parties to dispute charges which may have been wrongly assessed by a common carrier.
While complaints about the reasonableness of a demurrage or detention charge tend to be the most common, other carrier fees or charges that do not comply with relevant regulations may be submitted for investigation.
Disputes can also be addressed through other processes such as small claims or formal complaints or through dispute resolution services. The total amount of fees waived or refunded through the charge complaint process does not include penalties or settlements realized through Commission enforcement activities.
The Commission continues to work towards implementing the many rulemakings mandated by the OSRA. In March, the Commission issued a Final Rule amending its rules of practice and procedure regarding penalties and refunds, consistent with the authority established by the OSRA to order a refund of charges paid under a Charge Complaint proceeding.
The Commission is also working on rulemakings addressing demurrage and detention billing requirements, unreasonable refusal to deal or negotiate with respect to vessel space, and unfair or unjustly discriminatory methods. The rulemaking addressing unfair or unjustly discriminatory methods is expected to be issued after the supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking on unreasonable refusal to deal.
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