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FMC Creates New Small Claims Complaint Pathway

Do you have a complaint seeking damages against an individual or a company for economic injury not exceeding $50,000, caused by violations of the Shipping Act of 1984? That would constitute a Small Claims complaint and the Federal Maritime Commission recently provided guidance on the different avenues shippers have at the FMC to pursue demurrage and detention complaints. The FMC is in the process of making a new rule governing demurrage and detention billing practices that would benefit the trade and should apply to marine terminal operators and non-vessel operating common carriers in addition to vessel-operating common carriers. Shippers have been complaining that invoices for such charges lack sufficient clarity to enable the recipient to understand and verify the charges. FMC Commissioner Rebecca F. Dye, in a statement issued on February 15, 2022, also outlined the differences between filing a complaint and reporting potential violations of the law that might be investigated by the Commission’s Bureau of Enforcement. Commissioner Dye statement: "This past summer, in my capacity as Fact Finding Officer for Fact Finding 29: International Ocean Transportation Supply Chain Engagement, I recommended, among other things, issuing policy statements regarding private party complaints and holding a webinar on Commission processes. The Commission adopted the recommendations and issued three policy statements on December 28, 2021, and I continue to support clarifying Commission procedures through a variety of means, including a webinar. "To the end, I want to highlight that the Commission’s website contains information about how to file complaints seeking financial compensation for damages with the Commission. Filing a complaint is, in some ways, like filing a lawsuit. General information about filing a complaint can be found on the Filing a Shipping Act Complaint page which explains the difference between a Small Claims Complaint and a Formal Complaint. "Small Claims Complaint: For claims of $50,000 or less, a small claim alleging Shipping Act violations may be filed. The complaint will be handled by a settlement officer for resolution using informal procedures (46 CFR Part 502 Subpart S). "Formal Complaint: Any person may file a formal complaint to allege violations of specific sections of the Shipping Act. The complaint must be sworn and verified, and if seeking financial compensation for damages, be filed within three years of the claimed violation. Formal complaints are generally heard by an Administrative Law Judge and are reviewed by the Commission. "Filing a complaint is distinct from reporting potential Shipping Act violations, see for example, Fact Finding 29: Advice to the Trade, and filing a complaint is distinct from using the Commission’s alternative dispute resolution services. Both, however, are also ways that the shipping public can help the Commission ensure compliance with the Shipping Act and Commission regulations." Filing a Small Claims Complaint The Commission provides a standard format for filing a small claims complaint. All small claims complaint filings should follow this standard format. You may not simply sign and submit the exhibit. The information shown in brackets is to guide you regarding what information you must provide.

Small Claims are determined by a settlement officer using informal procedures and are governed by Commission rules found at 46 CFR 502.301-502.305. Please review these rules before filing an informal complaint.

Please note that a Respondent may object to the informal procedure within 25 days of being served. Should Respondent refuse the informal procedure, the claim will be assigned to an Administrative Law Judge for formal adjudication under Subpart T of the Commission’s rules.

A small claims complaint must:

  • State a section of the Shipping Act found in 46 USC Chapter 411 you allege was violated

  • Be properly signed and sworn or verified by using a notary public or making one of the statements below and signing the name afterward

    • If you are located in the United States: “I declare (or certify, verify or state) under penalty of perjury that the foregoing is true and correct.”

    • If you are located outside the United States: “I declare (or certify, verify or state) under penalty of perjury under the laws of the United States of America that the foregoing is true and correct.”

  • Be signed and dated

  • Include an original and two copies of the claim and supporting documentation

  • Be filed within three years from the time the cause of action accrued (i.e., the date the Shipping Act violation occurred)

  • Be mailed, with the appropriate filing fee to:

William Cody Secretary Federal Maritime Commission 800 N. Capitol St. N.W. Washington, DC 20573 How AP Tariffs Can Help You If you want file a Small Claims Complaint but not sure what to do and how to proceed, AP Tariffs offers FREE GUIDANCE of the best pathways for handling these complaints. Free consultations are available in both English and Spanish. Contact AP Tariffs today!

Pierre Larenas 305-610-2244 Mauricio Larenas 954-461-6152

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