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An investigation into allegations that MSC wrongly billed D&D charges has raised claims that the carrier may not be alone in such practices.

The FMC’s audit of detention and demurrage charges from 2021 was part of its investigation into claims MSC had misapplied reefer rates to non-operating reefer shipments, and was also charging parties, including brokers, forwarders and hauliers, that had no contract with the carrier.

Executive director of the US Agriculture Transportation Coalition (AgTC) Peter Friedmann wrote on LinkedIn: “The FMC asks why MSC is billing brokers instead of contracted shippers. The strong FMC message is ‘don’t, it violates law and regulations’.

“Brokers around the US are saying ‘thank you FMC’ – and it’s not just MSC, plenty of carriers are doing the same, and it needs to stop.”

According to claims in court documents, MSC interprets those on the “notify party list” – brokers, forwarders and hauliers – as “merchants”, and the allegation is that the carrier uses this interpretation to legitimise invoicing third parties for daily D&D fees, according to its bill of lading terms, unless the shipper has confirmed “in writing” it should receive the invoices.

The AgTC also claimed carriers were also requiring final delivery locations be provided, without which further D&D fees would be billed, which, the AgTC said, was resulting in “a lot of labour costs”, and that “some of the carriers also require notification when the container is unloaded, under threat of detention”.

Mr Friedmann told The Loadstar: “We really need the FMC to publish new guidelines addressing the ‘Merchant Clause’ and reasonable and fair procedures.”

He said the AgTC was calling for a ban on carriers billing non-contracted parties, including brokers, forwarders and hauliers, for D&D.

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