FMC reforms aimed at household goods shipments
The U.S. Federal Maritime Commission on Wednesday unanimously approved a series of recommendations to prevent unfair, unlawful or deceptive practices in the shipping of household goods or personal property.
The FMC set up the investigation because of the substantial number of complaints from individuals who have experienced problems with shipping household goods internationally. From 2005 to 2009 the commission received more than 2,500 consumer complaints related to household goods.
The recommendations were developed by a fact-finding investigation led by Commissioner Michael A. Khouri.
The recommendations include:
' Better education of consumers through improved communication and outreach.
' Improving the consumer experience through the fostering of best practices and use of model forms.
' Protecting the consumer through strengthened partnerships with other government entities and private industry associations. For example the FMC said it would promote alternate dispute resolution processes, and establish a new and voluntary 'household goods participant program' for licensed non-vessel-operating common carriers, and establish a new NVO license category for ocean transportation intermediaries that operate solely in the so-called “barrel trades.”
The barrel trade is where individuals send small shipments of personal goods to relatives or friends in their home countries in Latin America and the Caribbean Basin on a semi-regular basis.
The FMC also approved an expedited process to allow more timely suspension of OTI activities that harm the public, and two recommended rulemaking projects to address abuses in the marketing and operation of OTIs.
Khouri said the FMC measures “will provide positive progress towards protecting the consumer in this area and support the commission's overall mission to protect the shipping public.”