A Freight Forwarder and Customs Agent were Absolved from Responsibility for a Delay in the Releasing of a Shipment
Recently, a judgment was given by the Rehovot Small Claims Court, relating to the responsibility of an international freight forwarder and a customs agent when goods were delayed in the port due to inadequate handling before the Standards Institute of Israel.
The importer claimed that there was a delay in the release of the shipment, which was caused by the international freight forwarder and customs agent’s negligence in their handling before the Standards Institute of Israel; but the court ruled that the international freight forwarder and the customs agent acted properly as reasonable professionals, and rejected the claim.
The Case Facts and Parties’ Claims:
In the aforementioned case, the importer hired the services of an international freight forwarder for the import of a shipping container. The shipping container reached Israel, but was delayed in the port and transported to storage due to delayed handling before the Standards Institute of Israel. The importer claimed that the goods were transferred to storage without his knowledge and consent, and that this delay caused him damages which include storage fees, damage to goods and additional expenses totaling 18,000 NIS. Consequently the importer filed a claim to the Small Claims Court. The importer added and claimed that he does not have experience in the import of containers.
The freight forwarder claimed that according to the terms of the agreement between the importer and himself, with the arrival of the shipping container to Israel, in fact, the forwarder’s commitment has ended, and for the continuing handling and releasing of the shipping container from the port, the freight forwarder hired the services of a customs agent. In order for the customs agent to act and release the shipping container, a power of attorney was sent to the importer, which enabled the customs agent to act in the name of the importer before the Standards Institute of Israel, regarding a problem relating to the marking of the shipment.
According to the freight forwarder, the power of attorney was sent to the importer, but despite repeated attempts by the freight forwarder and the customs agent, the two were unable to contact the importer; this resulted in, according to the importer, delayed handling before the Standards Institute of Israel, thus for this handling the customs agent was required to provide a power of attorney on behalf of the importer.
Also after receiving the importer’s approval, due to the holiday season which occurred at that time and an additional delay which was caused during the Standards Institute of Israel’s examination, the shipping container remained in storage and was not released.
According to the freight forwarder, the importer was informed the entire time on the consequences of a delay in the release of the shipping container, and he was also notified of the fact that the shipping container was transferred to storage.
The Court’s Verdict:
The court rejected the importer’s claim and determined that it was not proven that the freight forwarder and the customs agent acted unreasonably. In addition, the court determined that indeed the charge delivered to the importer is relatively high, but in respect of the conditions of the offer provided to him by the forwarder, there were no irregularities.
In regards to the storage fees, the court determined that the forwarder does not bear responsibility, as the delay was caused by the importer not providing the power of attorney and by the reexamination of the Standards Institute of Israel. In addition, the court also took into consideration that the freight forwarder and customs agent acted to release the shipping container from the port.
In the aforementioned circumstances, the court abstained from imposing legal expenses on the importer, despite the fact that his claim was rejected.
This verdict might teach us that even a new importer, who is not acquainted with the import field and is assisted by professionals, cannot blindly relay on the professionals, without being involved in the process.
When an importer hires the services of a customs agent and/or an international freight forwarder, in order to prevent certain malfunctions as described in the verdict, the importer must examine and be in ongoing contact with the professionals; thus in order to confirm that the import and release process is performed smoothly, therefore preventing a situation in which he will have to pay charges not caused by his fault.
Ref: Small Claim (Rehovot Magistrates Court) 12118-12-1, verdict given on May 20th 2014, Justice Groves