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Household Goods and Personal Property Shipping Practices Recommendations Approved by FMC

May 12, 2011

NR 11-09

Contact: Karen V. Gregory, Secretary (202-523-5725)

At its meeting on May 11, 2011, the Federal Maritime Commission unanimously approved for action a series of recommendations contained in the Final Report for Fact Finding Investigation No. 27. The Commission initiated this non-adjudicatory investigation on June 23, 2010, to develop a record on the nature, scope, and frequency of potentially unfair, unlawful, or deceptive practices in the shipping of household goods or personal property within the Commission's jurisdiction.

Each year, the FMC receives a substantial number of complaints from individuals who have experienced problems with shipping their household goods internationally. Between 2005 and 2009, the Commission received over 2,500 consumer complaints related to household goods moving companies transporting personal effects and vehicles between various locations in the United States and foreign destinations. Typical complaints include failure to deliver cargo, damage or loss of goods, significant delay in delivery, inflated charges after the common carrier has picked up the goods, cargo held hostage until inflated charges are paid, and charges for insurance that was never obtained.

Commissioner Michael A. Khouri, the Fact Finding Officer, presented the Team’s conclusions and recommendations. The recommendations approved by the Commission fall into three categories:

1. Educating the consumer through improved information materials available to the public, enhanced website content, leveraging social media technology, enhancing local community outreach, increasing FMC visibility on the internet, and enhancing web linkage by the licensed and registered OTI community.

2. Improving the consumer experience through the fostering of Best Practices and use of Model Forms, and developing Commission Guidance Letters.

3. Protecting the consumer through strengthened partnerships with other government entities and private industry associations, promoting alternate dispute resolution processes, establishing a new and voluntary "Household Goods Participant Program" for licensed Non-Vessel-Operating Common Carriers (NVOCCs), establishing a new NVOCC license category for OTIs that operate solely in the Barrel Trades, 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.

The Commission also voted to make the Final Report for Fact Finding No. 27 available to the public.

Commissioner Khouri said, "The problems encountered by consumers in the international shipment of household goods and personal property are varied and multifaceted. The measures adopted by the Commission will provide positive progress towards protecting the consumer in this area and support the Commission’s overall mission to protect the shipping public."

Chairman Richard A. Lidinsky, Jr. said, "The excellent public report and recommendations by Commissioner Khouri and his team shine a bright light on shady practices in international household goods shipping. I look forward to working closely with Commissioner Khouri and our team to implement these action items on behalf of American consumers."

Members of the public who would like assistance shipping their household goods overseas can use the Commission’s website to find a licensed or registered NVOCC or licensed freight forwarder. Never give your property or money to an ocean transportation intermediary who does not have a valid FMC-issued license or registration.

The Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) is the independent federal agency responsible for regulating the nation’s international ocean transportation for the benefit of exporters, importers, and the American consumer. The FMC’s mission is to foster a fair, efficient, and reliable international ocean transportation system while protecting the public from unfair and deceptive practices.