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Complaints and Assistance


The FMC assists in resolving complaints and disputes related to ocean transportation activities. The table below provides links to access resources available at the FMC.

Type of AssistanceAssistance DescriptionContact Office
Submit comment or general inquiryAnswer general inquiries and route to the correct Commission Bureau or OfficeOffice of the Secretary
File formal complaintAssist with filing a formal complaint alleging a Shipping Act violationOffice of the Secretary
File small claims complaintAssist with filing a small claims complaint alleging a Shipping Act violation for claims of $50,000 or lessOffice of the Secretary
File charge complaint
Assist with filing a charge complaint
Bureau of Enforcement, Investigations, and Compliance  (BEIC)
Request dispute resolution servicesAssist with resolving ocean shipping and cruise disputes  Consumer Affairs and Dispute Resolution Services (CADRS)
Report noncompliance/ request an investigationAssist with reporting Shipping Act violations or other noncompliance Bureau of Enforcement, Investigations, and Compliance  (BEIC)


The FMC adjudicates complaints alleging violations of the laws it administers.

Formal Complaint

Any person may file a formal complaint to allege violations of the Shipping Act. The complaint must be sworn and verified, and if seeking reparations, must 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.

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 small claims officer for resolution using informal procedures (46 CFR Part 502 Subpart S).

Charge Complaint

Any person may submit a complaint about charges assessed by a common carrier that they believe may not comply with sections 41104(a) or  41102 of the Shipping Act as amended. Once received, a charge complaint will be investigated by the Bureau of Enforcement, Investigations, and Compliance and may result in a Commission decision requiring the carrier to refund or waive a noncompliant charge.

Additional Resources

Dispute Resolution Services

With no fees for services, the Office of Consumer Affairs and Dispute Resolution Services (CADRS) offers ombuds assistance to resolve challenges and disputes involving: Cargo Shipments, Household Goods Shipments, and Cruises.

Any person may request from the General Counsel a legal opinion on a discrete area of law not yet addressed by the Commission. Legal opinions usually result in a narrowly tailored response to a specific set of facts. A legal opinion from the General Counsel is not a judgment of the Commission and does not bind the Commission in any subsequent case. The General Counsel will not issue legal opinions on matters pending before the Commission, a court, or other tribunal. A request for a legal opinion should be made in writing, and should contain a detailed narrative of the specific facts or circumstances about which an opinion is requested.

Any request for a legal opinion should state whether the requestor has contacted any other branches of the Commission regarding the facts related to a discrete area of the law, not yet addressed by the Commission, for which an opinion is being requested.

Forms and Applications

Payment for FMC Services and Summary of Fees