January 18, 2017

Timing For When You Should Commence to Pursue a Claim?

By: Tom Oliveri

The best time to commence a potential claim is when you first become aware of a problem with a shipment. Never put a problem load on the back burner, keep it front and center at all times. Problem files unfortunately do not go away by themselves, they can become more complicated and possibly compromised if they are not addressed and acted upon immediately.  It could be either a potential truck claim or dispute with a customer, whichever the case, the situation needs to be addressed immediately. This may be accomplished by merely documenting a telephone conversation by sending a timely email to confirm your position. There’s a saying that tends to be true “the one that has the most documentation wins the dispute”.  I happen to agree with this and encourage you to document your telephone calls and any agreements you make with your customers. Remember, if it is not documented, it never happened.

I have linked a pervious blog for you to review to aid you with asking the right questions Arrival Inspection Check List

What if your invoice is paid short, do you immediately pursue a claim against your customer? Unfortunately, there are times where your buyer will remit less than the original invoice amount by taking an unauthorized deduction from your invoice. 

If there is no dispute, follow these steps:

  1. Immediately contact your buyer seeking the full balance due.
  2. Explain to your buyer that no deduction was ever granted and that you expect immediate payment of the balance due.
  3. Very important! Confirm all conversations by email
  4.  Also consider issuing a balance due invoice. 

I have always stressed that you should be diligent about having an internal process so you have an ongoing record of buyers who consistently short pay your invoices.  Ask yourself, “Are these the type of customers I want as partners?”  While these customers may be volume buyers or have other possible attributes, they will typically cost your company money in the long run.

If after you have made every attempt to settle directly with your customer regarding a dispute or no pay situation please remember that if you wish to file a Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act (PACA) complaint, you have nine (9) months from the time your customer accepted the product. Unfortunately, I have had a number of shippers contact me over the last year seeking assistance in collecting and filing PACA complaints only to determine that the nine month statute of limitations has expired. I therefore recommend, to avoid situations like this, if you have not resolved the dispute in a few months, it’s time to pursue payment through the assistance of the PACA. This is also a time for Western Grower’s regular members to contact me to assist in contacting the buyer on the disputed transaction. 

In summary, fully document every transaction, if there is a dispute act quickly to resolve it, do not ignore it, and know your time limits in which to pursue a proper claim.

If you are a regular member of Western Growers and have a claim or dispute that you are not exactly sure what your next step should be, please give me a call. It should only take a few minutes for us to go over the situation, whether it’s to review an inspection or any situation that could be problematic. Many of the regular member shippers you know utilize WG’s Trade Practices and Commodity Services (TPCS), so if you are a regular member, we are here to help you, your company, and ultimately your growers. You can email me at TommyO@wga.com or call me at (949) 885-2269.