Question: My wife and I lost our jobs during the peak of Covid-19 and decided to move back to our home country. We packed our belongings of 28 years and hired a cargo service to ship them to two destinations. We paid Dh18,000 upfront. One of the shipments is yet to reach its destination as the agent is seeking more money through a sub-agent in the destination country. We have not been given a valid explanation as to why the additional money needs to be paid. The other shipment had many items damaged. What are my legal options here? Who do I complain to?
Answer: Pursuant to your queries, as you have sent your belongings to two destinations by cargo service company the provisions of Federal Law No. (18) of 1993 Issuing the Commercial Transactions Law of the UAE (the ‘Commercial Transactions Law), the provisions of Federal Law No.5 of 1985 on the Civil Transactions Law of the UAE (the ‘Civil Transactions Law’) and the provisions of Federal Law No. 15 of 2020 on Consumer Protection (the ‘Consumer Protection Law’) are applicable.
In the UAE, it is the responsibility of the cargo service company to issue a bill of lading and/or a receipt to its customers along with terms of conditions pertaining to delivery of cargo/shipments. This is in accordance with Article 284 of the Commercial Transactions Law, which states, “1. The consignor may require the carrier to hand him a copy of the bill of lading.
2. Where no bill of lading is issued, the consignor may require the carrier to give him a receipt signed by this latter evidencing the receipt of the thing carried. Such receipt has to be dated and must include sufficient particulars to identify the thing carried and the freight charges.”
Based on the aforementioned provision of law, if the terms and conditions mentioned on the receipt issued to you by the cargo service company do not mention that you need to pay any additional amount on delivery then it is the responsibility of the cargo service company to delivery your belongings without seeking any additional payment.
However, if the terms and conditions mentioned on the receipt issued to you, mentions that the additional charges must be paid by you on delivery (as a recipient of your belongings), then you are liable to pay the cargo service company the relevant charges. This is in accordance with Article 299 of the Commercial Transactions Law, which states, “The consignor shall pay to the carrier the freight charges and the other costs that may accrue, save where it is agreed that they are borne by the recipient, in which case, both the consignor and the recipient shall be jointly liable to pay them to the carrier.”
It is the responsibility of the cargo service company to deliver your belongings without any delay and without causing any damages. In case of damage, delay and non-delivery of your belongings the cargo service company are liable for the same. This is in accordance with Article 304(1) of the Commercial Transactions Law, which states, “From the moment the carrier receives the thing to be carried, it shall be liable for its total or partial loss, deterioration and the delay in delivery.”
In the event you feel that the cargo service company has not performed its responsibilities, you may claim compensation for non-performance of the contract. This is in accordance with Article 386 of the Civil Transactions Law, which states, “When the specific performance by the debtor is impossible, he will be condemned to pay damages for non-performance of his obligation, unless he establishes that the impossibility of performance arose from a cause beyond his control. The same principle applies if the debtor is late in the performance of his obligation.”
Further, it is the responsibility of the service providing companies in the UAE to perform the terms and conditions agreed with the customers and in the event of non-performance to refund the amount to the customers or fulfil the terms of the contract with the customers. This is in accordance with Article 12 of the Consumer Protection Law, which states: “In the event that a malfunction is found in the goods or service, the supplier shall repair or replace the same, return the goods and refund its price, or re-perform the service without charge, in accordance with what is specified by the implementing regulation of this Law.”
Article 24 of the Consumer Protection Law allows the consumer right to claim compensation against the damages sustained by him as a result of using the services of an entity in the UAE. The provision of the law reads as “The Consumer's right to claim compensation
1- The Consumer shall have the right to claim compensation for personal or material damages sustained by him as a result of using the Good or Service, in accordance with the legislation in force in the State, and any agreement to the contrary shall be null and void.
2- Damages resulting from the product’s misuse or use contrary to the method of use are excluded from the provisions of clause (1) of this article.”
Based on the aforementioned provisions of law, it is recommended that you approach the consumer protection department based in the economic development department of the respective emirate from where you had booked the shipments and file a complaint against the cargo service company.
The concerned economic development department may summon the cargo service company and may settle the matter amicably between you and the cargo service company.
However, if there is no amicable settlement between you and the cargo service company in the economic development department then you may file a civil claim against the cargo service company at a court of competent jurisdiction in the UAE.
Ashish Mehta is the founder and Managing Partner of Ashish Mehta & Associates. He is qualified to practise law in Dubai, the United Kingdom and India. Full details of his firm on: www.amalawyers.com. Readers may e-mail their questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org or send them to Legal View, Khaleej Times, PO Box 11243, Dubai.
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