The new edition of the British International Freight Association's (BIFA) Standard Trading Conditions (STC) will be launched on 1st October 2017. The terms were last revised in 2005.
The revised edition has been produced following an extensive review of the existing STC by the BIFA Legal and Insurance Policy Group, taking advice from solicitors with significant experience of the freight and logistics industry.
Although the current edition of the BIFA STC is still effective and well-balanced, the updated version will give BIFA members and their customers some helpful amendments and clarifications, says the trade association for UK freight forwarding and logistics companies.
Robert Keen, director general of BIFA says:
“Over time, in the same ways laws must change, so do contractual rights and obligations that flow from these changes and therefore it is essential to review any set of industry terms against changes in legislation and industry practice.”
Three clauses with the STC have undergone significant changes, including clause 17, which has been extended to take account of the SOLAS rules relating to verified gross mass (VGM) requirements. The revised terms provide a warranty from the customer that they are giving an accurate and actual verified gross mass of any container packed with packages and cargo items. This means that if the Member is legally responsible for provision of this information to the carrier, then it is able to pursue the customer, if the mass is not accurate, under the indemnity at clause 20 for any losses incurred as a result.
Clause 28, which covers the jurisdiction of any claim, has been amended so that any member can choose arbitration rather than litigation in order to deal with any dispute they may have with their customer. This improves the ability for members to pursue their customers in jurisdictions that may not give effect to an English law and jurisdiction clause in favour of English Courts, or may not have any reciprocal agreement in force with the United Kingdom regarding the enforcement of judgments.
Slight changes to the document include outdated wording being revised as well as the preamble and definitions being made tighter to reflect the new EU regulation number following the introduction of the Union Customs Code.
Additionally, the role of the direct representative has had a specific reinforcement. This issue has become more complex over the past year and there have been changes in trade such as the growth in fulfilment houses where there is no EU representative, whilst HMRC is demanding more detailed evidence of the status.
“The importance of BIFA members ensuring that their incorporation of the BIFA STC into their contracts with their customers is effective cannot be stressed enough.
“We have been notified of a couple of instances recently where a BIFA member took a customer to a county court only to have the BIFA STC set aside as it could not provide evidence to the court that the STC were effectively incorporated in the contract.
“This is something we address constantly with members and BIFA will be urging its members to check that they do everything they can to ensure their company has adopted the necessary steps in its good practice guide on this subject which is available on the BIFA website.”