Can the customer offset claims for non-exchanged pallets against claims for transportation wages, and can he keep a pallet account?

When a carrier regularly acts as a subcontractor for large shippers with significant market power, disputes often arise over non-exchanged pallets or alleged negative balances in pallet accounts. It is common for alleged claims for non-exchanged pallets to be offset against carrier’s freight claims. In such a situation, it is often not easy for carriers to enforce their legitimate claims.

Can the customer claim compensation for pallets that were non-exchanged?

In general, the carrier is not obliged to exchange pallets. However, the situation is different if the exchange obligation has been agreed upon in the transport order. Transport orders submitted via freight exchanges often contain only a general reference to the exchange obligation. The terms of pallet exchange are specified only in the separately sent transport order. So that inconveniences can be avoided, the transport order and the general terms and conditions of trade should be checked before final acceptance and execution of the transport, and the driver should be informed about it.

Since there are a variety of arrangements in this regard, it is necessary to consider on a case-by-case basis whether the exchange obligation is fair or whether the carrier is unduly disadvantaged by the obligation. Undue disadvantage may arise, for example, in the case of an obligation to return exchange pallets without the customer having to pay for return transportation. Since there are many forms of exchange obligations, it is not possible to define generally in which cases it has been effectively concluded. In Germany, there are no regulations that provide for an obligation on the part of the carrier. Jurisprudence in this regard refers only to individual cases and is not uniform.

Can the consumer maintain a pallet account?

Maintaining a pallet account usually requires a contract between the consumer and the carrier, which sets out the terms and conditions of the pallet exchange and the pallet account. Such agreements are often included in framework agreements. However, it is also possible for consumers to maintain a pallet account even in the absence of a separate agreement between the parties. In such cases, it is important whether the carrier has been informed of the pallet account maintenance at all and whether the customer has regularly informed the carrier of the status of the pallet account. If he has received regular pallet account balance notifications, he is aware that the customer maintains such an account.Failure to respond to balance notices sent by the customer may be interpreted as implicit acceptance of the account and its accuracy. Therefore, it is important to respond promptly to such notices from the customer. Unjustified pallet claims should be rejected immediately. If the customer provides information irregularly, at long intervals, or after the business relationship has ended, these claims should be declined and the account cleared and legitimate freight claims paid.

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