I own a wholesale import business (LLC); and have contracted with a freight forwarder to handle the customs, ocean cargo transportation
and brokerage services. In July, 2012 my Vietnamese manufacturer notified me of faulty work as they were loading the container for shipping. With the assistance of my freight forwarder, we stopped shipment so the faulty product could be removed from the shipment. This action resulted in additional port fees to which all parties agreed to. The manufacturer agreed to accept financial responsibility for the charges associated with removing and reloading the container due to their work. To my knowledge and their confirmation, they did pay for fees assessed to them by the port.
The Vietnamese port assessed additional charges above those paid by the manufacturer, to my freight forwarder; they in turn invoiced these charges to me instead of the Vietnamese manufacturer, I suspect because the freight forwarder did not have a direct business relationship with the manufacturer.
I had agreed to liaison between the manufacturer and the freight forwarder, but I have not received a separate invoice in which to approach the manufacturer with, on behalf of the freight forwarder.
At my request, the freight forwarder has itemized all charges and has assigned financial responsible of each charge (either my company or the manufacturer). I promptly paid my portion of the excess charges. There remains a balance owed of approximately $1,100 to the freight forwarder by the Vietnamese manufacturer.
I had one conversation with the freight forwarders accounting department about 3 months ago regarding the outstanding invoice, and I articulated again my willingness to approach the manufacturer on their behalf, and stated I did not believe I was legally obligated to pay the balance of an invoice on behalf of a company not affiliated with ours.
Yesterday, I received a call from a third-party collection agency regarding the balance of this invoice. I requested, again, an invoice for the outstanding balance so that I may approach the manufacturer on their behalf. The collector said he would obtain and fax this to me. I have not received this yet.
I am a responsible business owner, pay my obligations promptly so I am not very familiar with the collection process and what issues escalate to legal suit. I am a little confused why my initial position to help connect the freight forwarder with the manufacturer was not only met with no response for 3 months, but resulted in a call from a collections agency. I’m not sure how to interpret or manage this.
I have two questions: (1) am I responsible for paying this outstanding invoice? (2) Can the freight forwarder sue me for the amount owed by another company, and is my position strong?