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Can You Trust a Freight Forwarder?

Before I answer the question - Can you trust a freight forwarder? , you may want to know a bit about me and the companies that I represent.

My Name is Barry Birdsall. I am the Managing Director of Key Air & Sea Limited, an IATA cargo agent that I started in London, UK in 1986. I am also the founder of the European Freight Forwarders Association, which has been run as a non-profit making association from our offices since 1994 on a voluntary basis, with members around the world. I was a graduate member of the Institute of Freight Forwarders, until they passed all members to the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport and am currently a member of the CILT, as well as a member of the Institute of Directors. Key Air & Sea Limited is a member of BIFA the British International Freight Association. is owned by Key Air & Sea Limited

That is me, now back to the question - Can you trust a freight forwarder?

Firstly we should look at what you should look for and what protection it gives you, the customer.

If the freight agent deals in air freight are they an IATA cargo agent?

Agents that have achieved IATA status must have staff trained in handling dangerous goods and paid a yearly membership fee. That is it. 

If the agent chooses to be dishonest IATA will not get involved.

So you must get protection from the National Freight Association?

Wrong again

Although we have been members of BIFA and its predecessor the Institute of Freight Forwarders for over 20 years, we are well aware of the lack of protection they give to shippers and other freight forwarders (Members of BIFA), when one of their members decide not to play by the rules. Their primary aim is to protect members against claims (Through the Standard Trading Conditions), to supply training (Useful) and to keep members up to date on changes to Customs Regulations and to highlight issues (Through the monthly magazine). These are all useful to members and can benefit their customers if the freight agent wants to be professional, but if the agent chooses to be dishonest they gain credibility by being a member of a freight association. 

It is known in the industry that there are agents that will quote below the market price, only to take delivery of the cargo and then increase the charges. It appears that some then charge a cancellation fee, if you choose not to use them. This practice is dishonest and hurts both the shipper and other agents that choose to offer honest prices. If you choose to use one of these companies, what protection can you expect.

I can only comment on BIFA, as the UK representatives for Freight Forwarders, they have shown little interest when we as members have highlighted dishonest practices by other members. They seem to have no powers or no interest in expelling serial cheats from their membership.

The majority of BIFA members are probably good agents, but don't expect protection if they aren't.

How can you find a Freight Forwarder you can Trust - Does Google have the answer?

If you are prepared to do some research - Yes. (Maybe)

When we are quoting against an agent that we have not heard of we type - '(Their company name) complaints' into Google. There are a number of sites that will list any complaints received about a company, but be careful, these companies know they are being checked. If they have mainly bad reviews balanced out by excellent reviews. Are those excellent reviews real? They could be submitting their own reviews to make themselves look better.

How quickly things change. No sooner had this page gone live and one of the worst offenders has had their Google history cleaned taking with it a long list of complaints.

So Why Should You Trust Beat My Freight Quote?

We have not received a SINGLE complaint in all the time the site has been active and if we do in the future, we have a robust complaints procedure. 

So Can You Trust a Freight Forwarder?

Most freight forwarders rely on repeat business and it is in their best interest to give the client the best service. There are also those that have a large turnover of clients and just want to make as much money as they can and do not care about service. Choose badly and you will be changing your forwarder every shipment, choose well and you could have a freight agent for life.