back to article FedEx fed up playing box cop, sues Uncle Sam to make it stop: 'We do transportation, not law enforcement'

FedEx is suing the US government to escape the burden of policing packages (cough, cough, tech materials) sent abroad (ahem, ahem, China). The lawsuit, filed yesterday in US federal district court in Washington DC, seeks to prevent the Department of Commerce from enforcing prohibitions contained in the Export Administration …

  1. vtcodger Silver badge


    This will, of course, and inevitably, end up with the shipper signing a meaningless form declaring that the package is legal and contains no forbidden content. For EVERY DAMN BOX shipped from the US to anywhere outside the US. And that nonsense will be caused by the same people who complain endlessly about government red tape.

    Perhaps letting people who believe that government can't do anything right run the government is a flawed strategy.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Damn

      FedEx is a USAian corp so, that form will have to be signed for every damn box from anywhere in the world to anywhere in the world.

    2. Lee D Silver badge

      Re: Damn

      I've lost count of the number of "Gifts" I've bought myself from China.

      I seriously question my taste in gifts when it includes things like 0.1" pin-header jumpers, washing machine components, power supplies for obscure telephone systems, and office furniture.

      1. caffeine addict

        Re: Damn

        Wish, for no apparent reason, currently thinks I want to buy myself a gift of bondage apparatus. And it's slowly becoming more and more hardcore. There must be something I've bought that triggered a keyword. Either that or people who buy knock-off Lego are statistically more likely to be perverts...?

        1. DasWezel

          Re: Damn

          Youtube has recently taken to showing me adverts for period apps for Android so I can track my menstrual cycle.

          Not /entirely/ sure how that's relevant to me, partly since I don't recall searching for anything even vaguely related to the tracking of one's periods, but also because I lack all of the necessary internal plumbing.

          Bit of a long shot as ads go, I thought.

          1. Cynic_999

            Re: Damn


            Youtube has recently taken to showing me adverts for period apps for Android so I can track my menstrual cycle.


            Suddenly getting obviously inappropriate directed ads is often a sign that your account is being used by someone else. Maybe time you changed your password?

            1. Andy The Hat Silver badge

              Re: Damn

              Or the missus/mistress/daughter is using the same IP address and, of course, anyone using the same IP address is the same person so gets the same targeted ads ... as I have discovered

          2. CountCadaver Silver badge

            Re: Damn

            similar to the US chain who noted that a large proportion of those who bought a certain brand of lotion soon after started buying baby clothes, so it sent out emails and letters offering pregnancy tests, fertility tests, baby clothes etc, which then caused no end of grief for teenage girls who just happened to like the lotion.....

            1. Swarthy

              Re: Damn

              ...And even more grief for the teenage girls that weren't ready to break the news to their folks.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Damn

        Make up for it with shipments of Lepin. :)

    3. codejunky Silver badge

      Re: Damn


      "Perhaps letting people who believe that government can't do anything right run the government is a flawed strategy."

      It couldnt be much better if the people believing government can do everything right were running it. Look at their cast of nutters

    4. John Jennings

      Re: Damn

      You wont. There is no indemnity possible under EAR. No contract to sign. If a carrier breaches it, they are fined.

      This is what happens when a law is put in place for one purpose, but used for another. It kicks people in the arse in unexpected ways.

  2. chuckufarley Silver badge

    I don't even need remind you all that corporations have been the Fourth Branch of the US Government since early 2014:

    1. rcxb Silver badge

      Re: I don't even need

      Governments have deputized, directed the operation of, and completely taken over large private companies in wartime since the very earliest origins...

      1. chuckufarley Silver badge

        Re: I don't even need

        Oh, did the US Congress declare war? Because they are the only ones in the US Government with the power to declare war. Anything else isn't war. It's politics, fear mongering, doublespeak, FUD, the tail wagging the dog, or **anything besides war**. Period.

        Again. Period.

        If you have any logical arguments to make please do so. If not create a second account so you can down vote this civics lesson twice.

        1. Carpet Deal 'em
          Big Brother

          Re: I don't even need

          Some would say the currently active Authorizations for Military Force count as declarations of war. Granted, they're against completely unrelated countries, but since when has that ever stopped anybody?

        2. MJI Silver badge

          Re: I don't even need

          "again Period"

          Do you get menstrual cycle app adverts?

  3. JoMe


    FedEx already police shipments for other countries. For example, just looking at China, FedEx will not ship a total of over 50 items JUST for china - including to quote "Banned chemicals as listed in the List of Toxic Chemicals Banned or Severely Restricted in the P.R.C. (The First Group) published by the State Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA)" as well as "Printed matter, films, photos, records, audio and video tapes, VCDs, computer storage media and other commodities which are harmful to China's politics, economy, culture and/or ethics"

    FedEx are expected to do same for a large list of countries according to their website, some with more. So, if it's ok for China to have political based restrictions, why is it not ok for the US, which is basically home office to FedEx?

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Seriously?

      So Fedex are forced to obey the Chinese govt laws in china?

      Does that mean that they are spying on us and must be banned and their CEO arrested ?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Seriously?

        do, it, teach those Yankies a lesson.

      2. JoMe

        Re: Seriously?

        My point is that they already comply happily with laws EVERYWHERE. Every country has a set of both laws and rules - some based on nothing more than political gambits - that FedEx are required to comply with, some of those are political as my example suggests, some are fascist - again, as my example suggests. What I'm saying is that FedEx are actually doing this already, for other countries, on their demand. So what's new with the US demanding same?

    2. Jim Mitchell

      Re: Seriously?

      As I understand it, Fedex's complaint is that in most cases ( and countries ), if Fedex unknowingly transports a package, containing a banned/restricted type of good, Fedex is not on the hook for a massive fine.

      Unless you know that the China border operates otherwise.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Seriously?

        The great orange truth teller has explained that companies that are under thumb of (ie obey) Chinese law are a threat to national security

        1. codejunky Silver badge

          Re: Seriously?

          @Yet Another Anonymous coward

          "The great orange truth teller has explained that companies that are under thumb of (ie obey) Chinese law are a threat to national security"

          It is understandable paranoia. Apparently the US is run by russia according to the other lot.

      2. JoMe

        Re: Seriously?

        FedEx are happy to pay fines for things like failing hazmat controls and shipping illegal drugs for unlicensed online pharmacies....

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Seriously?

      At least they only refuse to take stuff on the official list, and dont make up their own entries, like the old hag at our local Post Office.

      She has refused so many parcels, and reported so many more as being over size when they weren't that the PO actually issued us an unasked for refund last year.

      BTW, dont ever send Chinese bank notes in the post to China, even small amounts ($/£20-£30), will cause the package to vanish.

    4. John Jennings

      Re: Seriously?

      Completely different - the original packages were not transitting through the US. at LEAST THAT WAS THE INTENTION.

      A courier has to comply with the local laws within which you transfer the goods - you cant post living things in most countries, for example. Or banned substances in most countries - including China. The choice of what is banned is the country the package is going to and from - not the transit countries (even if that is a 'accidental reroute' through the US.

      What is the problem for fedex is that they are handling post (in this case from Japan to China) and are still potentially going to get 'done' if they were to handle say an engineering sample between the same 2 contries.

    5. Cynic_999

      Re: Seriously?

      FedEx may well ban the shipment of many goods, but the point at issue is whether they would be punished if a customer sent a banned item without FedEx knowing about it.

  4. Bandikoto

    Too late, guys

    FedEx gleefully jumped on the "Just Say No" bandwagon when Nancy started to bang the drum against pot in the eighties.

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Too late, guys

      That's because it was cheap PR with no downside: it didn't really have to do anything. This is about reducing its potential liability. In practice, it's kind of difficult to see how the US can stop shipments that can easily be routed through other countries. This is why the US is prepared to abuse the banking system to enforce sanctions extra-territorially. The logical consequence of this, of course, is that at some point parallel banking systems will appear.

  5. Starace


    If you trust anything to the tender mercies of FedEx you probably don't care too much if it actually gets to the destination anyway.

    This is just a couple of new options on the 'why we messed up your delivery' randomiser.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Pah!

      awarded "Best Post" in this thread.

      1. hoola Silver badge

        Re: Pah!

        Nah, UkMail, the worst of the worst. Dpd are not much better and their list of banned contents gets longer every week. I think that every time some complains about a lost or damaged parcel they just add the contents to the banned list.

  6. ma1010

    It's ridiculous

    Really, what does our wonderful government expect from a shipper? To open every box and inspect it? If they find some sort of "computery-looking gadget" to either refuse it or perform some expensive check to see if this particular gadget is on the "forbidden" list? (Like your average person would know one from another.) Obviously, FedEx can not check every box any more than the customs people do. But then the government wants to fine FedEx if they somehow fail to intercept something forbidden (and got caught on some random check of some kind)? Sounds more like some kind of gambling game instead of a sensible policy.

    Vtcodger is right, unless the courts make the government see sense (good luck with that), then we'll end up with everyone who ships anything having to sign a paper of some kind so FedEx can at least say "We tried." Of course, nobody would ever LIE on that paperwork.

    Our government keeps making more and more stupid, unenforceable laws. Then reality comes along and shows that these laws can't be enforced. Then our rulers wonder why people have so little respect for government anymore.

    1. YetAnotherLocksmith Silver badge

      Re: It's ridiculous

      It's worse than that. You already sign a bit of paper to say what you're shipping isn't illegal. The problem for FedEx is that they still have to check! They can't say, "but we didn't know, that guy lied, take it up with him". Or they can, but it makes no difference, they still get prosecuted.

    2. Warm Braw

      Re: It's ridiculous

      what does our wonderful government expect from a shipper?

      If they have an actual plan, it would seem to be to drive up the cost of shipping to such an extent that it's uneconomic to send goods to China. But it's more likely they just haven't thought very hard. Or at all.

      1. iGNgnorr

        Re: It's ridiculous

        "If they have an actual plan, it would seem to be to drive up the cost of shipping to such an extent that it's uneconomic to send goods to China."

        Hmmm. I thought that the US govt's whole objective in all of this (security being the sideshow) was to ensure that *MORE* goods would be shipped from the US to China (and less goods shipped to the US from China.)

      2. wscull

        Re: It's ridiculous

        The US Govt has a plan? Thats a good one! Its not really a real government, with thousands of positions having gone unfilled. The only semblance of a plan is to destroy government as we know it and to sow as much chaos as possible - and the citizens and companies trying to make a living will pay the price, as this example shows.

  7. deevee

    hahahaa, karma, now US citizens need to use an offshore "reshipper" like all the rest of us outside the USA have had to use for years to buy goods from the USA.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    We do transportation, not law enforcement

    well, it's 2010s and the age of outsourcing. This includes excluding your work to make someone else do it and pay for it. That said, fedex shouldn't blame free market for coming up with this "cost optimization", and I'm pretty sure they have used outsourcing themselves, generously. The governments only copy the best solutions! ;)

  9. An nonymous Cowerd

    there are strange BGP reroutes going-on too at the document level,

    it is only 2% of FedEx business (1B$) going down the pan

    Russia is stirring it up, as usual!

    "PC Magazine ... tried to send a Huawei P30 smartphone from Britain to the United States. Tracking services revealed the shipment was returned to London after it spent several hours in Indianapolis"

  10. Peconet57

    FedEx is now the US Customs.

    Since when had FedEx become the US Customs?

    1. chivo243 Silver badge

      Re: FedEx is now the US Customs.

      Or the Immigration department. The package landed, was kicked around for a while, the put back on a plane and sent home with no lunch.

  11. JimmyPage Silver badge

    Fifth Amendment ? Seriously ?

    Doesn't the Constitution apply to citizens, not companies ?

    1. iGNgnorr

      Re: Fifth Amendment ? Seriously ?

      "Doesn't the Constitution apply to citizens, not companies?"

      You haven't been paying attention. As per various SCOTUS decisions, companies are people.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Fifth Amendment ? Seriously ?

        I'm still waiting for the first company merger to be declared a marriage - so it can bypass the FTC

      2. STOP_FORTH Silver badge

        Re: Fifth Amendment ? Seriously ?

        So did HPE traffic and then murder Autonomy? And now they are complaining about the dowry?

      3. DJO Silver badge

        Re: Fifth Amendment ? Seriously ?

        Which is odd, surely as "people" they should pay income tax on every cent they earn.

        1. Charles 9

          Re: Fifth Amendment ? Seriously ?

          What makes you think they actually "earned" anything? That's what lawyers are for.

  12. Claverhouse Silver badge

    Sadly, I predict the government will remain deaf.

  13. ExpatZ

    This has NOTHING to do with national security and everything to do with prosecuting an illegal trade war against China and providing state support for US businesses that don't need the protection.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      That's a relief - I assumed it was an evil plot to start a trade war to destroy American business. initially farmers and gas exporters but then any US technology monopolies, once China is forced create their own versions - and sell them to the world for cheap.

      If we are lucky tarrifs are really just a stealth VAT on stuff poor people buy from Walmart to fund tax cuts for billionaires

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Other stories you might like