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Shippers who have enjoyed a competitive advantage by reason of carriers' rates cannot be heard to complain of an order of the Interstate Commerce Commission, acquiesced in by the carriers, directing them so to readjust their rates as to do away with undue prejudice and preference. Nor can they be heard because the Commission, at the request of the carriers, has fixed rates which will remove the preference without a hearing or findings as to the reasonableness of either the old or new rates. The shippers' remedy, if the new rates are unreasonable or unjust, is the proceeding provided therefor by the Interstate Commerce Act.
After receiving complaints from the cotton warehouses and cotton processors that the railroad carriers were charging higher rates for shipping cotton from the same place of origin to places within certain cities than they did for wharves or riverside processors, the Commission issued an order directing the railroad carriers to cease charging the higher rates. The carriers, along with the shippers who later intervened in the action, sought an injunction from the district court restraining the implementation of the order. Although the district court initially granted the injunction, after a final hearing it dismissed the claims of the carriers and the shipper and dissolved the injunction. None of the carriers appealed from the decree. Acquiescing in the decision of the District Court, and in the order of the Commission, the railroads promptly established the prescribed rate adjustment. The present appeal was taken by Alexander Sprunt & Son, Inc., and those shippers and associations of shippers which had joined as co-plaintiffs in the bill filed by it. No stay of the decree pending the appeal was granted or sought, and no railroad was made a party to the proceedings on the appeal.
Could the shippers be permitted to maintain an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, notwithstanding the fact that the carriers have already acquiesced to the decision of the District Court?
The Court held that the shippers could not maintain an appeal upon the issue of undue preference. First, they lacked an independent standing. Second, because through the carriers' acquiescence, that issue had become moot. According to the Court, the fact that the shippers were economically disadvantaged by the shippers raising their rates did not give them a right to bring a legal claim. The Court noted that the Commission's order left the shippers free to demand allowances for transportation service performed by them under contract with the carriers and which properly should be performed by the carriers. Accordingly, the Court dismissed the shippers’ claims.