Examination of documents under LC

The principle of strict compliance is ruled by articles 14, 15 and 16 of the UCP 600. Article 14(a) obliges the bank to examine all documents stipulated in the credit to ascertain on the basis of the documents alone, whether or not they appear, on their face, to constitute a complying presentation. That is in compliance with the terms and conditions of the Credit. Compliance of the stipulated documents on their face with the terms and conditions of the credit shall be determined by international standard banking practice as reflected in the UCP 600. Therefore documents which appear on their face to be inconsistent with one another will be considered as not appearing on their face to be in compliance.

That standard is applicable only for stipulated documents; documents which are not stipulated will not be examined and shall be returned to presenter or be passed without responsibility. Banks shall have reasonable time for examination, not to exceed five banking days following the day of receipt of the documents, and for determination whether to take up the documents or to refuse payment. Banks will deem conditions as not stated and disregard them if a credit contains such conditions without stating the documents to be presented.

Banks, which can be the issuing bank, the nominated bank or the confirming bank, must determine of the documents alone whether or not they appear on their face to be in compliance with the terms or not. If they appear not to be in compliance, banks may refuse to take up the documents. The bank hereby has got latitude when judging, which it need because not every error leads to a rejection and many problems can be solved by communication between bank, applicant and beneficiary. But the bank is obliged to decide on its own. If the issuing bank determines documents to be not in compliance, it may in its sole judgment approach the applicant for a waiver of the discrepancies.

Article 16(f) rules that if the issuing or the confirming bank fail to act in accordance with the provisions provided for in Article 16, they shall be precluded from claiming that the documents are not in compliance with the terms and conditions of the credit.

The issuing bank and a confirming bank are not relieved from any of their obligations or provisions of article 16. Banker´s examination consists of three steps:

the completeness of the stipulated documents,
the compliance on their face and if they are in accordance with each other and
the terms and conditions of the letter of credit.

Documents are complete if all stipulated documents are presented and if each document contains the stipulated number of duplicates. The compliance ‘on their face’ means that there must not be obvious falsifications and errors. The documents are in accordance with each other if they do not contain contradictions.

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