Procedure when agency refuses to pay for translation at all
Thread poster: Astrid Elke Witte

Astrid Elke Witte  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 21:02
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
Oct 1, 2003

The problem of an agency refusing to pay for a translation I have done for them has recently occurred, for the first time, more than five years after I started translating regularly. I know this topic has been discussed before, but I never paid too much attention, as I thought it would not happen to me.

If I recall correctly, the general consensus is that they are at least supposed to send back the translation with their criticisms written on it, and specify what they find wrong with it - correct? Presumably a short simple e-mail, saying that they found a few typographical errors or whatever, does not serve as a legal basis for them to say (as they did): "We don't feel like paying, and we won't discuss it, and the matter ends there"!

The translation concerned was quite long too, and time-consuming. The customer was a new one, for whom I have never worked before.

Please could someone advise me.


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Marian Greenfield  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:02
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
You don't give enough details Oct 1, 2003

Astrid,

Morally, the agency is obligated to pay. Legally it may be, but you don't give enough details.

Did you sign a contract? If you did, the payment obligation depends on the terms of the contract.

If not, whether or not the agency is legally bound to pay very much depends on German the law of your country of residence and the law of the country where the agency is incorporated.

Even if the agency is bound by law to pay, good luck collecting if the agency is one of the "baddies".

Best of luck to you.
msg
Astrid Johnson wrote:

The problem of an agency refusing to pay for a translation I have done for them has recently occurred, for the first time, more than five years after I started translating regularly. I know this topic has been discussed before, but I never paid too much attention, as I thought it would not happen to me.

If I recall correctly, the general consensus is that they are at least supposed to send back the translation with their criticisms written on it, and specify what they find wrong with it - correct? Presumably a short simple e-mail, saying that they found a few typographical errors or whatever, does not serve as a legal basis for them to say (as they did): "We don't feel like paying, and we won't discuss it, and the matter ends there"!

The translation concerned was quite long too, and time-consuming. The customer was a new one, for whom I have never worked before.

Please could someone advise me.


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Astrid Elke Witte  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 21:02
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
More details Oct 1, 2003

Yes, I did sign a contract, but only to say that I promised to deliver the translation on time, and so on. There was no clause to say that they would not have to pay for the translation if they found a couple of typing errors in it due to the tight deadline they set.

I am in Germany, and the agency concerned is in Germany, so it would be German Law that applies.


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Suzanne Blangsted  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:02
Danish to English
+ ...
Payments Oct 1, 2003

I have usually given an agency 60 days to pay. When writing an invoice the first time, I at the bottom write 10% late fee charged on unpaid accounts past 60 days. Then after 60 days, if unpaid, I send a reminder invoice with the 10% added, and that usually gets a response either in payment right away but without the 10% surcharge, or "our check was returned, we will resend with the agreed upon amount" or "the check is in the mail", then I get the amount due but not with the 10% surcharge. I has worked for me. Otherwise, if you have a contract that agrees to paying you a certain amount of money for a certain amount of work that is not paid, use a collection agency. Find out what the collection agency will charge you to get the full amount you are due. Ask the collection agency to add their fee to the amount they need to collect. Good luck. Please enter your comments about that agency on the Blue Board. The agency gets the message from Proz, so they know others are going to be aware of their business practices.

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Ralf Lemster  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 21:02
English to German
+ ...
Werkvertrag Oct 2, 2003

Hi Astrid,
I'm not a lawyer, of course, but if I'm not mistaken, German civil law treats translations as contracts for work ("Werkvertrag"), where the contractually agreed performance (note that a contract exists even if none was signed) is only deemed to have been discharged upon acceptance by the principal. The relevant rules are laid down in sections 631 et seq. of the German Civil Code (BGB); in particular, the customer's rights in the event of faults are set out in section 634:

BGB §634 Rechte des Bestellers bei Mängeln

Ist das Werk mangelhaft, kann der Besteller, wenn die Voraussetzungen der folgenden Vorschriften vorliegen und soweit nicht ein anderes bestimmt ist,

1. nach § 635 Nacherfüllung verlangen,
2. nach § 637 den Mangel selbst beseitigen und Ersatz der erforderlichen Aufwendungen verlangen,
3. nach den §§ 636, 323 und 326 Abs. 5 von dem Vertrag zurücktreten oder nach § 638 die Vergütung mindern und
4. nach den §§ 636, 280, 281, 283 und 311a Schadensersatz oder nach § 284 Ersatz vergeblicher Aufwendungen verlangen.


The very least they need to do is to inform you, in detail, where they think your translation was faulty.

HTH - Ralf


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xxxMarc P  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:02
German to English
+ ...
Suggestions Oct 2, 2003

Here are a couple:

Please quote verbatim the agency's reasons for not paying. I for one would be interested to know exactly what they said. (There is no need at this stage to reveal the agency's identity here.)

Inform the agency that if it refuses to provide detailed reasons for not paying, you will be referring the matter to a professional association, theirs if they are a member of one, otherwise yours (I see you are a member of the IoL).

Marc


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Edward Potter  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:02
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Even if you are in Germany Oct 2, 2003

I say go right ahead and file the complaint in your home country. Anything to provoke some response out of your deadbeat. There are many advantages to doing this, even if in theory you could lose the case on a technicality. Indeed, you may win by default if your deadbeat does not show up on his assigned court date and your representative does. You would have an automatic decision in your favor. Even if you never collect, that winning case in your favor may prove to be valuable in several ways in the future.

Edward


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Astrid Elke Witte  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 21:02
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you Oct 3, 2003

Thank you all for your helpful advice. I am definitely going to do something about it now, since ten thousand words were involved. I will let you know whether I am successful.

Astrid


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Ralf Lemster  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 21:02
English to German
+ ...
Don't identify the agency here Oct 3, 2003

Just a reminder...
(There is no need at this stage to reveal the agency's identity here.)

...that the outsourcer should not be identified in the forum.

Thanks!
Ralf


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