Payment dispute with agency
Thread poster: Will Thornely
Will Thornely  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:30
French to English
Jan 28, 2010

Dear colleagues,

I have encountered a problem with an agency with which I have previously enjoyed a very positive working relationship.

They recently sent me feedback from an end client who has rejected the work I delivered to the agency and refuses to pay for it. The agency has told me that they, in turn, will not pay me for the rejected work, even though they have reiterated their satisfaction with the work that I deliver and their desire to pursue our working relationship.

As I understand it, my contract is with the agency, not the end client. Surely if the agency delivers to the end client, they are signalling their satisfaction with this work. I understand it is the agency's responsibility to guarantee the quality of the work they deliver to the end client. They gave me no hint that the work was not up to standard until it was rejected by the end client; nor have they given me the opportunity to make amendments to the files.

It seems to me that the end client wants to get some work done on the cheap, and is exploiting an area very much open to personal interpretation (see background below) in order to lodge a complaint. The agency is simply trying to pass the expense on to me.

My questions:

Has anybody else encountered a problem of this kind in the past, and if so can you offer any advice? Do I have a case against the agency, and if so, what is the best approach? Should I accept a reduced rate?
Any EU or UK legal references would be very much appreciated - I'm struggling!

Kind regards,

Will

----

(A bit of background: the project actually involves song transcriptions, and the end client has suddenly come down heavily on how many "o"'s there are in "Ooooh", how to spell "Whoooah" and if "pa-pa-pa-parties" is correct but "p-p-p-parties" incorrect. No guidelines were provided at the outset. Files I delivered last year, which contain identical potential flash-points, received no complaints.
Some of the end client's complaints are actually totally ungrounded (e.g. they have changed my file from a correct transcription to an incorrect transcription). I only discovered this after asking the agency to send me the rejected files including the end client's own changes, so I could go through the feedback myself. The agency I delivered to has clearly not even taken the time to assess the validity of the end client's complaints before deciding to withdraw my payment).


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PCovs
Denmark
Local time: 18:30
Member (2003)
English to Danish
+ ...
Ask for independent review Jan 29, 2010

Make your points known to the agency as you state them here (e.g. no instructions, complaints as to the pa-pa v p-p etc., and then ask for an independent review by a third party.

If this independent review turns out in your favour, this will show your agency that they should be paying you, and then the agency must take up the fight with the end client. This part has nothing to do with you.

I guess all agencies would automatically attempt to make the translator take on such a loss (who wouldn't), but in my opinion you have a very good case if you get an independent reviewer who backs your claims.

Good luck.


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 18:30
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Demand an independent review by a certified translator Jan 29, 2010

What follows is just my opinion.

Indeed your agreement is with the agency and not the end customer. If the end customer does not pay, that is not your problem. You should be paid.

You should demand either full payment or that an independent review by a certified translator is done on a sample of your work as the base for further discussion. If the certified translator agrees that your work is in line with what was requested (i.e. the exact instructions and background information you were given for the job), you should be paid in full.

This independent review should be paid by the agency, who is the main bearer of the risk in this job. If the independent review by a certified translator proves that the translation was correct for the expectations expressed by the end customer, the end customer should pay the full amount or be taken to court about it.

If the independent reviewer reports that your job was not adequate, you should reach an agreement with the agency to reduce your charges.


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nordiste  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 18:30
English to French
+ ...
possible help from translators' association Jan 29, 2010

I don't know if you are a member of a professional transaltors' association and what it has to offer in such a case.
Here in France for instance the SFT can provide help with independant review and some kind of arbitration, if both parties agree with this procedure.

Of course a review comes with a cost.


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Caryl Swift  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 18:30
Polish to English
+ ...
Can I just check something? Jan 29, 2010

Hi, Will,

I'm sorry to hear about your troubles

Will, can I just check something here? In your description of the background to the current dispute, you wrote:

the project actually involves song transcriptions


So the whole issue is about whether you have transcribed the lyrics 'correctly', rather than whether or not you've translated them 'correctly', is that right?

Best regards,
Caryl


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Laurent KRAULAND  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 18:30
French to German
+ ...
Main point Jan 29, 2010

Will Thornely wrote:
The agency I delivered to has clearly not even taken the time to assess the validity of the end client's complaints before deciding to withdraw my payment).

This is the agency's "sin", which never can be justified AFAIAC. I would go with the colleagues and demand an arbitration, especially as you have worked previously for this client without any kind of complaints. And I would seek legal advice. Given the attitude of the client (it is even worse as the agency seems to back them up), those guys will not give in before they get hit in the face by an attorney.

[Edited at 2010-01-29 09:03 GMT]


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Will Thornely  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:30
French to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you Jan 29, 2010

Thanks you all very much for your suggestions.

I had not considered the idea of an independent arbitration or review, because the agency had already delivered my work to the end client without asking for any changes to be made in advance. That (to me) indicates they were happy with the quality, and should therefore pay. Maybe the arbitration/review is a fair and conciliatory way to take things forward, though. It will probably cost me more than I am currently set to lose out on, but I feel it is worth fighting on principle.

Caryl, yes, the whole issue regards the quality of the transcription.

Nordiste, I will look into the SFT's procedure, as the agency in question is in France - thanks for the tip!


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 18:30
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
A review, or demand a full payment Jan 30, 2010

Will Thornely wrote:
I had not considered the idea of an independent arbitration or review, because the agency had already delivered my work to the end client without asking for any changes to be made in advance. That (to me) indicates they were happy with the quality, and should therefore pay.

Not necessarily. Agencies cannot have internal reviewers for every language pair, and trust their freelancers' professionalism in the jobs they outsource. Defects could be experienced later on in the process, when the end customer receives the job.

I still think that suggesting an independent review, and --if they don't want the review-- demand a full payment is the way to go.


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Yelena Pestereva  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 20:30
English to Russian
+ ...
2 nordiste: Feb 1, 2010

Do you know that the picture you use is an illustration to a famous Russian fairy-tale? Do you know its contents?

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Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 18:30
English to Croatian
+ ...
A,B,C,D, E ... Feb 1, 2010


Will Thornely wrote:the whole issue regards the quality of the transcription.



Perhaps just refer them to the English alphabet for six-year olds (the child song)?

[Edited at 2010-02-01 13:08 GMT]


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xxxEve Wongrave
English to Greek
+ ...
sorry, but you can't do anything Feb 1, 2010

I'm really sorry for what happened to you. Same thing happened to me three years ago by an American agency. They even told me that they sued their client, because they didn't pay them, but I really doubt so. I addressed my case to debt collections agencies and they did nothing.

Worst part? As the translation was of a website, I found about a year later my translation uploaded.

The only thing I could have done was file a suit, but it would cost too much money and time. Even though the amount was approx 1,000 Euros, I quit.


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Will Thornely  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:30
French to English
TOPIC STARTER
Agency contact is now out of office Feb 2, 2010

I'm sorry to hear your story Eve. I'm dealing with nowhere near that amount of money, but the situation really rankles nevertheless.

Us freelancers seem to be a bit at the mercy of agencies/clients.

Anyway after sending my carefully written (and very time-consuming!) e-mail to my client, it bounced back with an OoO message. Ah well, the suspense continues...


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Jacques DP  Identity Verified
Switzerland
Local time: 18:30
Member (2003)
English to French
The agency should first provide their own grounds for refusal Feb 3, 2010

Since your only client is the agency, they should provide their own grounds for refusal. The fact that their client refused the translation is unfortunate, but ultimately it's none of your business, and there may be many reasons for this which have nothing to do with you. The agency should provide themselves to you linguistic grounds for their refusal.

If they do, and you don't agree, then an independent review is in order. It will decide whether their claims are true or false and settle the issue.

If they say that to them your transcription is fine but since the client refused it they can't pay you, then that's very unprofessional of them, and you need to explain to them that they can't do that, make them feel responsible towards you and get them to pay. Seeking an independent review while the agency is happy with your work would mean you are trying to convince the end client; this is not something I would get into, as you have no business relationship with the end client, and it will shift the responsibility from the agency to you.


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