Requiring a translator to submit an invoice within a certain number of days
Thread poster: Amel Abdullah

Amel Abdullah  Identity Verified
Jordan
Arabic to English
+ ...
Sep 2, 2013

After reading the following thread, I was wondering how many people have experienced an agency telling them to submit their invoices within a certain period of time:

http://www.proz.com/forum/business_issues/255352-nother_round_of_juicy_clauses_share_what_ya_got.html

I have recently done some work for an agency that asks its translators to submit an invoice within 5 business days of completing a project. This is not always possible for me as I usually take care of my invoicing at a time that is convenient for me, usually at the beginning or end of the month.

My question is:

If I send the invoice "late," does the agency have the right to penalize me in any way? As far as I can tell, there are no penalty clauses in the contract, but it concerns me that this language even exists.

And while we're on the subject, can you ever (legally speaking) lose your right to a payment if you send an invoice too late? If so, what is the limit?


 

Srini Venkataraman
United States
Local time: 05:01
Member (2012)
Tamil to English
+ ...
No penalty but Sep 2, 2013

Recently I had done a job for UK based company for the first time. The invoice is to be sent on 1st Aug. I sent on 5th, so I was paid on 30 Aug instead of in the first week itself. So the result is delayed payment. Similarly those with 30 days or 45 days condition, the payment gets delayed by as many days of delay in submission.

 

Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 12:01
English to Polish
+ ...
Complicated Sep 2, 2013

Amel, your answer depends totally on the business law of the applicable jurisdiction, along with judicial interpretations. It would thus be very difficult to give you a straight answer without studying the relevant regime. The rules, though, generally tend to be that what you sign binds you pretty much as if it were normal law; exceptions happen when a particular rule of business law is deemed to belong to ius cogens, i.e. cannot be altered by private contracts. Thus, unless the relevant law prevents a stipulation to that effect which would alter the default rules, you will simply be bound by what you sign.

Also, contracts are made to bind you, not to replicate whatever is the default solution under the law. You are asked to sign things precisely to make them the rule between you and your client, not because they already are so.icon_smile.gif


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 11:01
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Interesting questions, Amel Sep 2, 2013

Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz wrote:
Amel, your answer depends totally on the business law of the applicable jurisdiction

Whose jurisdiction though, Łukasz? Would it be the supplier's or the client's? I often wonder that.
[quote]The rules, though, generally tend to be that what you sign binds you pretty much as if it were normal law; exceptions happen when a particular rule of business law is deemed to belong to ius cogens, i.e. cannot be altered by private contracts. Thus, unless the relevant law prevents a stipulation to that effect which would alter the default rules, you will simply be bound by what you sign.
I believe there's another exception: you can sign that you agree to a clause but it can subsequently be found by a court to be abusive and therefore unenforceable. I had a court decide that once (many years ago) when I'd very stupidly signed a contract without reading it carefully and thinking through the consequences.icon_frown.gif

@Amel. I doubt that you ever totally lose your right to your pay, but your right to demand the money in a court of law from a client who can't/won't pay must diminish after a while, mustn't it? I mean, if you were prepared to wait for two years to invoice the client...


 

José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 07:01
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Out of logic, it makes sense Sep 2, 2013

The agency will be delivering the job ASAP, and wants to make sure they have the correct and final figure to bill the client forthwith.

Sometimes - however not always - that figure will have been agreed at the very outset. However sometimes the word count was estimated. And yet sometimes a per-word rate is agreed on the target word count, e.g. because the original was handwritten, a scanned PDF, whatever.

No sensible business wants to invoice their clients unsure on their actual and accurate costs. No business likes to have to issue a supplemental invoice because it actually cost more than they had invoiced at first.

On interpreting jobs, extra costs are even more likely. Envision this... "The foreign lecturer arrived three hours late, on account of a delayed flight, so I had to wait there, and stay longer than expected. They agreed to cover the overtime charges." Or perhaps this one... "The visitor could not exchange currency to pay the hotel on checking out, so I (the interpreter) paid it with my credit card. I have their signed agreement to add that to our bill."

While an e-mail stating the final amount would cover these purposes, since an invoice will have to be issued anyway, they are entitled to know the exact final figure before invoicing the client.

As soon as we deliver our job, we often get switched from that nice PM to the often not-so-nice accounts payable officer. Perhaps that not-so-niceness isn't privy to outside vendors, so the agency want accounts payable to have all the paperwork completed, to prevent blame (e.g. the nice PM having a translator who refuses work on account of past due invoices) from being thrown back.


 

Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 12:01
English to Polish
+ ...
Depends on the case Sep 2, 2013

Sheila Wilson wrote:

Whose jurisdiction though, Łukasz? Would it be the supplier's or the client's? I often wonder that.


That depends on a bunch of things, including who's suing whom and where, where the contract was (physically or interpretively) signed and more. Things are easier within the EU than in the general international market.

I believe there's another exception: you can sign that you agree to a clause but it can subsequently be found by a court to be abusive and therefore unenforceable.


Yeah, that's a special form of what I said, basically. There are certain rules in contract law wchich are absolutely imperative and a private contract can't override them. In some countries there are also estoppels that void some clauses on moral grounds. But those are risky to rely on, especially between business parties.

I had a court decide that once (many years ago) when I'd very stupidly signed a contract without reading it carefully and thinking through the consequences.icon_frown.gif


That's a good think the court bailed you out, Sheila. These days ethics are much more diluted and have cheapened anyway, so I wouldn't look forward to that too much. Even strictly legal protections are losing popularity with courts at this day and age, forget ethical estoppels.

My guess would be that a court should generally strike any clause which enables non-payment due to late invoicing when the very claim for compensation itself has not yet run prescription. Similarly, any huge deductions that don't in any way reflect anything close to real expenses incurred by the agency in processing a late invoice should also found themselves on the wrong side of the court's pleasure.

On the other hand, agencies sometimes do incur costs in processing a late invoice, for example due to needing a monthly statement to be reopened, which means recalculation, new filings, new fees for the bookies. For small jobs that can be worth more than the invoice itself.

José Henrique Lamensdorf wrote:

The agency will be delivering the job ASAP, and wants to make sure they have the correct and final figure to bill the client forthwith.


Especially in some rare instances where the outsourcer actually re-invoices the client for the translator's invoice. A law firm would do that, for example.

[Edited at 2013-09-02 13:05 GMT]


 

Neil Coffey  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:01
French to English
+ ...
A contract judged unreasonable can potentially be overruled Sep 2, 2013

Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz wrote:
The rules, though, generally tend to be that what you sign binds you pretty much as if it were normal law


I'm fairly sure that in the UK at least, if it came to arbitration, a judge has the power to overrule a condition (and indeed annul an entire contract) deemed to be unreasonable in the first place. I suspect that in the UK, a client would have difficulty actually enforcing a rule about not accepting invoices after 5 days if it actually came to it.

But... why bother agreeing to such nonsense in the first place?


 

Clarisa Moraña  Identity Verified
Argentina
Local time: 07:01
Member (2002)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Not an issue for me Sep 2, 2013

All I want is that the agency pays me, thus if the translation agency prefers me to submit them the invoice within five days, I do that, regardless of my personal preferences.

Regards

Clarisa

[Edited at 2013-09-02 16:40 GMT]


 

Kay Denney  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 12:01
Member (Apr 2018)
French to English
invoicing Sep 3, 2013

During my time as a (very nice) PM, my experience was that the sooner the translator billed, the less chance there was of the accountant coming to moan about a problem in the invoice. Invoicing while the project is still fresh in your mind means you don't overlook time spent doing whatever stupid extras the client may have demanded, such as extra little bits of text requiring a lot of thought that were added after you totted up the word count, or time wasted having to reformat the text because of pdf issues. And if the client disputes your wordcount, you don't have to wade through weeks of old e-mails to check which file was attached when they sent the mail with "absolute final text approved for translation" in the subject line.

Funnily enough, the absolutely best translators I had the privilege to work with always attached their invoice when delivering the translation. I'm not saying that your translations will improve if you start invoicing each job upon completion, of courseicon_biggrin.gif


 

matt robinson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 12:01
Member (2010)
Spanish to English
If it helps with speedy payment... Sep 3, 2013

...I will invoice at any time of the month.
In fact I often find that the reverse of this case is true; that agencies want a single invoice at the end of the month. This is not usually a way to get up to 30 days interest-free credit, although this may be a consequence (and the reason in the case of larger agencies). It is in reality usually connected with the employment of end-of-month admin staff specifically to deal with invoices. Obviously if they are not there all month then time limits have to be set. Then the choice is yours; meet the deadline or expect late payment. If the invoice is really that important then 5 minutes out of a busy schedule is not too much to ask.


 

Amel Abdullah  Identity Verified
Jordan
Arabic to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you for your opinions... Sep 3, 2013

Thanks to those who have offered input on this issue. Although I can see the advantages of invoicing quickly, my point is that one should not be forced to do so. With this company, for example, I did three small jobs within the span of two weeks. Each time I finished a job, I did not know that another job would be offered to me in another few days, so I ended up sending three invoices when one invoice would have been sufficient in normal circumstances. And, although I am still interested in working with this company, I also wanted to make sure that they could not penalize me for sending an invoice according to my own schedule. I understand that I might miss the usual payment cycle and receive my payment late, but it would be upsetting to find that they were, for example, able to deduct a late-fee or withhold payment altogether. In general, it is an excellent company with excellent payment practices, but this is really the first time I have encountered a "rule" concerning when I send my own invoice...and this is what also made me wonder if there is any legal limit after which an invoice might become void. Obviously, it would be foolish to wait too long to send an invoice, but there are certain circumstances that might make it necessary in some cases.

 

Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 12:01
English to Polish
+ ...
... Sep 3, 2013

Neil Coffey wrote:

Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz wrote:
The rules, though, generally tend to be that what you sign binds you pretty much as if it were normal law


I'm fairly sure that in the UK at least, if it came to arbitration, a judge has the power to overrule a condition (and indeed annul an entire contract) deemed to be unreasonable in the first place. I suspect that in the UK, a client would have difficulty actually enforcing a rule about not accepting invoices after 5 days if it actually came to it.

But... why bother agreeing to such nonsense in the first place?


Yes, Neil, I provided a couple of examples where that could happen. Perhaps I went too far into the legalese. Here are the typical situations in which a contractual clause may be rejected by the court:

– conflict with a hard and fast legal rule that can't be dispensed with by mutual agreement,
– conflict with public morality, gross imbalance or some other ethical concern,
– force, fraud etc.

#1 will sometimes include self-defeating contracts, and grossly unreasonable clauses may fall under #1-2, but a court will not step in to guarantee fair balance or anything of the sort (which some people think courts do). Depending on the jurisdiction and especially its traditional balance of strict law vs equity the court's reluctance or eagerness to intervene may differ from place to place, but it goes back to Roman law that laws are made for prudent people. The same goes for contracts – which means that terms which merely favour the agency more than reasonable would not likely be set aside by a court of law, perhaps not even a British court that's used to all sorts of estoppels to smack down on underhanded parties. Really, really, translators should be more aware of what they sign. I'm going to have a presentation on this at the conference on 30 September. Perhaps you'd like to drop by?

[Edited at 2013-09-03 16:43 GMT]


 


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