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Non-paying agency - war...
Thread poster: Austra Muizniece

Austra Muizniece  Identity Verified
Latvia
Local time: 20:52
Member (2004)
English to Latvian
+ ...
Nov 17, 2004

Hi everyone,

Tried posting this in another section,but looks like there are some technical problems, doesn't work out.

I have been chasing a belgian translation agency since May 2004 when I sent in 7 invoices. (FYI-all the jobs were done in the same month therefore I had no reason for suspicion,my only mistake was not checking BB-wasn't aware of its existence back then) Since both I and my project manager left our full time jobs and that slowed down the communication process, I gave them a bit more extra time to process the payment. Well, guess what, after some 100 e-mails, phone calls, etc. I still haven't received the
payment or any explanations about non-payment. I was very persistent, while still polite, and kept sending them reminders and hoping to sort the situation out in a peaceful way. 2 weeks ago I got a phone call from an over-friendly PM saying the payment would be done the next day. No surprises-of course, there were no changes in my bank account the next day or the next week and they again would not respond to reminders.

My next step was sending a final reminder, declaring "warfare" - I informed them about the measures I would take - post on all the payment practice lists, hire a debt collecting agency, even if I have to pay for that myself, and some other methods. The very same day I get a response from the director (I though I must be seeing things-I couldn't even reach anyone with a post higher than secretary by phone). He declares that he doesn't feel as if
they've missed any obligations (very interesting opinion, I must say-turns out that payment for services rendered is not an obligation) and that the quality of my translations has been low (I received only positive remarks from the company during the cooperation period)- I guess they consider that to be a valid argument 7 months after the job. They declared they'd inform other agencies and clients about my low quality translations and spoil my reputation as a translator. The director started blackmailing me, saying that he'd only pay if I remove my roZ.com report on them. I let him know that it would be higly unethical to remove the posting just to receive their payment and I said the only thing I would do is add some information about the final payment (if that happens). I stated that the whole thing was a matter of my principles, not survival or non-survival due to their payments, so they backed off a little, I guess, they understood I would not stand on my ears just to get the payment.

However, my question is this: I assume I have really started a war and I'd like to know how it could backfire on me-are there any translator blue boards out there? How much do the agencies exchange with information?

I suppose it's good that they already have a horrible reputation, so I am hoping their accusations about me would be taken with a grain of salt.

Oh, one more thing - I'd me very thankful if anyone could recommend a debt collection agency in Belgium. What would be the documents required to prove the debt - I have POs and e-mails stating the project amounts and prices, but I do not have a contract with this company. However, as far as I've heard, e-mails might constitute evidence as well,though the email is not considered to be a document, at least not in all countries.

Any thoughts on this?






[Edited at 2004-11-17 13:25]


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Harry Bornemann  Identity Verified
Mexico
English to German
+ ...
Use law, not war Nov 17, 2004

You seem to be sure of your point, so you can contact a lawyer in Belgium and let him help you. His costs will finally have to be paid by the one loosing the litigation, whereas a debt collection agency will take your money, anyway.

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Hans G. Liepert  Identity Verified
Switzerland
Local time: 19:52
English to German
+ ...
Go to court! Nov 17, 2004

austra muizniece wrote:

I guess they consider that to be a valid argument 7 months after the job.

I assume I have really started a war and I'd like to know how it could backfire on me-are there any translator blue boards out there? How much do the agencies exchange with information?



It seems you have drawn one of these agencies which believe, in the states of the former USSR people still live on potatoes, bread and tea.
My advice: You never wait 7 months for payment - you go to court after 2 reminders and/or 2 months.
I agree with Harry that a collecting agent means a further reduction - at least 25% of the invoice amount or a fixed minimum fee, both are actually not recoverable.

And don't be afraid of being blacklisted - that doesn't happen in real live.

Good luck!

Hans

[Edited at 2004-11-17 14:17]


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Francesca moletta
Italy
Local time: 19:52
English to Italian
+ ...
debt collection agency vs lawyer Nov 17, 2004

Harry_B wrote:

You seem to be sure of your point, so you can contact a lawyer in Belgium and let him help you. His costs will finally have to be paid by the one loosing the litigation, whereas a debt collection agency will take your money, anyway.



Hello

I have the same problem as Austra!
Therefore I'm quite interested in Harry's quote, because I'm planning to take legal action against this agency if they don't pay in 2 or 3 weeks. That's why I'd like to have more info on debt collection in Belgium; particularly as far as debt collection agency vs lawyer is concerned.

Suggestions from colleagues based in Belgium are particularly welcomed.

Thanks a lot


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Harry Bornemann  Identity Verified
Mexico
English to German
+ ...
the full sequence Nov 17, 2004

mollyf wrote:
..because I'm planning to take legal action..

Usually you don't have to go through the full sequence below,
but this is the theoretical procedure:

First you ask a lawyer to help you, he will contact your client and advise you. Then you continue with a court order and/or similar/supplemental steps. Let the lawyer do all of the formalities work if you are sure you will win the litigation. When you had a successful litigation and still can't get the money via bailiff, then it is time to ask a debt collection agency - although, I've been told that some housewives are much more effective in pestering bad debtors than most collection agencies would be.


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xxxTadzio
English to Spanish
Ask for help to your Embassy in Belgium... Nov 17, 2004

Hi Austra,
Before you begin to spend money on lawyers and debt collection agencies, visit this website: http://www.am.gov.lv/en/ministry/mission/?lv=1&org=BEL
That's the site of your country's Embassy in Belgium. Try to contact any of the Honorary Consuls, explain your claim, and ask for help.
I've done this with my own Embassy in a couple of countries, and they have helped me to get my payment immediately for free. All done by email.
Maybe you'll be as lucky as I was.
Best wishes,
Tadzio.


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Austra Muizniece  Identity Verified
Latvia
Local time: 20:52
Member (2004)
English to Latvian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
housewives and the like Nov 17, 2004

LOL, i liked that part...I can't exactly call myself a housewife since I am not exactly a wife,but I do work from home mostly. I think some people might have misunderstood my posting - I tried to give the original background of the issue so that my actions made sense, but I do believe I'll get the money. The main issue was the agency's threat to publish information on me. So I was wondering if that is possible and if it is, how would that affect my reputation,taken in the account that the agency is a known non-payer. I also kept the option of debt collection open-my intuition might say whatever it feels like:) but there is always a chance of not getting the money...

Harry_B wrote:

When you had a successful litigation and still can't get the money via bailiff, then it is time to ask a debt collection agency - although, I've been told that some housewives are much more effective in pestering bad debtors than most collection agencies would be.


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Derek Gill Franßen  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 19:52
German to English
+ ...
Who cares what they think? Nov 17, 2004

I am not personally aware of any lists of translators, but do you really care what they think? After taking a look at the blue board on this site, it seems to me that one bad evaluation is not enough to ruin the reputation of a "truly good" agency - the same must apply to translators (IMHO). I wouldn't worry about it so much; it sounds like bluffing to me (giving you a taste of your own medicine, so to say).

As far as the money is concerned, I can only agree with Harry and Hans - NEVER WAIT THAT LONG! To be honest, if - after the second reminder - nothing happens, they won't take any additional reminders or threats seriously; it's kind of like the story of the boy who cried wolf.

If you are sure about the quality of your translation (and even if you're not), you should definitely contact an attorney. In many cases, a letter from an attorney is enough (for them to KNOW that you are serious about getting paid for your work).

Take all 100 emails and letters, the contract and any other correspondance with you - don't be surprised if the lawyer kind of turns white and slowly shakes his head, he'll get over it. These are the kinds of cases, in which insurance can come in handy - you might have to pay the attorney a retainer for his services. If you are successful, these costs will (most likely) be borne by the other party and you'll get your money back. THIS IS NOT MEANT AS LEGAL ADVICE - CONSULT AN ATTORNEY YOU TRUST.

Good luck!


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Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 20:52
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
Find out the financial situation of the other party Nov 17, 2004

There are some "agencies" which have already gone bancrupt and should be out of business, but still take on assignments. In such a case you won't get any money no matter how far you take your case. Otherwise take a lawer. Dept collectors in Germany take a fixed amount for their services, at least in Germany. Usually less than 50 Euro. It varies.
Up till now the thread of leaving things to a dept collector always worked for me.


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Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 18:52
Flemish to English
+ ...
Just like Belgium II Nov 17, 2004

A debt collection agency: http://www.intrum.be
It seems to me that the EU guideline with regard to late payments which has been "translated" into national law in the Member-States is there just for the beauty of the words. Almost four years after its publication, most of the Belgians, the French, the Italians and the Spaniards still pay after 60-90 or more days where it should be 30days EU-WIDE or you are entitled to add the interest-rate of the ECB + a% to your invoice.
--
On http://www.vandenhaute.com (lawyers),there was a link to the implementation of http://europa.eu.int/comm/enterprise/regulation/late_payments
(status of transpostion)--
Complaining about quality or about typos is a classical tactic not to have to pay or to lower payment.
Looking for needles in haystacks a fortnight or more after delivery of the job is one of the "old tricks" in this profession. If they cannot find needles, they will look for formatting errors etc... Stick to your P.O. and conditions agreed upon before you started with the translation.
Since when does the owner knows Latvian? He or she has to rely on the quality of the work of the editor, who revised your translation. Agencies are not the only source of work. Hence, if the owner passes your name to other Belgian agencies, so what. The world is bigger than Belgium. If you want to be paid on time, don't work for Belgium.
Legally, in Belgium a debt has to be obtained at the door of person of the person, who owes you payment. It does not have to be brought to you.
You could threaten to go to the end-client (I'll bet you translated a part of a "call for tender") directly if you did not receive your payment.
Everybody is free to try to obtain clients in whatever country, but countries to avoid are Belgium, France, Italy and Spain unless you want to wait 60-90 days for your money.


[Edited at 2004-11-17 22:37]


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Clarisa Morales
English to Spanish
Debta - International Debt Collection Nov 18, 2004

Hello.

I've also heard of this international debt collection called Debta, www.debta.com, which works completely free of charge. They accept even small accounts. I got a mail from them stating this:

:: Mail ::

Most freelance translators today have problems with clients who doesn't pay their invoices. If you don't collect them you’ve practically worked for free, and lost a large amount of time and money. What you need is a professional debt collection agency. Send your unpaid invoices to us, and we'll get them paid for you.

Our debt collection service is free of charge for you. You don't pay anything when submitting invoices for collection. Debta will though add the compulsory company collection fee to your original invoices when sending the debt demands to the debtor - which the debtor will pay, not you.

Unlike other agencies, the recovered money is sent directly to you, not to the collection agency. Debta does not interfere with your cash flow. At other debt collecting agencies, the debtor normally sends your money to the agency, and the agency keeps half.

Every freelance translator should stay in contact with a collection agency. Being a freelance translator is tough in this kind of competitive business, and even tougher when the customers don't pay for the work you've done.

Please visit our web site and read more about how we’ll proceed if you want professional help with collecting your unpaid invoices on www.debta.com

Best regards

DEBTA – International Debt Collection Agency
info@debta.com
www.debta.com

:: End Mail ::

I hope this could be of any help.


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Anneken
Local time: 19:52
French to Dutch
+ ...
Don't worry about a translator blacklist... Nov 18, 2004

... it simply does not exist!

Do you really think agencies will spend time contacting their competitors in order to inform them about their experiences with some translator? If anything, they will shut up about the good ones (good quality at reasonable rates) and speak about those who delivered poor quality or those who apply high rates. Never forget that translators are the most important asset of a translation agency, so they tend to keep this kind of information to themselves... After all, without translators who deliver quality work, they can say bye bye to their business...

And by the way, not all is bad in Belgium (nor France or Spain for that matter). Being Belgian myself I have worked 99% for Belgian, French and Spanish companies over the past 6 years of my freelancing carreer and I have never suffered a loss due to an unpaid invoice. It is true that some of them (let's say 40%) pay at 60 days or later, but at least they are consistent, which means that you can count on them to pay at the date that was set out when accepting the job, which is more than I can say for quite a few other companies that promise to pay within 30 days and that simply change the agreement one sidedly by paying after 60 days or even longer, without any explication whatsoever. So please don't start starting and accusing 'countries', but try to look at this in a case per case perspective. The BB and other agency black lists have kept me out of 'trouble' over the past years, so I would recommend anyone to consult them before accepting a job from a new customer.


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Austra Muizniece  Identity Verified
Latvia
Local time: 20:52
Member (2004)
English to Latvian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
unbelievable - payment received Nov 18, 2004

checked my account today and found that the payment has been done! I think i'll publish a manual "365 hints about dealing with xxx agency":). It "only" took a half a year...

Threats really did work...

Thanks everyone for the comments and help.

[Edited at 2004-11-18 11:39]


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