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Outsourcer brings up new conditions
Thread poster: Heinrich Pesch

Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 19:50
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
Sep 8, 2014

During last month I delivered two translations to an agency from an olive producing country. After I sent my invoice End of Month the PM orders me to submit the invoice via their Plunet system. We had exchanged a dozen mails and she had issued two POs, but never mentioned any Plunet.
Our contact was established via Proz.com mail system.
Today the manager sent me some forms for me to sign in order he can set me up in his Plunet, so I could submit my invoice. I asked them a few times already if they will pay my invoice or not, but no answer to that question.
What do you think about this business practice?

[Bearbeitet am 2014-09-08 10:06 GMT]


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 17:50
Member (2007)
English
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It's a trend, that's for sure Sep 8, 2014

AFAIK they have received an invoice and can't just ignore it. If you can prove they contracted you to do the work, and you did it, they have to pay you. Their own system is of secondary importance. But I suppose it's best to meet them halfway. After all, we should always help our clients to pay us.

I have a couple of clients who insist I don't need to send an invoice. They say their own systems suffice. I beg to disagree: each one receives my invoice. I don't prevent them using their system but I'm not going to let them stop me keeping control of my business.


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Woodstock  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 18:50
German to English
+ ...
Hard to make a judgement Sep 8, 2014

It sounds as if they just started using Plunet and are trying to set it up and include recent jobs - could that be? The PM may not have known about it or was not very clear on what that meant to the work flow. Frankly, I like working with customers who use Plunet because the system generates the invoices, and I don't have to waste time writing them myself - just check them and insert my invoice number! The files to be translated and completed ones are uploaded and downloaded through the Plunet system, and so far I haven't experienced any problems with it.

Give the PM a little time, s/he may be somewhat confused by how Plunet works and doesn't know how to answer your question. However, the client seems to be doing a pretty poor job of explaining it to the people who should know about it - the translator! It could be they need your data to register the invoice in the system and pay you, so I think it should be fine to comply with their request. Then if the payment is not forthcoming as you expect, follow up on it at that point. It seems to me they need to get used to using their new system right now.

Edited to add:

Or they could be completely incompetent about what Plunet is good for. In that case you may reconsider working for that client again.



PS: Naturally, I save copies (in Word and as PDFs) of the client-generated invoices to my regular invoice folder for tax purposes.

[Edited at 2014-09-09 08:20 GMT]


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Pierret Adrien  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 01:50
Chinese to French
+ ...
The best way to go Sep 9, 2014

Sheila Wilson wrote:

AFAIK they have received an invoice and can't just ignore it. If you can prove they contracted you to do the work, and you did it, they have to pay you. Their own system is of secondary importance. But I suppose it's best to meet them halfway. After all, we should always help our clients to pay us..


Exactly. I believe this is the best way to go. I will agree to go through whatever system a client uses (although I had some obnoxious experiences in the past), but I always insist on sending an e-mail and that a confirmation should be returned to me. Because that's a universal-ish form of proof and agreement, with no technical excuse to be pulled out of a magic hat.

[Edited at 2014-09-09 02:54 GMT]


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Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 18:50
English to Polish
+ ...
Awkward, weird, tiresome and bad Sep 10, 2014

Heinrich Pesch wrote:

During last month I delivered two translations to an agency from an olive producing country. After I sent my invoice End of Month the PM orders me to submit the invoice via their Plunet system. We had exchanged a dozen mails and she had issued two POs, but never mentioned any Plunet.
Our contact was established via Proz.com mail system.
Today the manager sent me some forms for me to sign in order he can set me up in his Plunet, so I could submit my invoice. I asked them a few times already if they will pay my invoice or not, but no answer to that question.
What do you think about this business practice?

[Bearbeitet am 2014-09-08 10:06 GMT]


Agencies enjoy total control of all aspects, and they enjoy the use of all-encompassing IT systems, including especially anything that's more or less customized to their own company. That's just how it goes with corporations and small companies that act like corporations.

In any case, they can't force that on you. A buyer cannot dictate the mode in which the seller is to prepare and submit his invoice in order to get paid. Besides, payment is due for a service under a contract, not for an invoice.


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 18:50
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
I'm sure he does not think of it that way Sep 10, 2014

Heinrich Pesch wrote:
Outsourcer brings up new conditions


Although I agree with you that this is a "condition", I'm sure the client does not think of it that way. It is simply the way they decided to make invoicing easier "for everybody".

I've never used the Plunet system, but from what I can tell from their own web site it shouldn't interfere too much with your work. All you have to do is enter your invoice number and double-check the amount, and click "Submit". The invoice that you made yourself you can keep for your own records (since presumably the invoice that you made for yourself complies with local regulatory requirements, and theirs does not). Don't think of the invoice on their system as an invoice, but think of it as a statement in which you "accept" or "acknowledge" the job details on their system.

Some of the systems that I use with agencies require me to upload my invoice to them whereas others want me to "create" an invoice on their system, some of them require the invoice in a specific format but others only require that the invoice contain specific information. In cases where they require my invoice in a specific format, I simply create an invoice in their format and paste it at the bottom of my usual invoice format. In cases where I'm supposed to create an invoice on their system, I create an invoice locally using my own format, but simply don't send it (since the invoice on their system is the one that they'll pay).

After I sent my invoice End of Month the PM orders me to submit the invoice via their Plunet system.


If you do not wish to use this system, use it now, to get paid, and then tell the client that you no longer want to work for them (and try to remember them).

Legally, I suppose you're in the right.

Today the manager sent me some forms for me to sign in order he can set me up in his Plunet, so I could submit my invoice.


Yep, a classic case. The agency sends you the NDA or contract or whatnot only *after* you've done the job, and refuse to pay unless you sign it. Simply explain to the agency that you won't sign it and that they still owe you the money. If it's an honest firm, they'll budge.

I asked them a few times already if they will pay my invoice or not, but no answer to that question.


Do they even understand your question? Or are you asking the right person?


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dianaft  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:50
Member (2013)
German to English
+ ...
No issue with plunet Sep 11, 2014

Samuel Murray wrote:

In cases where I'm supposed to create an invoice on their system, I create an invoice locally using my own format, but simply don't send it (since the invoice on their system is the one that they'll pay).


One of my clients uses plunet and the invoices generated through plunet include all sorts of details that I wouldn't normally include in an invoice. For instance, I don't discount fuzzies. The plunet-generated invoice specifies each fuzzie-band with word count and price, so I assume that this outsourcer has a fuzzie agreement with other translators. It also specifies the file format and the number of documents that belong to a project.

I both download this invoice and create a corresponding one in my standard format in my system, which I don't send. This allows me to track the invoice and payment.

OK, it costs me 2 minutes extra to log in and click a button. However, I'm somewhat relieved that they've worked out all those extra details and only ask me to click a button. They probably need all that additional information for their own system, and I really don't want to write invoices like that myself.

[Edited at 2014-09-11 11:04 GMT]


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Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 19:50
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Issue hopefully solved Sep 11, 2014

After all the manager promised to pay my invoice and I in return sent him my details on his form, but the other documents I promised to fill in if later something new comes up.

I was angry because first the agency approached me informally and had an acceptable BB record. Only after I sent my invoice they started to become difficult.

I have one customer where the payments have to be approved by the freelancer without sending any invoice, but that's ok if I know it in advance and can decide to go with it or not. In this case I would not have accepted the job offer in the first place if they had me sign lots of documents.


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 17:50
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
What's the impact on litigation? Sep 11, 2014

dianaft wrote:
I both download this invoice and create a corresponding one in my standard format in my system, which I don't send. This allows me to track the invoice and payment.

This is just one of several times lately that I've heard of people not sending invoices to clients. If it's such a common practice, maybe I'm just being a pedantic old woman (I probably am, anyway) but I worry about the consequences should the worst come to the worst and you need to take the client to court for non-payment.

Doesn't the fact that you never sent an invoice have a negative impact on your rights to sue? I don't imagine that it helps at all that you can show one from your records, if you can't display any proof of ever sending it. If you're just relying on the company to pay on the basis of their own records, is there actually a case to answer? Can you ever claim non-payment?

Unless someone can convince me that I'm worrying needlessly, I'll continue issuing an invoice for every piece of work I do. OK, I sometimes accompany it with an email that says "This invoice is for your records only, in support of your xxx (whatever they call it), N° nnn, dated dd/mm/yy." But it gets sent.

@Heinrich: Pleased to hear that you're getting this agency into line. I wonder if they'll be good clients in the future? You never know.


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dianaft  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:50
Member (2013)
German to English
+ ...
But the client has the generated invoice Sep 11, 2014

Sheila Wilson wrote:

dianaft wrote:
I both download this invoice and create a corresponding one in my standard format in my system, which I don't send. This allows me to track the invoice and payment.

This is just one of several times lately that I've heard of people not sending invoices to clients. If it's such a common practice, maybe I'm just being a pedantic old woman (I probably am, anyway) but I worry about the consequences should the worst come to the worst and you need to take the client to court for non-payment.

Doesn't the fact that you never sent an invoice have a negative impact on your rights to sue? I don't imagine that it helps at all that you can show one from your records, if you can't display any proof of ever sending it. If you're just relying on the company to pay on the basis of their own records, is there actually a case to answer? Can you ever claim non-payment?

Unless someone can convince me that I'm worrying needlessly, I'll continue issuing an invoice for every piece of work I do. OK, I sometimes accompany it with an email that says "This invoice is for your records only, in support of your xxx (whatever they call it), N° nnn, dated dd/mm/yy." But it gets sent.

@Heinrich: Pleased to hear that you're getting this agency into line. I wonder if they'll be good clients in the future? You never know.


This second invoice is only to fit into my system, so that it highlights any late payments etc. I'm not good at keeping on top of that by myself, so I need to feed it into my system.

The proper invoice is the one generated by plunet. It is generated through a "PO flip", so it simply converts the PO into an invoice. I already have the PO, so this invoice corresponds to it. It states the clients' invoice number and I enter my invoice number. I download it and receive a confirmation email. This is all the paperwork I need. But I can't track it automatically. I need a dummy in my system, otherwise I would never notice if I didn't get paid.

[Edited at 2014-09-11 15:08 GMT]


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Charlie Bavington  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:50
French to English
Self-billing Sep 11, 2014

Sheila Wilson wrote:

This is just one of several times lately that I've heard of people not sending invoices to clients.

First time I had to translate a self-billing agreement, my reaction was very much, "What? People agree to this?". But it seems to work

Doesn't the fact that you never sent an invoice have a negative impact on your rights to sue? I don't imagine that it helps at all that you can show one from your records, if you can't display any proof of ever sending it. If you're just relying on the company to pay on the basis of their own records, is there actually a case to answer? Can you ever claim non-payment?

As I imagine you know, the contract exists once the parties agree on what both sides have agreed to do, by whatever means they see fit. The agreement itself does not have to be on paper. The party that has agreed to pay the other party to do something is therefore aware of the contractual obligation to pay from the moment that something is done.

Now, a paper trail is always advisable, for the avoidance of doubt, as it were. But AFAIK, is not in or of itself a compulsory part of contract formation (in any jurisdiction I know about - England, France & Belgium, basically), and therefore an invoice does not in or of itself create the obligation on the customer to pay. That obligation existed already.

Two provisos: VAT legislation is more demanding, and in B2B transactions usually requires an invoice to be raised, not least to be explicit about the figures and actual VAT liability to the state, which is not a party to the original contract. The recent move towards reducing B2B payment times actually sets a fairly low (read: vague) standard in terms of when a customer is said to be "aware" of the fact they owe money to a supplier - an invoice is useful in this regard as a definite point at which the clock can start to run.

But to revert back to your original point - the client owes the supplier if a contract is formed and the supplier performs its obligations under it. End of story.


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 17:50
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
@ dianaft & Charlie Sep 11, 2014

We know they have to pay, and I'm sure the client does, too. We can certainly prove that we were instructed to do the work, and we can prove delivery of the work and its implied acceptance (a rejection not having been received).

But it's those crucial bits of information that are found on the invoice that I worry about: invoice number and date; payment due date; payment method details; totals inc/exc taxes; statutory declarations about taxes etc. With them missing, I'd feel I was losing control of an important part of the process. If their own document doesn't state payment due date, for example, how sure can we be that we can insist on being paid by a particular date? The same applies to method - can they suddenly take it into their heads to pay by a different method? When everything works according to plan there's no problem, but we all know that can change, even with previously reliable clients.

Those are my concerns regarding rights to payment. I also have concerns regarding taxation. I don't actually speak the language of the country where I live so I have to rely on what my accountant tells me in Spanglish. But it seems as though the Spanish tax authorities insist on an invoice with a unique, sequential number for every job, with the key words in Spanish (though fortunately not the job description etc). Would I be complying with my own country's business legislation if I fail to provide this? Or would moneys coming into my account not backed up by a matching invoice be somehow suspect?

I suppose I can see that it might work within your own country, if your country authorises it. But I really see it as a dangerous practice across national borders, and even more so where the language is different. We're always in danger nowadays of being put under suspicion of money laundering etc. Not issuing an invoice seems to me to be asking for problems.


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dianaft  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:50
Member (2013)
German to English
+ ...
The generated invoice states all the blurb Sep 11, 2014

Sheila Wilson wrote:

We know they have to pay, and I'm sure the client does, too. We can certainly prove that we were instructed to do the work, and we can prove delivery of the work and its implied acceptance (a rejection not having been received).

But it's those crucial bits of information that are found on the invoice that I worry about: invoice number and date; payment due date; payment method details; totals inc/exc taxes; statutory declarations about taxes etc. With them missing, I'd feel I was losing control of an important part of the process. If their own document doesn't state payment due date, for example, how sure can we be that we can insist on being paid by a particular date? The same applies to method - can they suddenly take it into their heads to pay by a different method? When everything works according to plan there's no problem, but we all know that can change, even with previously reliable clients.

Those are my concerns regarding rights to payment. I also have concerns regarding taxation. I don't actually speak the language of the country where I live so I have to rely on what my accountant tells me in Spanglish. But it seems as though the Spanish tax authorities insist on an invoice with a unique, sequential number for every job, with the key words in Spanish (though fortunately not the job description etc). Would I be complying with my own country's business legislation if I fail to provide this? Or would moneys coming into my account not backed up by a matching invoice be somehow suspect?

I suppose I can see that it might work within your own country, if your country authorises it. But I really see it as a dangerous practice across national borders, and even more so where the language is different. We're always in danger nowadays of being put under suspicion of money laundering etc. Not issuing an invoice seems to me to be asking for problems.


The generated invoice states all the blurb: invoice number and date; payment due date; payment method details; totals inc/exc taxes; statutory declarations about taxes etc.. You enter your own invoice number according to your system, before its generated. You download the invoice as a pdf and it states the date it was generated, payment terms agreed, your and the clients invoice numbers, tax details... It's all there. It carries the invoice number you assign to it, so the payment will match up to that. Then you also receive a confirmation email that invoice XYZ has been approved and generated. In fact, you receive a confirmation email of every single action you or the client perform on the system in relation to your assignment. The paper trail does not disappear through PO-flip invoice generation.


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Charlie Bavington  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:50
French to English
Come clarity Sep 11, 2014

Sheila Wilson wrote:

We know they have to pay, and I'm sure the client does, too.

Well, your earlier post did ask the question about self-billing...

is there actually a case to answer? Can you ever claim non-payment?

and I merely wanted to reassure you that there is and you can.


But it's those crucial bits of information that are found on the invoice that I worry about: invoice number and date; payment due date; payment method details; totals inc/exc taxes; statutory declarations about taxes etc. With them missing, I'd feel I was losing control of an important part of the process.

Fair point but bear in mind an invoice is not a legal requirement under contract law, per se. (Do you get an invoice when you go to the shops, a transaction also fundamentally governed by contract law generically, with an overlay of modern consumer protection.)

That said, see also below about VAT.

If their own document doesn't state payment due date, for example, how sure can we be that we can insist on being paid by a particular date?
Because you could legitimately claim the process starts to run on delivery.

The same applies to method - can they suddenly take it into their heads to pay by a different method?
I would imagine you would find it hard to enforce a specific payment method whatever billing method was involved. If you're offered legal tender and payment is in full, I doubt you could claim breach. (I don't know for a fact, admittedly, but it seems unlikely you'd get far down the Old Bailey!)

But it seems as though the Spanish tax authorities insist on an invoice with a unique, sequential number for every job, with the key words in Spanish (though fortunately not the job description etc).

Yup, that's the VAT rules imposing requirements over and above the law of contract as mentioned earlier. The rules for a VAT invoice in the UK, including the sequential number bit, are identical. Spain might seem different, but that's because its VAT threshold is thruppence ha'penny (or 4 pesetas in old money ) so everything has to fall into line with VAT rules, which, thresholds aside, are essentially the same everywhere.
So, basically, don't confuse VAT requirements with contract law And remember it's the latter that governs claims to payment.

I do share your feeling of the loss of control self-billing brings about. But I genuinely don't believe it alters your legal position one iota.

[Edited at 2014-09-11 17:11 GMT]


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 17:50
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
@ dianaft & Charlie again Sep 11, 2014

It seems the one you get, dianaft, ticks all the boxes. I did business with the UK branch of a big multinational agency that way. Even my accountant was happy as I was able to add my own invoice number. The problem I have is with the other two companies. A German one I've just done a first couple of jobs for has emailed me a document entirely in German (which I don't really speak) that basically refers to its PO, which just gives basic details about the job. I sent them my invoice as they didn't even have my bank details. And one of the biggest with its HO in the States makes a similar document available online but not even in printable format - very odd! I've been dealing with them for yonks and I have total faith that they'll pay quickly, but they'll still get my monthly invoice whether they like it or not.

[quote] Charlie Bavington wrote:
So, basically, don't confuse VAT requirements with contract law And remember it's the latter that governs claims to payment.

I do share your feeling of the loss of control self-billing brings about. But I genuinely don't believe it alters your legal position one iota.|/quote]
Well, the Canary Islands aren't within the scope of VAT, so that doesn't apply here. But maybe we just have to fall into step with mainland Spain.

I suppose I just don't like "loss of control". I do know that falling foul of tax and other legislation in a country whose language I don't understand does scare me more than a bit. My reaction to that fear is to make everything I do appear whiter than white, which results in over-reaction, I'm sure.


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