Uncomfortable clause in the contract
Thread poster: Ines Burrell

Ines Burrell  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 06:59
Member (2004)
English to Latvian
+ ...
Dec 30, 2004

Hello everybody,

I have received a contract from a translation agency. Very sensible contract otherwise if not for an article that to me seems very uncomfortable and I do not feel like I should sign it, although I would not mind working with the agency.

The text is as follows:

“You will provide your services with reasonable care and skill to the best of your ability. We will be relying on your skill, expertise and experience in the provision of the services and you agree to indemnify us against all loss, damage, costs, legal costs and other legal expenses whatsoever incurred or suffered by us as a result of such reliance. You agree to maintain at your own cost a policy of insurance to cover your liability for any act or default for which you may become liable to indemnify us under the terms of this arrangement.”

The agency has agreed that I cross out the bit about insurance policy and has said the court cases mentioned in this article are extremely rare. I am very careful and would never dream of submitting substandard work, however we all are humans. Even a small spelling mistake can potentially lead to a disaster for which I might pay for the rest of my life. What do you think of this clause, how often do you receive contracts like that. I mean, if they come up with this contract, somebody apparently is signing them. How can I make the agency understand why exactly I am not willing to sign it.


Anne Lee  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 06:59
Member (2003)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Be careful Dec 30, 2004

I have professional liability insurance but previously, I would have shied away from signing a contract containing such a clause. Or I would add: up to a maximum equivalent to the amount of my invoice for the translation involved.
See also the following thread:

More reasonable would be if the agency gave you a chance to correct your own work to their specifications and if your work was still unsatisfactory, deduct the cost of getting someone else to edit the text from your invoice.
Any verbal assurances given by the agency are meaningless once you sign the agreement and you should indicate in writing any amendments you feel comfortable with, giving the agency to back out of the deal until the terms are mutually acceptable.

[Edited at 2004-12-30 17:13]


Harry Bornemann  Identity Verified
English to German
+ ...
How many is "rare"? Dec 30, 2004

the agency said:
..the court cases mentioned in this article are extremely rare.

Do you know at least one case?
Or does your contact in the agency know one case?
Or does he know someone who knows one case?
Or ...

Or are your spelling mistakes rather like the famous butterfly in China, who is blamed for being the culprit for the storms in Europe?

I would love to hear about a serious damage caused by a spelling mistake..


Marc P (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:59
German to English
+ ...
Uncomfortable clause in the contract Dec 30, 2004

Anne Lee wrote:

I have professional liability insurance but previously, I would have shied away from signing a contract containing such a clause.

You may find, in fact, that by signing such a clause you are invalidating your insurance cover.

Ask your insurance company whether the clause is acceptable. If not - don't sign.



Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:59
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
The mistakes do not often relate to the amount of the costs Dec 30, 2004

I have an insurance that covers quite a lot of possible disasters, but sets limits. There comes a point where more money makes no difference anyway, no matter how serious the damage.

I think insurance cover is absolutely necessary for professional translators, and it is possible to find companies that offer reasonable terms. Then tell your agency what cover you have. With the authority of an insurance company behind you, you can resist unreasonable demands.

Sometimes at the proof reading stage, I have caught mistakes that would have been very costly if passed on to the client uncorrected. That is of course why you proof-read work or, even better, get someone else to read your work.

I have heard of a translator who missed out a date on a divorce certificate. The divorcee had organised a large party and invited family and friends from several countries to a new wedding... only to be told that without the date on the translation the papers were not valid. It did not matter that the date was on the original certificate attached: the translation was not complete, and the client wanted compensation for the cost of the wedding that did not take place.

There are plenty more stories of translations where a small word drops out or is mistranslated, or spelt wrongly, especially if it makes a new word with a different meaning.

'False friends' (faux amis) between languages can lead even a careful translator astray when deadlines are tight and there are many details to attend to. We are all human.

I have just renewed an agreement where an agency is allowed to correct my work and inform me, or if possible have me do the corrections. I have also made adjustments in consultation with the end client when working with this agency, and the agreement works well - which is why I am renewing it!

But I would not sign a contract with an 'open ended' clause. Take the advice above and negotiate with the agency until you both feel comfortable - in the end you can build up trust with a good agency and hopefully you can work with them to everyone's advantage.


Natalie  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:59
Member (2002)
English to Russian
+ ...

Hi Dec 30, 2004

Please take a look at this thread:

I believe, you came across the same agencyicon_smile.gif


PRen (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:59
French to English
+ ...
If you work for an agency.... Dec 31, 2004

If you work directly for an end client, you should assume responsibility for the product. If you work for an agency, the agency is responsible for the work they deliver to the end client. Otherwise, what are they charging for?


Ines Burrell  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 06:59
Member (2004)
English to Latvian
+ ...
The same agency Dec 31, 2004

Natalie wrote:

Please take a look at this thread:

I believe, you came across the same agencyicon_smile.gif

Thanks, Natalie! This seems to be the same one indeed. And I also sent them the contract, crossing out the bits I was not happy with. They replied they cannot accept it. Oh, well, I have enough work and plenty of headache without this agency already.
Thanks everybody for your advice.
Happy New Year!



Daniele Martoglio  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:59
Polish to Italian
+ ...
I suppose u can work very well NOT SIGNING ANYTHING! Jan 2, 2005

There was one other topic about clause in contract
and about the need of signing contracts in generale.

You can read it here:


It's also my post there, with my personal opinion.
In short: "Never sing ANY contract and u'll live happy"



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