Agency paying less than agreed without my knowledge
Thread poster: Aleksandra Karpiuk, AITI

Aleksandra Karpiuk, AITI  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:46
Polish to English
+ ...
Jun 23, 2015

Hello all!
I recently had some problems with an agency about rates.

I agreed with them on x GBP/1000 words from the start for proofreading services. However, this month I looked at the PO and it seemed to me that they are somehow charging me less than the agreed amount – as the POs were always on hourly rate, I simply assumed they were converting 1000 words by hour, which is the usual practice I have with a few other clients.

It turns out their hourly rate is about 1500 words, and not my agreed 1000. They have paid me back the money they owe me, but now they want to pay me a lower rate – my agreed x GBP, but for 1500 words, which means less for me. They haven’t informed me about their base rate until now (!) and they’re calling it an “accidental oversight”. I feel, first of all, cheated, because if I hadn’t asked about the PO they would have continued to pay me less, and secondly, we agreed on a rate and it’s unethical on their part to now change it “because there were some spelling mistakes” (not specified where and when) and “the client cannot pay more” (their usual excuse).

I do not want to agree to a lower rate because it’s unprofessional and also, to put it simply, rude from them to even come up with something like this. Also, the proofreading I do is big in volume – they are only paying me for fuzzy and non-matches, their TMs contain mistakes I have to very often correct and on top, they ask me to run verification in Trados to check the inconsistent segments. That also means I have to correct 100% approved segments even though they are not paying me for it. I did not complain at first because we agreed on a rate per word basis, so I treated it as part of the wordcount, but with an hourly rate it would be different - I usually spend additional 2-3 hours on verification and go over the specified time limit on the PO. I would be open to negotiating with them additional 2-3 hours for verification to make up for my time and also make the rate more fair on me.

What do you think? How can I approach the subject to make them pay me a fair rate? What about the ethical aspect – them basically pushing me for the lower rate. If they refuse to honour our initial agreement with my original rate – it is in writing and was agreed on both sides - can I appeal to ITI (I’m a member) or another organisation? As I said, they withheld the information about how they charge from the start and I was being paid less money without even knowing it.

I’d appreciate all your suggestions!


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Angela Rimmer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:46
Member (2014)
German to English
+ ...
Stick to your terms or "fire" them Jun 23, 2015

If they are really unethical/cheating you, I would simply stop working with them, as the trust relationship is completely lost.

But if you want to try to continue working with them, find whatever terms work for you (e.g. higher rate per 1500 words, extra payment for verification steps, etc.) and then don't compromise. If they won't agree to pay you fairly, don't work with them!


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Jenny Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:46
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
Unbusinesslike and sneaky Jun 23, 2015

I agree with Angela. It's unbusinesslike and sneaky to behave like that and assume the translator/proofreader will just swallow whatever the agency decides. You should certainly protest.
Recently, an agency new to me for which I've done a few jobs deducted £6 from a (3 weeks late) payment which should have been £102 (without warning or explanation). I investigated and discovered from my bank that it was a transfer charge. I checked the purchase order which clearly states that the agency doesn't expect the translator to pay the transfer charge. It's also mystifying because the transfer concerned was from the UK to the UK in pounds sterling to pounds sterling - no foreign exchange or correspondent bank involved.
I've protested to the agency and was told to charge an extra £6 on my next invoice. But I don't know if there'll be a next invoice - I'm not that keen to work for them again ...


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 02:46
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
If you'd checked, you'd have had the knowledge Jun 23, 2015

Aleksandra Karpiuk, AITI wrote:
I agreed with them on x GBP/1000 words from the start for proofreading services. ..snip... They have paid me back the money they owe me

If you've clearly agreed on a rate per 1000 words, then that's the legally binding contract. Hence the extra payment.
However, this month I looked at the PO and it seemed to me that they are somehow charging me less than the agreed amount

So in previous months you just accepted that the total amount quoted on the PO was right? You made up your invoice based on that? I'm sorry, but that's no way to run a business. Mind you, even as an employee I always checked my pay slip. (BTW, did you really mean to write 'charging'?).
as the POs were always on hourly rate, I simply assumed they were converting 1000 words by hour ...snip... It turns out their hourly rate is about 1500 words, and not my agreed 1000.

Rates are 'per n word(s) or 'per hour', not 'per n word(s) per hour'. The whole idea of an hourly rate is because the volume you can process in an hour varies. And you certainly can't assume someone else's idea of volume per hour.
I have to correct 100% approved segments even though they are not paying me for it.

This is one reason why most revisers only ever accept payment per hour of their time. They can be expected to give an estimate of the time required, but they must be paid for the time actually taken.
How can I approach the subject to make them pay me a fair rate? What about the ethical aspect – them basically pushing me for the lower rate.

They've paid you your expected rate for all work so far. As for the future, nobody can make them offer you your desired rate, nor can they or any other client force you to accept theirs. In B2B the parties negotiate and then reach agreement or withdraw.
If they refuse to honour our initial agreement with my original rate –

I believe they've done that, haven't they? They paid you the extra.
can I appeal to ITI (I’m a member) or another organisation? As I said, they withheld the information about how they charge from the start and I was being paid less money without even knowing it.

It seems both sides have been expecting the other to read their thoughts, and you didn't check the reality in time. You could ask the ITI where you stand, but I can't see what action they could/would possibly take against this company. I see your choice as threefold:
1) accept what they want to pay in future, and earn less;
2) try to negotiate a higher rate, either based on word count if you agree or on elapsed time (not both);
3) walk away now with a lesson learnt. You've been paid what you expected so far. The future's never guaranteed.


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Aleksandra Karpiuk, AITI  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:46
Polish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks for your feedback Jun 23, 2015

I have emailed them with my terms and proposal about the rates.

Sheila: We negotiated the rates at the beginning, then came to the agreement and set a specific rate for the projects - I had no reason to doubt they were charging me on other terms than on those we agreed on initially. I have agreed with them on a specific rate from the start. I stated my terms clearly. They accepted them. I have it in writing so it is binding on both sides. I always checked the POs and they looked ok - admittedly, I was at first a bit confused as to why they raised them on hourly basis, but because we agreed on the rates I assumed 1 hour = 1000 words, as understood by both sides. I should have checked that at the beginning and this is my only mistake. But the fact they did not come forth and were not transparent is another issue altogether. I trusted them to be fair and professional - I guess the main lesson is that you can't trust any agency and have to double check everything they do, even if I'm not an accountant and a written agreement about rates should be enough.


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Alex Lago  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 03:46
Member (2009)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Mistake on both sides Jun 25, 2015

Aleksandra Karpiuk, AITI wrote:
I trusted them to be fair and professional


The thing is they have been fair and professional, they made a mistake and when it was brought to their attention they corrected it, you can't get more fair or professional than that. People make mistakes what distinguishes them is how they react after.

You say you made a mistake and should have checked the rates but you assume they did this on purpose and where trying to cheat you (even though the fact they paid you the agreed rate after all would seem to contradict that idea), maybe they also made a mistake.

Aleksandra Karpiuk, AITI wrote:
I guess the main lesson is that you can't trust any agency and have to double check everything they do, even if I'm not an accountant and a written agreement about rates should be enough.


You should always check all documents you receive, however you shouldn't be doing because you don't trust people but because people make mistakes and the only way to find them is to check the documents they send.


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