Dealing with a late or non-paying agency
Thread poster: Roman Lutz

Roman Lutz  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 00:29
English to German
+ ...
Jan 26

I know this topic has been discussed numerous times, but some of the threads I have found are pretty old (some dating back to 2001).

There is this agency who I worked for during the last couple of months and who owes me quite a bit of money.
Their reputation is not the best, but so far, they have always paid after sending two reminders at the most. One might ask why I kept accepting work for them - well, they sent me an abundance of well-paid projects and did, even after sending reminders in almost every case, pay up in the end.

Now it seems their payments have come to a complete halt. Their accounting department only replies to my reminders when I tell one of their project managers that I cannot accept any more work because their accounting keeps defaulting on the payments (accounting on CC).

They keep telling my they are utterly sorry and they will see to it that the invoices will be settled as soon as possible (they tell me they are sorry EVERY TIME I send a reminder, which is practically EVERY INVOICE).

Seeing as I am based in Germany and they are as well, I think I have some options.

My course of action would be to send one last reminder, threatening the following:

- Negative entries in relevant directories (such as the Blueboard)
- Collection agencies
- Legal steps

... if they don't settle the overdue invoices within one week's time and the following invoices immediately on the due date.

Would you consider this a viable approach? Are there any other options I might have? I know translators often come out on the short end during these disputes, but there has to be something I can do.

Thanks in advance.

[Edited at 2017-01-26 10:10 GMT]


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Dénis Wettmann  Identity Verified
Ireland
Local time: 00:29
Member (2016)
English to German
+ ...
Future prevention and cessation of work Jan 26

Roman Lutz wrote:

I know this topic has been discussed numerous times, but some of the threads I have found are pretty old (some dating back to 2001).

There is this agency who I worked for during the last couple of months and who owes me quite a bit of money.
Their reputation is not the best, but so far, they have always paid after sending two reminders at the most. One might ask why I kept accepting work for them - well, they sent me an abundance of well-paid projects and did, even after sending reminders in almost every case, pay up in the end.

Now it seems their payments have come to a complete halt. Their accounting department only replies to my reminders when I tell one of their project managers that I cannot accept any more work because their accounting keeps defaulting on the payments (accounting on CC).

They keep telling my they are utterly sorry and they will see to it that the invoices will be settled as soon as possible (they tell me they are sorry EVERY TIME I send a reminder, which is practically EVERY INVOICE).

Seeing as I am based in Germany and they are as well, I think I have some options.

My course of action would be to send one last reminder, threatening the following:

- Negative entries in relevant directories (such as the Blueboard)
- Collection agencies
- Legal steps

... if they don't settle the overdue invoices within one week's time and the following invoices immediately on the due date.

Would you consider this a viable approach? Are there any other options I might have? I know translators often come out on the short end during these disputes, but there has to be something I can do.

Thanks in advance.

[Edited at 2017-01-26 10:10 GMT]


I can suggest to get a purchase order before taking on projects crossing a certain threshold, as well as stop producing work for them immediately until they paid you everything in full.

I avoided non-payment over the past decade by being straight forward with what I can provide but also what I want from my clients and not taking on projects if the potential customer has negative feedback in any form.

I do not know if there are any legal options available to you, unless they operate in the same country as you do. Your idea to put on pressure by making the facts publicly available via Blue Board or similar options seems the most feasible option.

I wish you all the best and hope you will be able to recover your payment in full.


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 23:29
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Don't let it get personal Jan 26

Roman Lutz wrote:
My course of action would be to send one last reminder, threatening the following:

- Negative entries in relevant directories (such as the Blueboard)
- Collection agencies
- Legal steps

... if they don't settle the overdue invoices within one week's time and the following invoices immediately on the due date.

Would you consider this a viable approach? Are there any other options I might have? I know translators often come out on the short end during these disputes, but there has to be something I can do.

I think that's the right way to go about things, but you shouldn't be thinking in terms of of threats. This isn't someone you lent money to in a pub that's not paying you back. This is a business relationship that has hit a rocky patch, even if it seems that the patch is fairly permanent. Businesses have this sort of problem all the time and you should simply have procedures in place to escalate any non-payment issue. What you've been talking about doing is sending a final demand. You'll find template wordings everywhere on the internet - no doubt in German too. It should really be sent by snail mail, registered and with you getting back a copy of their signature as proof that they've been notified of the debt. Unless things happen differently in Germany, that then becomes your evidence for the courts. It's just about the most cut-and-dried type of court case you can bring. Businesses and individuals have an inalienable right to payment for their labour. They're very unlikely to even try to worm out of it once they realise you're serious about debt recovery.

In my case many years ago, in France, the language teaching school for some reason decided to ignore the first injunction. Probably because I'd stupidly signed their contract that allowed them not to pay in the particular circumstances . The judge though simply ruled the clause as abusive. It did involve me in some extra payment and risk but I followed through with a second injunction as they were then in contempt of court and in real legal trouble. That time the bailiffs arrived with police and made it clear that they weren't leaving without payment. I wish I'd been there! The cheque the bailiffs came away with covered every expense, except my insignificant photocopying and postal costs, plus interest. Apparently the client paid up an awful lot more than the invoice amount!

There's never any reason not to send a final demand. However, bear in mind that if they are facing insolvency, nothing in the world is going to get money from them, not even the courts. So first check on Germany's company register to ensure they're still trading and haven't filed with severe cash-flow problems. There are three useful links here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_company_registers#Germany . You may have to pay a bit but it will be worth it. If you suspect that they're about to go under then a recovery company might be best as they'll act quickly and hopefully get about 70% of your debt back to you. If they've already called in the receivers, all you can do is register your claim with them. If they admit to having temporary problems you could offer staged payments - better than nothing. Otherwise, the Small Claims Court is likely to be the best bet as you should eventually get 100%. IMO, it would be unwise do any more work for them until everything overdue has been received. In fact that's a practice I have with every client, although one invoice overdue by a few days just brings a polite reminder if they are good clients. Everyone has a right to make mistakes.

Do let us know what happens. Good luck!


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Lianne van de Ven  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 18:29
Member (2008)
English to Dutch
+ ...
Two separate issues Jan 26

1) accepting more work
2) getting paid
I agree with Dénis and Sheila that you should not accept more work until a due invoice has been paid or when a due invoice exceeds a certain amount. Explain that to your client.
If they don't pay, you have (at that point) only one issue left: getting paid. The best approach is to ask them for an explanation, and accept it if it is reasonable and you can work with it. Try to find a payment agreement if you want. You can resume working for them (if you are comfortable with that) when your terms have been met.
I have used the argument (not threat) with clients that if they don't come forward with their payment, I will need to leave negative feedback at proz.com. This usually only doesn't work if someone is intent on not paying at all.


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Christel Zipfel  Identity Verified
Member (2004)
Italian to German
+ ...
As you both are based in Germany Jan 26

you could file a Mahnantrag on line, see here: https://www.online-mahnantrag.de/omahn/Mahnantrag?_ts=4654229-1449676534009&Command=start

The fee depends on the amount that they owe you, but you don't have to pay anything for the moment. If they pay, then they have to settle the whole amount including fee and interests. You'll find detailed information on how to fill in the on line form and how the whole thing works.

I think this is the cheapest and fastest way to get your money.

But first you should absolutely follow the valuable advice of Sheila and check whether they are still in trade and whether you can reasonably expect to be paid.

Good luck!


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Roman Lutz  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 00:29
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks much! Jan 26

Thanks a lot for all of your suggestions, I knew I would find helpful answers here.

In the meantime, I have sent a final reminder, giving them an overview of the steps I will take if the overdue invoices do not get settled immediately and the other not-yet overdue invoices do not get settled on ther respective due date. I strongly urged them to pay up in order to avoid unnecessary trouble for all parties involced.

I quickly received a reply that payment of the overdue invoices was "scheduled anyway for today"; indeed, these three seem to have been paid (at least they are no longer flagged in their system as overdue, which usually means they have been settled). They also said that the remaining invoices would be handled with priority and scheduled for payment on the due date (this should go without saying, but apparently it doesn't...).

If there are problems with the other invoices, I now know which steps to follow. Thanks again everyone.


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