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Invoicing after 1 year not payable?
Thread poster: Laurens Landkroon

Laurens Landkroon  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:28
English to Dutch
+ ...
Feb 21, 2017

Dear colleagues,

Can anyone tell me the legal terms for invoicing a client more than a year after the work has been delivered? (and is this different for companies in different countries? e. g. UK vs. Europe vs. USA vs. Asia??

A client claims that they don't have to pay, since they did not receive the invoice within a year after I sent the translated work.

I do have a PO, but there are no other terms and conditions, e.g. no signed NDA or other specific list with terms.

I read on several business forums, that unless there is a specific terms and conditions between parties, the work is still payable, and that this one year rule doesn't apply. (if this even is a rule...)

Can anyone shed some light on this?

Any help is so much appreciated.....

Kind regards,

Laurens.


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Thomas T. Frost  Identity Verified
Member (2014)
Danish to English
+ ...
Statute of limitation Feb 21, 2017

If nothing else is agreed, the relevant statute of limitation in the competent jurisdiction determines such questions.

So which jurisdiction is competent if nothing has been agreed? I found this document:

http://www.emarketservices.com/clubs/ems/prod/E-Business%20Issue%20-Applicable%20law%202.pdf

Once you know which jurisdiction or jurisdictions are competent, you need to look up their statutes of limitation.


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Arianne Farah  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 07:28
Member (2008)
English to French
Can't be specific... Feb 21, 2017

I once chased down a payment I forgot to invoice to an agency in Luxembourg a little more than a year after the PO was issued - I felt foolish for having missed it but decided I'd rather feel foolish with the payment than withouticon_wink.gif

They didn't contest as your client did - in your shoes, my next move would be to let the client know that you are quite willing to go to small claims court as you have a signed Purchase Order and your Invoice has now been refused for payment - dates are irrelevant.

Now it mostly comes down to how much time you're willing to invest into chasing down this payment - is it for $25 or $2500?

Alternatively, a simple email explaining WHY your invoice was late often goes a long way - it's tax season - you can mention that you noticed the discrepancy while auditing your books for 2016 (if the invoice is from 2015 however... that's a bit harder to explain), that you're usually quite diligent but that you mistakenly closed the project without invoicing it in your records. A little mea culpa can go a long way, rather than bringing out the big litigation guns right away, but again, it depends on your previous exchanges with the client.


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Laurens Landkroon  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:28
English to Dutch
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks Thomas I will read that rather large document later Feb 21, 2017

Looks like an interesting read Thomas. Thanks.

I would be really surprised if in the western world, there would be a legal rule for that one year invoicing....


Thomas T. Frost wrote:

If nothing else is agreed, the relevant statute of limitation in the competent jurisdiction determines such questions.

So which jurisdiction is competent if nothing has been agreed? I found this document:

http://www.emarketservices.com/clubs/ems/prod/E-Business%20Issue%20-Applicable%20law%202.pdf

Once you know which jurisdiction or jurisdictions are competent, you need to look up their statutes of limitation.


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Laurens Landkroon  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:28
English to Dutch
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks Arianne. Feb 21, 2017

First of all, I did explain to the client my reasons for invoicing so late.

They told me they were sorry for my business problems, illness etc., and that as a courtesy, they would still pay half the amount. (which sounds a bit odd, as why should they pay at all if they clearly indicate that they are not obliged to pay the total amount...)

The total amount of of the work I did for them totals to around 4000 euro.

One of the other mistakes I made with this client is that I continued to work on a second batch, after the first batch was delivered. (I never received a PO for this second batch, but I did deliver the work for that batch to them, I know, huge mistake.... Live AND learn...).

The tricky part is :
I delivered smaller updates to the translations for both batches in February and March 2016, so technically, they received my invoice within 12 months...

I'll have to do some more digging I guess before deciding on the next step. Getting out the big guns seems a bit early atm, I mean threatening to go to court.

Laurens.

Arianne Farah wrote:

I once chased down a payment I forgot to invoice to an agency in Luxembourg a little more than a year after the PO was issued - I felt foolish for having missed it but decided I'd rather feel foolish with the payment than withouticon_wink.gif

They didn't contest as your client did - in your shoes, my next move would be to let the client know that you are quite willing to go to small claims court as you have a signed Purchase Order and your Invoice has now been refused for payment - dates are irrelevant.

Now it mostly comes down to how much time you're willing to invest into chasing down this payment - is it for $25 or $2500?

Alternatively, a simple email explaining WHY your invoice was late often goes a long way - it's tax season - you can mention that you noticed the discrepancy while auditing your books for 2016 (if the invoice is from 2015 however... that's a bit harder to explain), that you're usually quite diligent but that you mistakenly closed the project without invoicing it in your records. A little mea culpa can go a long way, rather than bringing out the big litigation guns right away, but again, it depends on your previous exchanges with the client.


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xxxIlan Rubin  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 14:28
Russian to English
They owe you the money... Feb 21, 2017

... so why the heck aren't they paying? You did the work. They gained (or should have) profit from your translation. So for me that's fraud. A 1/5 on Proz and a request that they be banned from Proz at the very least.

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Thomas T. Frost  Identity Verified
Member (2014)
Danish to English
+ ...
Where? Feb 21, 2017

Which country and state, if applicable, are we talking about? It's impossible to be specific if you don't tell us, just as the question "what are the speed limits?" makes little sense if the location is not defined.

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cloudhunter  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 13:28
Member (2016)
English to German
+ ...
Copyright, maybe? Feb 21, 2017

ILAN RUBIN wrote:

... so why the heck aren't they paying? You did the work. They gained (or should have) profit from your translation.


If they refuse to pay, you can always remind them they are not allowed to use your text (unless agreed otherwise). This works wonders.


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 12:28
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
You certainly made a mistake in leaving a massive (in my eyes, anyway) USD 4000 uninvoiced Feb 21, 2017

Laurens Landkroon wrote:
One of the other mistakes I made with this client is that I continued to work on a second batch, after the first batch was delivered. (I never received a PO for this second batch, but I did deliver the work for that batch to them, I know, huge mistake.... Live AND learn...).

The tricky part is :
I delivered smaller updates to the translations for both batches in February and March 2016, so technically, they received my invoice within 12 months...

But I can't understand what the huge mistake was in what you detail above. Is it just that you didn't get a PO? FWIW, I've been freelancing for over 20 years now and have only ever received a handful of POs in all that time - maybe 20 maximum. My client base pretty much covers the world, so that can't be a show-stopper as - touching wood - I've only ever lost money on a couple of bankruptcies. An exchange of emails is a valid contract in most legislations as long as there's clear intent to purchase, figures and dates mentioned, and then work accepted (or even simply not rejected).

What I don't understand is whether this company has ever paid you. Or indeed whether you've actually invoiced them yet. If so, is the payment actually overdue, according to your mutually agreed T&C?


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Jean Lachaud  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:28
English to French
+ ...
Country, please Feb 21, 2017

And state, if the customer is in a federal country.

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Laurens Landkroon  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:28
English to Dutch
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks everyone! Feb 21, 2017

Sorry for leaving some information out:

The company is a Limited company, based in the UK.

And Sheila, really great that you can work without having to abide by certain terms and conditions for businesses.

You have probably selected your clients very well. (in other words, probably no clients in France and Italy, unless you have very long term relationships with businesses from these countries...)

I truly hope you will never get into a serious argument with a client about a project.
Sadly, if you do, you will obviously have no strong legal means to make a case, as emails will only get you so far...
But maybe this all differs a lot from country to country.... Im not a lawyer of course, but Im sure that there are countries where business is conducted in a less business manner, saving all parties all the hassle of creating terms and conditions, drafting NDAs and having to get people to sign them for example....

But I think I'm getting off track here. Isn't it just as Ilan said: I did the work they instructed me to do so they have to pay the amount due.

Several websites where business owners asked the same question all stated that if a project is assigned, especially one with a formal PO, the party who ordered the work simply has to pay for services rendered, UNLESS there is document with specific terms and conditions in which explicitly is stated that the client won't pay for the work if they don't receive an invoice within a year. This was not the case here.
IMHO, I highly doubt that such a clause is even legal.

Maybe I'll try to get in touch with the Chamber of Commerce or another organization / business in the UK, any legal professional who can tell me what exactly is the law in this matter.

Thanks a lot for all your feedback everyone!

PS:
Sheila, please do tell me what I should do to get them to pay the invoice?
More importantly, to also get them to pay for the additional work I did for them, even though I have no purchase order for this second part.
Can I assume that I should just send them a list with the names of the files and amount of words I translated, accompanied with a second invoice, with a price that is based on the agreed price from the first invoice?


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 12:28
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Many things you can do, PO or not Feb 21, 2017

Laurens Landkroon wrote:

Sheila, really great that you can work without having to abide by certain terms and conditions for businesses.

You have probably selected your clients very well. (in other words, probably no clients in France and Italy, unless you have very long term relationships with businesses from these countries...)

I truly hope you will never get into a serious argument with a client about a project.
Sadly, if you do, you will obviously have no strong legal means to make a case, as emails will only get you so far...
But maybe this all differs a lot from country to country.... Im not a lawyer of course, but Im sure that there are countries where business is conducted in a less business manner, saving all parties all the hassle of creating terms and conditions, drafting NDAs and having to get people to sign them for example....

I certainly abide by business T&C, Laurens. I specify the ones appropriate to the project in my first email(s). The client then agrees to them (perhaps with an intervening negotiation step) before I start work. And as I lived in France for 15 of my freelance years, 7 of them as a translator from French, I've certainly had many clients in that country. NDAs are not uncommon mind you, or I simply state that all data will be treated as confidential. The hassle you're speaking about can often be simply that: hassle. Working without hassle certainly doesn't have to mean it's any less business-like.

The company is a Limited company, based in the UK.

Anyway, this is clearly good news, as you can maybe call on the EU-wide small claims court, although the hyper-simple EU Payment Order doesn't work for EUR 4000, I don't believe.

But I think I'm getting off track here. Isn't it just as Ilan said: I did the work they instructed me to do so they have to pay the amount due.

I'd say so, unless there are some extenuating circumstances. Payment for your labour is the most cut and dried of all court cases, and rarely contested successfully unless there are quality or other issues.

Sheila, please do tell me what I should do to get them to pay the invoice?
More importantly, to also get them to pay for the additional work I did for them, even though I have no purchase order for this second part.
Can I assume that I should just send them a list with the names of the files and amount of words I translated, accompanied with a second invoice, with a price that is based on the agreed price from the first invoice?

Does this mean you've never received any money from them at all? If that's the case, do you know their reputation? Have you checked them out on the BB and on similar sites? Do you know if they're well-known for not paying? I suppose it doesn't make a lot of difference now, mind you.

You can write anything on the invoice that clearly identifies the work and the associated volume, price per unit etc - whatever you agreed on. Yes, if you have a PO then all you need do is quote the number. Ha! So that's why people find them so importanticon_smile.gif. Otherwise, you would normally give file names etc. I don't see the need for two invoices, personally, but I suppose it wouldn't hurt - the amount owed is the important thing, after all.

Only once the invoice is overdue can you think of doing anything else. You can't start yelling at them for being late when you never issued the invoice. But if/when it becomes overdue then you have various possibilities:
- You can escalate the late payment procedures in the normal way: polite reminder; more formal reminder; very formal "final demand" (templates all over the web); maybe a solicitor's letter on that heavy embossed stationery they use.
- If all of that falls on deaf ears then, unless you decide to drop it you have to do what you said you'd do in the final demand: either a court action or calling on a debt recovery company.
- Meanwhile, you can find other ways to make sure they know you're upset: phone calls; emails to various top people within the company; Skype calls... but don't overdo it as that's harassment.
- It's always good to let others know that this is not a good potential client by giving information on the Blue Board and elsewhere. Although this shouldn't be used as a threat it's always polite, I think, to inform people of your intended action, so they can act to avoid embarrassment.
- If you have proof the text is being used by the end client, you may have the right to contact them to warn them that they're infringing your rights by using work that hasn't been paid for. It's a grey area and although I did it once (and got paid by the agency the next day), it did leave a nasty taste. Not something a professional wants to do.


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Thomas T. Frost  Identity Verified
Member (2014)
Danish to English
+ ...
No such thing as an EU small claims court Feb 21, 2017

Sheila Wilson wrote:

Anyway, this is clearly good news, as you can maybe call on the EU-wide small claims court


All good advice, Sheila, except that now you're sending the poor man out on a wild goose chase.

There is no such thing as an EU small claims court.

There is an EU small claims procedure, but it makes use of existing national courts. You'll probably agree that there is a subtle difference between a court and a procedureicon_smile.gif .

See https://e-justice.europa.eu/content_small_claims-42-en.do for more information.

As far as I can see on https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Limitation_Act_1980 , the time limit for contractual claims is six years in England and Wales. Of course, if the client is based in another constituent country of the UK, the asker would have to look up the statutes of limitation in force there.

I really cannot see any valid excuse for not paying up.


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 12:28
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Yes, you're right of course - sloppy writing Feb 21, 2017

Thomas T. Frost wrote:

Sheila Wilson wrote:

Anyway, this is clearly good news, as you can maybe call on the EU-wide small claims court


All good advice, Sheila, except that now you're sending the poor man out on a wild goose chase.

There is no such thing as an EU small claims court.

There is an EU small claims procedure, but it makes use of existing national courts. You'll probably agree that there is a subtle difference between a court and a procedureicon_smile.gif .

Absolutely! I used (successfully) a French court once while living there. When I prepared an EU Payment Order for a French client after moving to Spain, it was going to be submitted to the same type of Tribunal. Fortunately the client paid after receiving the PDF copy of the Order so I never got to test the EU procedure.


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