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Problems with an agency, not getting paid: what would you do?
Thread poster: Robin Meurer

Robin Meurer  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 06:16
Member (2012)
English to German
+ ...
Apr 24, 2017

Dear colleagues,

I have an issue with an agency and I would like to share it with you, kindly asking for your advice and thoughts. I won't mention any names yet.

At the end of 2016 I got a job through the Proz.com platform posted by an agency new to me. They didn't pay as much as the other agencies I'm working for but I thought I'd give it a try and take that money. They have a professional website and seem to be on the market for a while now. They are also listed here on Proz.com.

Anyway, communication with the PM was good and friendly, he emailed me the project (approx. 7000 words) and I finished it in the given time. He never came back to me with any issues or complaints. A couple of weeks later some other PM from that agency contacted me directly and emailed me two more projects (400 + 500 words) that had nothing to do with the first project/client. I finished everything in time, the PM received it and seemed happy.
I never heard from them again, and more than 4 weeks later (assuming everything was OK) I uploaded 3 invoices to their billing platform. As you all know, agencies take their time (sometimes up to 60 days) in paying invoices, so the waiting game started...

3 months later I still didn't receive any payment (then the projects were finishend over 4 months ago!). So I wrote the PM (who also is the manager) an e-mail kindly asking about it. He got back to me and assured that everything will be paid "next week". Well, another 4 weeks (!) went by and nothing happened. I wrote the PM/manager again, reminding him of his words and asking for the payment, but I didn't get any answer.
So, a few days later I wrote again asking about about what's going on.

All of a sudden he came back to me with a few harsh sentences saying that he couldn't pay me for now because the client (but he didn't say which project) didn't like the translation at all. The PM went on claiming that they had to re-do the translation and offered the client a 25 % discount which the client refused (Is that true? I don't know). He concluded that they still have to resolve this matter and I have to wait until someone from the agency gets back in touch with me. That was it from the PM.

To be honest, I was/am flabbergasted. This never happened to me before. The other agencies/clients I'm working for always ask me to take another look at the translation, in case Quality Control came up with some problems (typos etc.), but this rarely happens to be honest.

So, I wrote this PM/manager an e-mail again asking for some details but he didn't reply to me anymore. I my opinion his claims are false and the way he's treating me is simply unfair.

The thing is: why am i hearing about all this after more than 4 months without any complaints, and only after asking about my money he is owing me?? Why didn't he come back to me after he received the client's negative feedback, (if there every was any)? Why can't the PM give me further details and explanations, clearly throwing all 3 distinct projects into one basket, refusing to pay any of them?

At the moment I'm thinking about what to do next but I would love to hear your opinions about this. Maybe you can give me some advice? Like I said, in over 10 years this never happened to me.

Thanks for taking the time and sharing your thoughts.

Best,
Robin


 

Lianne van de Ven  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 00:16
Member (2008)
English to Dutch
+ ...
Happens regularly Apr 24, 2017

I am going to keep it short to get you started. This topic is discussed regularly on this forum, I searched for [not getting paid site:proz.com]: https://goo.gl/kFLpWc
There are many aspects to it, such as assuring credentials beforehand, client history with others, promptly sending invoices etc. I am sure you will find some posts about options on what to do next.
Best of luck.


 

Robin Meurer  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 06:16
Member (2012)
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
thanks! Apr 24, 2017

Yes, this happens regularly unfortunately. But it's a first for me.
They looked like a serious player when I applied for the project.

Thank you for the link and all.

Kind regards,
Robin


 

Lianne van de Ven  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 00:16
Member (2008)
English to Dutch
+ ...
Most recent Apr 24, 2017

If you click on "tools" on the google search page and select "past month" under the dropdown "any time", you'll even find the most recent discussions (including this one).

 

Yolanda Broad  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 00:16
Member (2000)
French to English
+ ...

MODERATOR
Blue Board Apr 24, 2017

I assume you've checked the Blue Board record of the agency in question? And, since the payment is past due, have entered an LWA (Likelihood to Work Again) of your own on that record? The fact that you only received an (unsubstantiated) complaint from your client at such a late date should not preclude your entering your LWA.

 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 05:16
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Some ideas Apr 24, 2017

As Lianne says, it does happen all too often, and we do have to be extremely careful in our dealings with all clients, but maybe especially with agencies as they do seem "out to get us" in a way that direct clients would rarely try. For the future, far more attention to risk management would serve you well. There are some useful Wiki articles on the site under the Education tab. But for the present, looking through some of those other threads should turn up all sorts of useful next steps. Please don't name names as that's against ProZ.com forum rules. But it would be useful to know what this company's Blue Board record is like as that can say a lot about a company if you read between the lines: the total number of entries and whether they're bunched date-wise, the number and severity of complaints, what posters actually say in their comments - these all speak volumes, in addition to the actual score.

I advise you to send a final demand without delay - written on paper and sent by registered mail to the company's registered office, the one on your invoice. Pay the extra to get confirmation of their receipt as that constitutes proof of their knowledge of the debt. I also advise you to demand to see the edited text so that you can evaluate for yourself the quality of your translation. You most certainly have a right to that. You should also have been given a chance to correct any problems yourself, although I doubt we have any legal right to have that happen in 100% of cases. Another thing to do without delay is to find out whether they're still solvent - although that seems not to be in doubt here. Check out the companies' register for your client's country. No point doing anything but registering your claim if the company is broke.

Once the final demand's payment deadline has passed, you need to either hand the debt to a recovery company in the client's country or proceed through the courts. That latter action depends on where you and your client are located. If both you and your client are in Germany then I'm sure there's a small claims court. If you're both in the EU, then there's a cheap and hopefully successful route open to you: the EU Payment Order. You can prepare it online for free, and submit it to the courts for less than €40 I think. What I did once was prepare it and then send the PDF to the client with a submission date. He paid by return as he could see I wasn't going to give up. OTOH, If there's no simple and cheap legal avenue open to you, or speed is of the essence (because the client has cash-flow problems and will probably not last much longer, for example), a debt recovery company will normally take on the job for a percentage of what it collects - you'll probably end up with 50-75% of the total.

Good luck and keep us posted.


 

philgoddard
United States
Member (2009)
German to English
+ ...
. Apr 24, 2017

I just wanted to echo what Yolanda said. I've found BlueBoard very effective, because a single bad review can make it very difficult for them to find translators. Also, you have a duty to warn other people.

 

Michael Newton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 00:16
Member (2003)
Japanese to English
+ ...
Agency not paying Apr 24, 2017

First of all, you should give them an LWA of 1.
Secondly, vague unsubstantiated complaints may be an indication that they want to drive the invoice down. I recently had a client who said that "the client was generally unhappy with the quality". I went back to the document and justified each of the technical terms. I also offered to meet with the client in person to answer any queries. The agency backed off but they never gave me any work afterward. I think they wanted me to reduce the rate or get a cheaper translator. It is some what of a shock when you know you have turned in an excellent translation and an agency complains. Case in point: I once translated a long, complicated legal document. Several weeks after the document was delivered, the agency contacted me and said that the client didn't like the translation as the "terms used for translation were too legalistic". A legal document with terms that were "too legalistic"?! I offered to meet with the client in person and answer any questions they might have. The agency backed off and said: "perhaps if you were to lower the rate, the client would be willing to accept the terms". Of course, I knew what was going on. I did lower the fee somewhat. I was eventually paid but I refused to work with them again. The "vague complaints" meme often surfaces when a test translation is done for an agency and the agency refuses to indicate why the test translation was not accepted.


 

Giovanni Guarnieri MITI, MIL  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 05:16
Member (2004)
English to Italian
Probably... Apr 25, 2017

cash flow problems and now they are trying to find an excuse to save some money... it's a classic trick... or they are just dishonest... it would be interesting to know if they are on the Blue Board and what rating they have...

 

Robin Meurer  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 06:16
Member (2012)
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
thanks to all! Apr 25, 2017

Hi all!

thanks so much for your responses and thoughtful comments. This helps me a lot and I don't fell so "alone".

I wrote them another, final e-mail yesterday demanding the full payment as soon as possible. If nothing happens (probably not) I will take further steps and try to put more pressure on them. Interestingly enough, their office is in the same city I'm currently living in, so I might just drop by one day and ask for a one-on-one with the manager. I guess they have major cashflow problems and that they already spent all the money the client paid to them (for my work).

I don't have a problem with a client/agency not being satisfied with parts of my work. This can happen, especially with more complex texts with special terminology, but these issues should be solved in a professional way. But in my case it's way too late (more than 4 months after delivery and me asking for payment) to make any claims, and I'm convinced that they are only trying to win time.

Well, I'll keep you posted.

Fingers crossed.

Best,
Robin


 

Andrea Halbritter  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 06:16
Member (2014)
French to German
+ ...
Blue board and debt collecting agency Apr 25, 2017

Hi!

Sounds a bit like the issues I had with an agency based in France AND Argentina a while ago.

They paid as soon as I had made a bad blueboard entry mentionning that their invoice was due since a while.

If that does not work for your agency, get back to me, especially if they are based in France and if you have a PO.

A friend of mine has a debt collecting agency. He'll help you.


 

Robin Meurer  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 06:16
Member (2012)
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
no new developments May 8, 2017

Hello all!

I just wanted to give you a quick heads up on the above mentioned issue, in case you're interested.

I wrote the agency manager another e-mail, demanding payment asking to confirm the receipt of the e-mail. All in a polite, professional way. I also said that I would be compelled to pursue other actions. But he didn't reply.

So, I wrote a very negative Blue board review. Again, no reaction from him.

A week later I wrote him again, mentioning the negative Blue Board entry and asking for the payment. Suddenly he replied, but just repeated what he said before.:..Client won't pay because of very poor translation quality, they have to renegotiate pricing, until then he can't and won't pay me....bla bla bla.

Again, he failed to tell me which project/client this is all about. I did 3 projects with different clients for this agency! This is going on for more than 6 weeks now. Frustrating.

And all that after more than 4 months (project delivered in the beginning of Dec 2016) without any mention of some sort of quality issue. For me it is clear, he's trying to rip me off. Maybe his agency is on the verge of bankruptcy? I don't know...all I know this is not how it should be done.

Anyway, I think I'm stuck now. Writing e-mails - negative. Blue Board entry - negative. Writing more e-mails - negative.

I guess I need to get a lawyer now to put some sort of pressure on him. I think I can forget about my money for now...

Wish me luck!

Best,
Robin


 

Andrea Halbritter  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 06:16
Member (2014)
French to German
+ ...
Debt collecting agency May 8, 2017

No, you are not.

If you have a PO contact a friend of mine who has a debt collecting agency in France.

As your agency is located in France as well, it will be easy to get the money if they do have some.

You can contact Dominique Viejo from:

http://www.cash-and-collect.fr/

He speaks French, Spanish and English.




[Modifié le 2017-05-08 20:10 GMT]


 

Elizabeth Tamblin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 05:16
Member (2012)
French to English
Idea May 9, 2017

What if you write to them again and tell them that if they can't give you details of the problems with the translation, you will write to the client directly and ask them about it.

*Waits to be lambasted by ProZ members*


 

Robin Meurer  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 06:16
Member (2012)
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank! May 9, 2017

Thanks Elizabeth for the idea. I will consider it!

 
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