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Dispute with an agency which refuses to pay my invoice (France > Switzerland)
Thread poster: Carole Pinto

Carole Pinto
France
Local time: 16:46
Member (2011)
English to French
Jul 3

Hello,

I worked on a 2,000 word contract last week, got a PO, delivered the project on time, and received an acknowledgement of the project manager upon delivery.

However, I received an email yesterday saying that the quality of my translation was bad and that I had to correct it (out of my business hours when I have my kids to look after). I had to work at 7pm and was unable to look after my kids for 2 hours.
I sent the PM my comments telling her that most corrections were incorrect (French is not her first language and after accusing me of inconsistencies and mistranslations, I showed her that her remarks were indeed wrong and were either style preferences or major errors).
I have 7 years of experience and I am confident with the quality of my work.
She took it badly and told me she wouldn't pay me if I didn't correct my work and accused me of using Google Translate. I am beyond outraged.

As the project was delivered on time and it was never implied that I would have to review my work again, she's in the obligation of paying my invoice but she refuses to do so.

I know my rights in France but I have to send a recorded letter in which I will invoke my right as a EU citizen. She works in Switzerland.

Have you ever been in such a situation? What should I do?

Many thanks for you help!


 

Vadim Kadyrov  Identity Verified
Ukraine
Local time: 17:46
Member (2011)
English to Russian
+ ...
Just two links Jul 3

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6h3RJhoqgK8 - it is some 30 minutes, but it is the thing you need now.

And, here - https://engrutra.wordpress.com/2014/08/12/non-payers-when-clients-vanish-into-thin-air/


Ricardo Suin
 

Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 17:46
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
Is she on Blueboard? Jul 3

How is the record of your client here in the community?
I would just send my invoice and wait for payment. If payment is not forthcoming after first reminder I would give her a 1 on BB and look if she reacts.
Don't take is too seriously, we independent professionals have special risks with customers.


Henry Dotterer
 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 15:46
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Keep your cool - you hold all the aces Jul 3

Carole Pinto wrote:
I sent the PM my comments telling her that most corrections were incorrect

I showed her that her remarks were indeed wrong and were either style preferences or major errors).

She took it badly and told me she wouldn't pay me if I didn't correct my work

Does that mean you actually did change a few things, if only to keep the client happy? It's normally best to give an unhappy client something to help preserve their ego, while of course refusing to introduce outright errors. I've had to justify myself a couple of times and have first thanked them for finding a typo or two or a poor word choice, then pointed out a few of their introduced errors, and finally said it was up to them to implement - or not - the preferential changes.

I know my rights in France but I have to send a recorded letter in which I will invoke my right as a EU citizen. She works in Switzerland.

I'm not sure EU citizenship confers specific legal rights of this type, does it? I mean, we have rights of course, but I thought they were just covered by contract laws etc. If your client were in the EU you could apply for an EU Payment Order - something that's fairly simple - but I don't think they apply to Switzerland. This forum exchange is not too old and looks to contain some potentially useful links: https://www.englishforum.ch/other-general/276222-small-claims-court-switzerland.html .

I do advise you to handle this in a totally dispassionate way. It really isn't about your kids or your leisure time. I know those matter greatly to you, but you can't expect them to matter to a client. You're just two businesses in dispute over payment - it happens all the time and there should be escalation processes in place. Unless your client can prove to others that you really did fail to provide a fit-for-purpose translation then you have every right to your payment. Just go through the standard steps of escalation. Here's one of many blogs setting them out, although of course they only apply in a general way as every case will be different: https://www.bloglegally.com/how-to-deal-with-non-payment-and-under-payment/


Teresa Borges
Inge Meinzer
 

Tina Vonhof
Canada
Local time: 08:46
Member (2006)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Give a little Jul 3

I have been in this situation once or twice and of course it is disconcerting but my approach was to 'give a little'. In other words make some of the changes that are a matter of preference but do not correct those that are blatantly wrong. Don't use the word 'wrong' but explain what the PM's translation would mean as opposed to what the source text says. By giving in on certain points the PM does get a certain amount of satisfaction and you both safe face. Try to keep the exchanges non-confrontational and see if you can come to an agreement of sorts.

Having said that, if all else fails and she really is not going to pay you, I would follow Heinrich's suggestion and give the agency a '1' on the Blue Board.


Teresa Borges
Josephine Cassar
Valérie Ourset
Vanda Nissen
Sabrina Bruna
Tom in London
Inge Meinzer
 

DZiW
Ukraine
English to Russian
+ ...
a tradeoff / dispute Jul 3

If it's not a dirty attempt to (1) beat down the price or (2) withhold payment in the vein
Only those who admit their guilt pay fines
==>
Only those who admit their errs do corrections
then they must have (3) pirated the give-and-take marketing.

Just stand pat, have a second peers' review, warn the client, and get ready for hearing of the dispute.

[Edited at 2018-07-03 16:36 GMT]


Carole Pinto
 

Carole Pinto
France
Local time: 16:46
Member (2011)
English to French
TOPIC STARTER
Not in the Blue board Jul 3

Heinrich Pesch wrote:

How is the record of your client here in the community?
I would just send my invoice and wait for payment. If payment is not forthcoming after first reminder I would give her a 1 on BB and look if she reacts.
Don't take is too seriously, we independent professionals have special risks with customers.


No she isn't. She's an independant translator whose first language is Italian and corrected wrongly my work in French, but she posted her ad on ProZ. Is there any type of action I can take via ProZ?
I don't really want to lose over 150€... Especially when all this is done is such bad faith. It's unbelievable.
I responded to all the comments I didn't agree on and she took it bad when I told her French is my first language and that I'm also a Software Engineer... She felt insulted when I only meant to tell her that she had added serious mistakes in my work and badly criticized my work in the first place. She was borderline insulting.


 

Carole Pinto
France
Local time: 16:46
Member (2011)
English to French
TOPIC STARTER
She's actually in the Blue Board Jul 3

I have submitted a poor review and have contacted the European Commission in order to get to procedure to get paid. I hope they can help me...

 

Nikki Scott-Despaigne  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:46
French to English
@Carole Jul 3

Sheila sets out the most important elements. Concentrate on those. You are already more than half-way there. You have satisfied your side of the agreement: you provided a translation of the text into French and on time. You say your client is not a native speaker of French, but of Italian. Be practical. Concede a couple of points, irrelevant ones. Hold your ground on important ones, the sort of mistakes that no native speaker of French would make, ever! Provide references to support what you wish to demonstrate. It will take you time and time is money, so it will be irritating. However, your aim now is to get your money as soon as possible and put this thing behind you.

I had this experience last year after 24 years' experience. A bureaucrat "corrected" a 3,000-word text. As a native speaker of French, she unfortunately provided a beautiful demonstration of classic mistakes on choice of tense, grammar and introduced a whole series of false friends. All were mistakes that would have been impossible for a native speaker. She had also actually sneaked in a couple of revisions, additional phrases, reformulations of the original. That was just not cricket*. There was a "correction" on almost every line covering half the document. She had simply spent valuable taxpayer's time fiddling around with a text she should not have played around with at all. What really made me cross was that she had asked me to finish the "correction"!

I was cross because defending my choices meant using (=wasting) time. This was through an agency paying terrible rates, so I was not going to make much money from it anyway. It the straw that broke the camel's back and once it was resolved, I ceased to work for this agency. To be fair on the agency, which paid appalling rates, it obviously negotiated rotten rates with government agencies, notoriously poor payers and later payers. The agency always paid spot on time. The agency also forwarded the feedback without adding to the misery.

What I did was this. I selected a couple of terms that were basically synonyms. I then went through half of what had been "corrected" and presented a table in which I itemized each mistake with a supporting reference, emphasizing that they were classic mistakes for a native speaker of French but ones that no native speaker of English would make. I then said that this was a time-consuming exercise, that I had illustrated my point and that further correction would be undertaken as requested by the client... at my usual rate of XX euros/hour and upon the condition that my name would never be mentioned in connection with this translation. It went no further, or perhaps the agency acquiesced, but I did not.

(*) http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish/language/2013/04/130404_todays_phrase_not_cricket.shtml


Carole Pinto
Lucien Rousseau
 

Nikki Scott-Despaigne  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:46
French to English
Getting paid Jul 3

I doubt the EC will be of any use. Switzerland is not in the European Union. I don't see what the EC can do about it, nor that they can be expected to. Just go through the normal recovery procedures. Send an LR+AR recorded delivery letter with a copy of the invoice. Keep emotion and affect out of the picture. In your letter restate the terms of what was agreed, that you provided the work on time, etc., and refer to any email exchange that confirms receipt of that work. State that you require payment according to the terms agreed and that if no payment is made within 8 days, then you will take further action. Then do so.

Carole Pinto
 

Katalin Horváth McClure  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 10:46
Member (2002)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Posting to the Blue Board may not happen Jul 3

One of the conditions for a review to appear on the BB is that there was no complaint as to the quality of the work. In this case, there was. Whether it is justified, that is another matter, so don't be surprised if your review will not appear, or will be hidden soon after you posted it, due to the client claiming poor quality.
What is not clear to me at this point: what happened to the text?
Did you submit an edited version? If yes, was the client still not happy with it? Did she insist on further changes?


 

ibz  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:46
Member (2007)
English to German
+ ...
Volume Jul 4

Hi Carole,
I'm really sorry for your bad experience! Just to be sure: Did I get it right that you translated a 2,000 word contract and the bill that your customer refuses to pay amounts to 150 Euro? Just wondering ...

***
Oh, my mistake! I think you wrote you don't want to lose more than 150 Euro. Sorry about that.
You can check the following link to get an idea about the proper procedure in Switzerland (in French):
https://www.e-service.admin.ch/eschkg/cms/content/betreibung/allgemein_fr


[Edited at 2018-07-04 12:11 GMT]


Carole Pinto
Arkadiusz Jasiński
 

Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 15:46
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Please check... Jul 4

Carole Pinto wrote:

I have submitted a poor review and have contacted the European Commission in order to get to procedure to get paid. I hope they can help me...


... this:
https://e-justice.europa.eu/content_small_claims-42-fr.do?init=true


 

Carole Pinto
France
Local time: 16:46
Member (2011)
English to French
TOPIC STARTER
My answer and her reply Jul 4

Here is the factual and honest answer I sent this person:

Dear xxx,

First of all, I can submit your corrections and my translation to the ProZ community in order to see what my peers are thinking of this issue.

Secondly, as an agency, you acknowledged receipt of my translation which was delivered in due time. This basically means you have to pay me for my work.
Coming back to me later on without any warning to make me work after hours is unequivocally unethical.
I addressed you all the corrections I didn't agree on, as your document was basically impossible to deal with, with regards of all the corrections you made, you took it badly and accused me of using Google Translate, which is beyond outrageous.

If you don't pay my invoice, I will report this issue to the ProZ community and will rate you according to what you did.

I am also in contact with the European Commission, which is going to send me the procedure so I can get my payment, as I called them to let them know what happened.

Telling a service provider his/her work is not good enough when it was delivered in due time and when you acknowledged receipt of it, and when I sent you my comments as far as my corrections were concerned certainly does not entitle you to decide that my work shouldn't be paid for.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Her reply was agressive and she made a point in telling me how bad my translation was on typos now (which happens in every translation):

"You made mistakes since the very start of the file. To me, this proves that you did not even read your translation once."
"If you have any intellectual honesty, you should just admit that this sentence is ridiculous."

"There was a number of errors which looked very likely to come from Google Translate. A few examples of typical results given from Google Translate:"
1. the translation of "inaccurate", which is to be understood as "wrong", with "imprécis" instead of "inexact"
???

WordReference gives "imprécis" and "inexact" as a translation of "inaccurate".
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
I have asked a colleague to review her corrections and she told me that they were preferential and even introduced major errors.

She is now telling me that she wants to give me a 50% discount...

Thank you for understanding and for giving me the procedure. I'm speechless...


 

Nikki Scott-Despaigne  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:46
French to English
A couple of comments Jul 5

Unless I am mistaken, the European Commission's small claims procedure is for Member States participating in the procedure in question : https://europa.eu/youreurope/business/sell-abroad/resolving-disputes/small-claims/index_en.htm .
As I mentionned before, Switzerland is not in the European Union and the country is not listed as participating in the procedure by derogation, or under any exceptional rule, for example. "ibz" has provided a source for Switzerland.

In your letter to your client, you say that you can submit your corrections to the ProZ community. There is no formal procedure for that and you may have confidentiality problems if you do post significant extracts of the original, with your translation and the client's suggested corrections. Also, supposing that you did so and that everyone said that your translation was absolutely fine, there is no obligation for the client to attach any value to the results of any exercise of that type. I am deliberately playing devil's advocate here in order to see things from your client's point of view. On this point, I think you would again be embarking upon an exercise that would take a lot of time for little return. Time is money. You do not need to spend time on this "dossier" except to recover your money. You provided the translation and you replied to queries about language choices.

Good contracts with agencies generally provide what is to happen if there are quality issues. Such contracts set out the procedure and can also include provisions for reduced payment in certain cases. As I understand it, your agreement was less formal. Also, am I right in saying that your client is not an agency, but another freelance translator who was subcontracting work out to you? In any event, the work was returned with the comments, questions and corrections. You replied and affirmed your choices and clearly expressed your lack of agreement with the suggested corrections. Small corrections are one thing, disagreement over fundamental points of language are another. Typos should be eliminated though. A couple may slip through the net, but it is embarrassing when a client does identify typos that we as translators should have found when proofreading our work.

You will see in my previous posts that I have been through the same thing, so I know how you feel. The alleged quality problems are between you and your client. You need to find a solution to that issue. Others have suggested making a concession here and there on one or two things that are not important. One practical way to reply to such matters is to set out a table in three or four columns : page/line - source text - her suggested correction - your reply and comments.
This makes everything clear, means you have a trace of the exchanges and, importantly, it keeps it as neutral as possible. Comments in table form are generally concise and to the point, technical only and not personal. Once you have set out your replies in this way, then you can simply add one line to say that you trust she will give due consideration to the points you have made. Believe me, if she wishes to reply, she will. If you substantiate and provide reliable sources to support your case, then she will have little to say in return. There is no point playing ping-pong ad infinitum.

It is normal to feel protective of one's work. It is normal to feel offended when the criticisms are not justified. It is helpful to keep exchanges formal, neutral and polite so that the person reading it has to reply in similar terms. It can take the heat out of the situation. I think this is needed here. Your letter to your client shows that you are upset and her reply to you shows that she is not happy either. It is becoming a personal issue rather than a business issue. You are more likely to achieve an effective result if you wear your business hat!

Set aside any personal feelings. Stick to the basic points. You provided the work on time, your client must pay you. She is refusing to pay you. Take formal steps to recover your money.

(Endnote. For the record, I note that you refer to WordReference. It can be quite helpful, but it is not a formal dictionary in the classic sense as it is built from contributions: http://www.wordreference.com/english/AboutUs.aspx. So I'd be careful to use standard Collins/Robert/Cambridge/Oxford/Merriam Webster type sources as credible dictionary references.icon_wink.gif )

[Edited at 2018-07-05 02:13 GMT]

[Edited at 2018-07-05 02:18 GMT]


Carole Pinto
Ivana UK
 
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