Client paying only 50% for one word error
Thread poster: LaraBarnett

LaraBarnett  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:16
Member (2011)
French to English
+ ...
Dec 30, 2016

My client, a large agency. is deducting 50% of my fee for the translation of a certificate because I omitted a word. The text read "Twenty Eighth" but I put "Eighth". The client complained because she had needed it for a wedding procedure that weekend. The project manager had told me that she had checked it was ready to be sent to her with my signature and stamp. Surely if the project manager has told me it is ok and to send it, they do not have a legal right to deduct my money, especially this amount?

This agency markets themselves under the three ISO norms: 17100, 9001 and 14001. Would this not make them more responsible than me, and do any of these ensure the document is adequately proofread before it reaches the client?


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Gabriele Demuth  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:16
Member (2014)
English to German
Did the client pay at all? Dec 30, 2016

It may have been a small error, but crucial, if it was a certificate required for a wedding procedure. The client may not have been able to get married on that day and this would have caused a lot of hassle and extra cost.

So, it might be possible that the client didn't pay at all, and sharing the loss would be fair, if that was the case. Otherwise, if there was time it could have just been corrected.

[Edited at 2016-12-30 12:38 GMT]


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 02:16
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Whoever puts the signature and stamp on it Dec 30, 2016

LaraBarnett wrote:
The project manager had told me that she had checked it was ready to be sent to her with my signature and stamp.


In a translation that requires a signature and stamp, however puts the signature and stamp on it, is fully responsible for any mistakes on it... and, I think, for any consequences of the translation being incorrect. Do you know how much a wedding really costs to do over, just because it could not continue due to a translation error?

The signature and stamp is the last procedure in the translation process. By the time the translation gets to this stage, it should have been checked and double-checked already, and whoever then says "this translation is fine" opens him/herself (or his/her company) to liability. Don't you think so?

Surely if the project manager has told me it is ok and to send it...


The editor/proofreader is blameless of any translation error that they did not see, and can only be blamed for any errors that they themselves have introduced. Ultimately, the person whose job it is to "okay" the translation is responsible. In the case of a signature-and-stamp translation, that responsibility lies with the original translator. This is different from the usual agency arranged translation jobs, in which the translator often doesn't have control over the final translation.

My client, a large agency. is deducting 50% of my fee for the translation of a certificate because I omitted a word. The text read "Twenty Eighth" but I put "Eighth".


What is the usual arrangement between the agency and you, in cases that you submit translations that are utterly (literally utterly) unsuitable for the purpose of the document?


[Edited at 2016-12-30 12:41 GMT]


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Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 02:16
English to Croatian
+ ...
Some points. Dec 30, 2016

LaraBarnett wrote:

My client, a large agency. is deducting 50% of my fee for the translation of a certificate because I omitted a word. The text read "Twenty Eighth" but I put "Eighth". The client complained because she had needed it for a wedding procedure that weekend. The project manager had told me that she had checked it was ready to be sent to her with my signature and stamp. Surely if the project manager has told me it is ok and to send it, they do not have a legal right to deduct my money, especially this amount?

This agency markets themselves under the three ISO norms: 17100, 9001 and 14001. Would this not make them more responsible than me, and do any of these ensure the document is adequately proofread before it reaches the client?



How relevant was that number for the purpose and the context of the document? In what context was the 28 and 8? If it has a high relevance or if it could have ruined their project/wedding/whatever it was, then they may deduct the full amount. Again, the proofreading (at least that of numbers) could have/should have been done by the agency. If they couldn't do it on such a small file, I'm scared to think what's happening with larger files.

In a CAT tool, you may click QA and they compare all the numbers and names between source and target, it's pretty much automatic.

I don't think I would use a CAT for such a file but I would use some sort of left and right column for comparisons.


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LaraBarnett  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:16
Member (2011)
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Responsability Dec 30, 2016

I am just surprised that I am so accountable when the agency should have let me know there was a mistake. Obviously a mistake should not be made, but if the final point of contact with the end-client is the agency, would that not make them legally responsible? I was also wondering if anybody knows if this sort of thing is covered in the translation ISO standards that the agency works by.

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Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 02:16
English to Croatian
+ ...
This is also true. Dec 30, 2016

LaraBarnett wrote:

I am just surprised that I am so accountable when the agency should have let me know there was a mistake. Obviously a mistake should not be made, but if the final point of contact with the end-client is the agency, would that not make them legally responsible? I was also wondering if anybody knows if this sort of thing is covered in the translation ISO standards that the agency works by.


I agree with this. Otherwise, the agency just transfers files from point A to point B without doing anything else (while making enormous profit).

But where is the line, when does your accountability begins and ends then? If the agency is responsible for everything, then you are not never mind what you do?

Don't tell me that you missed the actual date of the wedding for 8th instead of 28th, are you aware of administrative complications and costs this may cause? To me it seems like an overworked or tired translator who decided to take on yet another project, and there was no time for proofreading.


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Peter Shortall  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:16
Member
French to English
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Terms and conditions Dec 31, 2016

LaraBarnett wrote:

This agency markets themselves under the three ISO norms... do any of these ensure the document is adequately proofread before it reaches the client?


Apparently not, as your case demonstrates. I am always wary of agencies that make a big fuss about ISO standards as if they provide a cast-iron guarantee of perfection. You can't regulate against human fallibility.

As far as the amount of the discount is concerned, in proportion to the amount of text that you translated, I imagine that one word must be far less than 50%, but the amount of inconvenience that this might have caused for the client is hard for us to gauge. Out of interest, do you know whether the end client is paying the agency anything at all? If the error caused major inconvenience, I'm surprised the agency is even willing to pay you 50%, so I'm guessing the situation can't have been all that bad.

As for how liability is apportioned, the first thing I would think about in a situation like this is not ISO standards, but rather the terms and conditions that you and the agency agreed on (if any) when you began working for it, because this is a contractual relationship. You mention that this is a large agency, and large agencies often ask translators to sign terms of business, or a "service level agreement", or something similar. Did that happen, and if so, do the terms and conditions cover situations like this? If you agreed to conditions that allow them to deduct a penalty of this size, then you will have to chalk this one up to experience. If there is no penalty clause, then I expect it will come down to negotiation between you and your client, and since they have your money and you have made a mistake which the client picked up on, you are not in a very strong bargaining position.

What you could do in future is to draft your own terms of business stating that if errors are found in your work, your client must give you the opportunity to correct them at no extra cost to them, and require your clients to agree to them. That's what some translators do. Perhaps not all agencies/clients would agree to such a term, but it would protect you from disproportionate or arbitrary discounts.





[Edited at 2016-12-31 17:03 GMT]


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Mario Chavez  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:16
English to Spanish
+ ...
Lara, I am wondering about signed agreements Jan 1

LaraBarnett wrote:

My client, a large agency. is deducting 50% of my fee for the translation of a certificate because I omitted a word. The text read "Twenty Eighth" but I put "Eighth". The client complained because she had needed it for a wedding procedure that weekend. The project manager had told me that she had checked it was ready to be sent to her with my signature and stamp. Surely if the project manager has told me it is ok and to send it, they do not have a legal right to deduct my money, especially this amount?

This agency markets themselves under the three ISO norms: 17100, 9001 and 14001. Would this not make them more responsible than me, and do any of these ensure the document is adequately proofread before it reaches the client?


Hello, Lara,
Did your client made you sign an agreement where this 50% deduction is mentioned and explained? If not, they have no grounds.

According to ISO standards for translation projects, what the client and the translator agree in writing about a project is controlling, not intent, not things said over the phone, etc. That's my interpretation.

IMO, ISO standards are used for marketing purposes by some translation agencies, not for quality control or other professional purposes.


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Gabriele Demuth  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:16
Member (2014)
English to German
Liability Jan 1

Some agencies have quite nasty liability clauses in their contracts (which should best not be signed), which could make you liable for all the costs to their client that have resulted due to this mistake - I hope nobody will go there, but it is something to consider.

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jyuan_us  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 20:16
Member (2005)
English to Chinese
+ ...
How much was the total amount due? Jan 2

Just curious.

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