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Success stories about collecting money abroad
Thread poster: ViktoriaG

ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 09:50
English to French
+ ...
May 8, 2008

In a recent thread ( http://www.proz.com/forum/money_matters/104120-creation_of_translator_network_to_collect_unpaid_invoices.html?start=0 ), some users proposed different means to deal with non-payment issues abroad. I feel there is a missing piece in the puzzle - it is hard to figure out an efficient and economic solution to this problem if we don't know what actually is efficient. Luckily, I haven't had enough non-payment issues so far for me to see a pattern and have enough experience to know what works best.

I would like to know if you ever managed to collect money from rogue agencies and other outsourcers who either refused to pay saying your work is not professional, disappeared without leaving any trace, pretended they lost the invoice and dragged it on for months or just stopped replying when time came to pay. In short, I am interested in all scenarios, whether the quality of the translation was disputed or not.

I am not so much interested in failure stories as in stories where a translator managed to recover all or most of the money owed.

I am simply trying to establish which methods have the best chances of working out. If possible, please mention what country you lived in at the time, what country the outsourcer was in, if there was a valid contract, the relevant parts of the contract, the laws of which of the two countries applied, what methods you tried that didn't work before you tried the method that did work, etc. I really don't mind if you give us lots of details.

Alright, in my case, an outsourcer (kitchen-table agency) in Spain owed me just short of $1000. After a few months (and repeated attemps at contacting her), I posted a negative BB entry. Because I explicitly said in the BB entry that I will take action without specifying what action I will take, my BB entry was regarded as a threat and was removed. I then posted a second BB entry, this time making sure I was respecting all the rules - to which the outsourcer, who didn't bother answering my e-mails and phone calls for months, replied "Do not ever work with this person!". I am actually happy about that reply - any sane translator who sees that comment can easily deduct what they need to. I then tried to find a method to collect - contacted the outsourcer's chamber of commerce, who of course didn't reply, looked up the laws in both countries that would be relevant to my case, searched for an international collection agency who also failed to reply to me (?!?) and after I considered just letting go of it all, I accidentally found out that she regularly took work from a good client of mine. That good client was kind enough to politely ask the outsourcer in question to pay me - and she did! She sent me an e-mail asking me to remove the negative BB entry - to which I did not reply. Why should I, after all this? The BB record is still there - and more have since then been added by others.

[Edited at 2008-05-08 22:21]


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Charlie Bavington  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:50
French to English
Absolutely. No failures. May 8, 2008

Heaven forfend that a useful information about how NOT to go about things might find its way into our collective knowledge base.

[Edited at 2008-05-09 19:22]


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xxxLia Fail  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 15:50
Spanish to English
+ ...
title May 8, 2008

Viktoria

The title is confusing (or am I confused or just tired?)

Cd you edit it to make it clearer what you want, which as I understand it, is summat about "success in collecting debt abroad" or maybe (as per Charlie) "success and failure in collecting debt abroad"


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Anna Sylvia Villegas Carvallo
Mexico
Local time: 08:50
English to Spanish
Neither I. May 9, 2008

Viktoria Gimbe says "I am not so much interested in failure stories", and I think she's right.

Those trying to collect a hard-earned payment from a non-paying client already have enough failure and sad stories (I have a couple of my own), and I think it is unnecessary to know their grief.

What I need to know are successful stories like: "Finally, I contacted XXX and got the number for their legal department. I faxed them a letter claiming my rights to the translation and said I would sue them if they published it without my permission. The very next day the production company called me and said they were going to "investigate" why I had not been paid! The day after that I recieved a Fed Ex with my check."

Just an example.


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Dinny  Identity Verified
Greece
Local time: 16:50
Italian to Danish
+ ...
Italy: How to get your money May 9, 2008

First of all: always make sure you have got your paperwork right:
- P.O. confirming the job, the rate, and the terms
- Email from client that the work was well received
- Invoice
- Proof of emails asking to get paid

You can actually start doing something about it as soon as the amount is overdue and you feel the client is going to drag it on forever or is not willing to pay at all.

Contact a lawyer in Italy (preferably in the same city as your client), just google for one and send an email explaining what you need.

The lawyer will contact your client, possibly first by telephone and then by registered mail, giving them say 10 days notice to pay the amount and informing them that in failure of that legal actions would begin immediately.
So far the cost for the lawyer should be around 50 Euro, which you will have to cover yourself.

If the client does not pay, your lawyer will start the legal paperwork ("decreto ingiuntivo") and present it to the nearest court, after that your client will be given 40 days of notice to pay. If the payment is not received, the court will immediately after the expiry of the 40 days send the bailiff to your clients office. Any legal expenses and court fees will have to be paid by your client.

Your client will presumably prefer to make the payment within the first notice period given by the lawyer.

Mine did.


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Lori Cirefice  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 15:50
French to English
Paperwork May 9, 2008

Dinny wrote:

First of all: always make sure you have got your paperwork right:
- P.O. confirming the job, the rate, and the terms
- Email from client that the work was well received
- Invoice
- Proof of emails asking to get paid


Yes - successful collection is possible when you have the right paperwork, this goes for any country.


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Dr. Andrew Frankland  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 15:50
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
UK: Try threatening small-claims-court proceedings May 9, 2008

This is a very recent example. I did some work for a London-based agency in March and April. The terms were immediate payment by PayPal. Several other translators are also having problems with this agency and we are in touch to try to make sure that everybody gets paid (they all left negative BB comments).

I sent daily emails for around two weeks and was always fobbed off with excuses. I also checked up on the company at Companies House (they have a service called WebCheck where you can purchase company information for one UK pound). This morning I sent them an email, which I've since copied to all the other victims, threatening them with small-claims-court proceedings if they refused to pay. They paid within the hour. At least one of the other victims has also been paid.

The UK Courts' Service has a very helpful web site explaining how to proceed with small claims and you can even make a claim online. If you win,and provided you have all the POs and othercorrespondence I see no reason why you wouldn't, you can claim backdated interest at 13.5% (currently), all court fees and a 40 pound "debt recovery fee".

I hope this is useful to somebody,

Andy


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xxxBrandis
Local time: 15:50
English to German
+ ...
not a success story... May 9, 2008

since last year I have been facing trouble with a few chinese and egyptian agencies( older than 4 years). No collection facility is apparently possible there. They keep promising to pay and I keep waiting. I have tried everything and would appreciate all knowledged help. Best regards, Brandis

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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 09:50
English to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
It seems the law is more helpful than collection agencies are May 9, 2008

Thanks for the posts providing information on what has worked for our colleagues so far. I am especially happy about the details on collection in Italy - sadly, many translators have put the whole of Italy on a blacklist because too many agencies over there are notorious for not paying or paying extremely late, which doesn't help the Italian agencies' reputation, including the honest and professional ones. This gives a bit of hope to our colleagues who have collection problems in Italy or who are reluctant to work with Italian clients.

I also wanted to comment on why I prefer stories about succes rather than stories about failure - although Tadzio already did a good job of that. Most of us already know what doesn't work and since the main goal of this thread is to help the community to find ways that do work, I'd rather concentrate on that. I had a constructive thread in mind, not one that will be loaded with complaints - we already have tons of those, and in most cases, the outcome never makes it onto these pages.

From the few descriptive posts so far, it seems that applying the law is more effective than sending a collection agency after the non-payer. This brings up more questions. Has any of you actually been as far as small claims court? What happens if a judge decides that the client shall pay up and the client still doesn't comply? Also, has anybody had success with a simple letter from an attorney, that is, your attorney sent a letter threatening with legal action and soon after that, you received payment?

I also would like to know if most of us have a clause in our contracts that explicitly states that in case of any litigation, the matter will be dealt with by a court in our home country and not the client's. I have been using such a clause for a while and I know it will be helpful - imagine not having to deal with collection agencies and/or courts in a distant country and being able to deal with matters locally.

I am trying to figure out ways that can help us all collect money owed in an efficient, cost-effective manner. Most of us have too little legal knowledge when we start out as freelancers to be ready to tackle such issues, and I wouldn't be surprised if a good 80% of translators hadn't even attempted to collect the money that is rightfully theirs. Imagine how much money we are talking about!

Non-payment is a subject that comes up regularly here. I think it is about time we all decided to do something about it. I luckily don't have much experience with non-payment - but I know I eventually will have to face it again, and I am sure this thread will help me then to find a way to collect.

Keep the posts coming!


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Alfredo Fernández Martínez  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 15:50
English to Spanish
+ ...
For UK clients - Small claims court May 9, 2008

Guys, simply, take them to court - Small claims court

Yes, I did it when I was in the UK, against one employer of mine (not to do with translation).. and I nearly won... Documents were contradictory... Mine gave one starting date, theirs another...

In short, the transition manager kept one week's wages from me, making out that it was a sort of deposit. Only to 'massage' the figures, and to cook the books, so it looked she had made a great deal of profits when starting up the business.

When in fact, we were paid two weeks in arrears (two weeks thereafter, so there was always a two weeks lapse) in case there was an issue, etc.

By the time I was leaving, 9 months after, that transition manager had left.. and so had done my 'readies'...
At the time of the preliminary and proper hearing, she had left the company too...

Unfortunately, I did all this... but I didn't win in the end...
But, hey, they paid the fees (10%, about 24 GBP), and got really nervous and scared... and I was very close to the win-win situation!

All in all.. The whole process went on for about 5-7 months

All this was back in... 1994-5!!

Nowadays you can do it online... It really works, as long as you have all documents as proof...


Do not hesitate... it's your money, worked and earned by you!

http://www.hmcourts-service.gov.uk/infoabout/claims/index.htm


One has to advance a 10% only of the amount owed.



Best of luck,

Alfredo


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Jan Willem van Dormolen  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 15:50
English to Dutch
+ ...
Just today... May 9, 2008

Just today I received my money from a Belgian agency which had been gradually later and later in payment. Their payment terms were already not great (2 months after start of the month after invoice), but every month they were a little later... Finally, I got fed up with it and told them I wouldn't work for them anymore before receiving full payment. That startled their PM's (I was doing a lot of work for them), but the accounting dep not so, it seemed - they stopped paying altogether. Then, 10 days ago I told them I would take legal measures if they hadn't paid by today. And today the money was in my account.
My impression was they got especially nervous when I told them that authorship's rights are not transferred until payment is cleared, because I got a phone call from them less than an hour after mailing that (yesterday, when there was only one day left for them to pay).
So, in short, threaten with legal measures, and claim your authorship's rights, and bad payers can become quite docile - overnight.


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Carolin Haase  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 15:50
Member (2006)
English to German
+ ...
Last year.... May 10, 2008

...a Swiss agency with a fairly bad BB rating owed me a couple hundred euros. Payment so far had been mostly on time, I sent the odd reminder once in a while but always received the money.

When the amount due did not arrive and nobody answered any phonecalls, I posted a bb entry saying so much and started flooding (one a day, or so) them with reminder mails to all the contacts I had in that company (always polite, mind!) and sent them a registered letter claiming payment and announcing that I would have my lawyer contact them re payment...

They paid in the end. I could hardly believe my eyes.

And they even kept sending translation requests, which I refused, obvioulsy.

I forgot to mention: there were no quality issues involved; I was told repeatedly that their clients didn't pay and that was the reason why they couldn't pay me...

[Edited at 2008-05-10 05:22]


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 10:50
English to Portuguese
+ ...
A threat that works, but only (for clients) in the USA May 10, 2008

I discovered this:
http://www.irscollect.com/faq.asp
(you may navigate elsewhere in that site for more info)

The fact is that according to US laws an unpaid debt is taxable income. So if you snitch on that, and the debtor has not paid income tax (of course!) on what they owe you, the IRS will fully audit their tax returns, to check if there are any other unpaid debts from which this person is making a living.

Nope, there was no need to go through all the procedures. The simple mention that I knew about it made an end-client in Chicago pay me in full on the next day.


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Anna Sylvia Villegas Carvallo
Mexico
Local time: 08:50
English to Spanish
Another one May 10, 2008

This one may work for anyone whose Embassy in another country is willing to help, like mine in the United States.

After a long chain of emails and phone calls, and a variety of foolish responses from several people in the translation agency, I decided to emailing my Embassy with the whole story.

I don't know what they did or said, but I guess a simple phone call solved the issue, 'cause I was paid ipso facto!

Try it!


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Jenny Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:50
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
A partial success story May 12, 2008

I apologise to Prozians for telling this story once again, and for its length, but it is relevant to this thread.
About 2 years ago I was owed about € 2,000 by a French agency who turned out to be very slow payers. After inundating me with work for several months and paying some invoices late after repeated reminders, they stopped responding to emails and phone calls altogether. On one occasion when I did succeed in contacting the director on the phone he was extremely rude and claimed that the end client had refused to pay because my translation was so bad (months after the job had been delivered and when my translation was in fact published on the end client's website. I was furious by that time. I obtained some free legal advice through a friend working in Paris who consulted her firm's legal adviser. She advised me first of all to do everything "dans les formes", sending a registered letter with slip for acknowledgement of receipt detailing the whole of my relationship with the defaulting agency, enclosing all documentary evidence and giving them 30 days in which to pay or legal action would be taken. This I did. The receipt slip was never returned, so I sent the same letter again (in English and French) from a friend's address. This time the receipt slip was returned. But I received no reply and no payment by the deadline date.
As I was going to be in that part of France on holiday that September, I decided to go and visit their offices, in Angers (luckily a most interesting place). I went there at about 11 am on a Wednesday - very smart offices but virtually empty - no desks or machinery - and one person who said he was the "comptable". It looked as if the agency had already moved out. I was accompanied by my boyfriend - a former Royal Marine who doesn't speak French but stood in the background wearing dark glasses and looking grim, which certainly made me feel bolder. The gentleman was absolutely flabbergasted to see us, but was polite and apologetic and said the firm was in financial difficulty and had a long list of unpaid translators. He let me talk on the phone to a woman at their bank who declared that she was about to send me a bank transfer for part of the money due to me.
When I returned from holiday, the bank transfer for the promised amount had arrived. I never got the remainder that was due to me, and about 6 months later the agency went bankrupt.
So, if the amount owing is large and the debtor's address is not too distant, it might be worth calling on them in person (preferably without notice and accompanied by a witness). At least you'd find out if they really exist at that address and also demonstrate (if there's anyone there) that you are not to be trifled with just because you live far away.
Altogether, a fascinating experience, and very good for my spoken French. You see, there's always an up-side ...
Best wishes to all creditors, and don't weaken.
Jenny

P.S. I had previously engaged the services of a debt collection firm that claimed to specialise in foreign debt, but they were pretty feeble and unhelpful, unknown to me at first putting a girl who didn't speak French on my case.


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