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Non-paying customer in Germany. What to do?
Thread poster: Marc Svetov

Marc Svetov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 02:59
Member (2007)
German to English
May 18, 2010

I have been doing work for a German customer for several months now. This customer does not pay his bills on time. He owes me EUR 1,400.00. This is a matter of several invoices. He will pay smaller invoices at random and leave the bigger ones out. He owes me for work done as far back as December 2009; this is now a matter of several invoices. I don't want to do any more work for him and want to be paid for the work I have done. I haven't written anything about his deadbeat paying habits on the Blue Board yet. I want to get what he owes me. Does Germany have any system--like the Chamber of Commerce--where one can go to and get this taken care of? Do I have to get a lawyer? He is in Frankfurt; I am in Berlin. Should I get a Frankfurt lawyer? What is the procedure? Is it worth getting a lawyer to collect the fees he owes?

 

Livia D'Ettorre  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 09:59
Member (2005)
English to Italian
+ ...
Why not post on the BB? May 18, 2010

Hi Marc,
Sorry to hear about this. I am not sure how it all works in Germany, but if I were you I would start by posting a comment on the Blue Board. I have heard from many people that, after doing that, the client paid them. I think it might help you and you would help other translators by warning them.
Good luck!
Livia

[Edited at 2010-05-18 07:52 GMT]


 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 08:59
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Me too May 18, 2010

HI Mark

I am having almost exactly the same problem with a non-paying agency in Italy.

Normally when someone doesn't pay one invoice I have a procedure that eventually forces them to pay that invoice, and then I never work with them again.

But when I have a number of outstanding payments, as in your case, this procedure can't be applied because even if they pay the first invoice, they may never pay the other ones.

The standard procedure begins by first advising them politely that they are late with the payment. If they don't respond, the next step is to telephone them.

If that doesn't produce results the next step is to give them a negative rating on BlueBoard (without telling them first).

I won't write what the following steps are.... they're confidential ... but the legal route should be the last option.

I'll be following this thread with interest.


 

Julia Esrom  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 09:59
German to English
+ ...
did you send any payment reminders May 18, 2010

Sorry to hear that you are experiencing so much trouble. Have you actually sent out any official payment reminders ("Mahnungen")? You will need to have sent at least a couple before you can proceed further. Hopefully that won't be necessary. Have you tried phoning the client to find out what the problem is? Hope you will be able to get your money without having to get a lawyer involved. That should really be the last option.

 

Tarja Braun  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 09:59
Member (2008)
German to Finnish
+ ...
Debt collection agency May 18, 2010

Just give the case to a debt collection agency. In Germany I have received my money after a couple of "Mahnungen" and/or phone calls. At the moment I have a non-paying customer in Italy, I have been waiting for 1,300 euro since end of 2009. I handed over to a debt collection agency in Italy, they have sent a couple of reminders, and their lawyer is involved now. You have the right to be paid for your services, just claim it.

 

Sven Wagener  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 09:59
Member (2007)
English to German
+ ...
Couple of helpful links May 18, 2010

Hi Marc,

In your case, I'd opt for a "gerichtliches Mahnverfahren"


http://www.frankfurt-main.ihk.de/recht/themen/verfahrensrecht/gerichtliche_mahnung/index.html

http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahnverfahren


 

Kipale78
Italy
Local time: 09:59
English to Italian
+ ...
Post on the Blueboard! May 18, 2010

Otherwise how can other translators know that they have to be very careful with this guy? If someone had posted it before, you would have been warned yourself!

 

Mary Watson  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:59
German to English
+ ...
Similar situation May 18, 2010

Sorry to hear you are having this problem. I, unfortunately, am having the same problem. I did a job for a new client in Germany. They loved it! They gave me two more and promised an ongoing partnership. This was in December, 2009.

In February, I received a short, strange email out of the blue that it was important that I translate as if I were a native English speaker (I am!), and not as a German speaker trying to sound American.

I replied to this email asking what they meant, and what their criticism was based on. No reply.

In March, I asked for payment - approximately 500 euros.

No reply.

In April, I asked again. No reply.

In May, I started bombarding them with daily e-mails. Finally, I received a reply in which they stated that they would pay me half, since the quality of the work was not good, and they had to hire another translator to do the whole translation over again. I asked them which translation they were referring to (I had done 3) and also for a copy of the client's critique and the new translation.

Once again, no reply.

More emails on my part. Finally, this morning I received an email that they were transferring payment (I'm wondering how much) and that they would try to find the reworked translation so I could take a look out it.

I'm giving them until the end of the week before the Blue Board posting. I will never work with this company again and will warn all other translators about them, even if I receive full payment.


 

Natalia Elo  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 09:59
Member (2004)
English to Russian
+ ...
Just post on BB May 18, 2010

Dear Marc,
Dear Mary,


I'm sorry to hear about your difficulties. My advice is to post on BB. Based on my experience it works miracles. Agencies regularly working with freelancers over ProZ.com care about their reputation. You can remove your comment after they have paid, if you want. Also for German agencies check free Zahlungspraxis mailing list at yahoo. If you can't find it write to me, I'll send the link.

Liebe Grüße,
Natalia


 

Casey Carmical
United States
Local time: 03:59
Member
Japanese to English
Not a good idea May 19, 2010

Natalia Elo wrote:

Dear Marc,
Dear Mary,


I'm sorry to hear about your difficulties. My advice is to post on BB. Based on my experience it works miracles. Agencies regularly working with freelancers over ProZ.com care about their reputation. You can remove your comment after they have paid, if you want. Also for German agencies check free Zahlungspraxis mailing list at yahoo. If you can't find it write to me, I'll send the link.

Liebe Grüße,
Natalia



The comment should be edited to reflect payment, not removed. Otherwise other translators will not know that the agency has a payment problem. Then the BB is basically useless.


 

Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 00:59
English to German
+ ...
What did your client say... May 19, 2010

...on the phone?

Other than that, Frankfurt is only 420 km away from Berlin. Did you ever tell them that you might happen to stop by to collect the check? It's only 3 or 4 hours by train.

What was their reply?

Did you send your invoice via Einschreiben mit Rückschein already?


 

Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 00:59
English to German
+ ...
Addendum May 19, 2010

I am sorry. I am absolutely flabbergasted by this island-thinking. Of course there are Handelskammern. You live in Germany, you should know about such things. Do your homework! Having a Steuerberater as a self-employed person is mandatory, and you should know the phone number of the Rechtsberatung. This is Germany, not the Kongo or whatever Mongolian desert.

icon_frown.gif


 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 08:59
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Absolutely May 19, 2010

casey wrote:

The comment should be edited to reflect payment, not removed. Otherwise other translators will not know that the agency has a payment problem. Then the BB is basically useless.


Absolutely. This is extremely important.

If an agency that doesn't pay ends up with a whole string of positive BB ratings then of course this would undermine the usefulness of BB.



[Edited at 2010-05-19 07:07 GMT]


 

Russell Jones  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 08:59
Italian to English
Editing Blue Board entries May 19, 2010

casey wrote:

The comment should be edited to reflect payment, not removed. Otherwise other translators will not know that the agency has a payment problem. Then the BB is basically useless.


But note Blue Board FAQ number 2.16:
You may edit your entry by clicking on the edit link on the right side of your entry, however, this will only be available before an outsourcer has replied and if your entry is less than a year old. However, any changes are subject to approval by site staff or moderators.

Once a reply has been entered by an outsourcer, you many not edit your entry.


 

Yolanda Broad  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 03:59
Member (2000)
French to English
+ ...

MODERATOR
Entries with replies may be edited after contacting Site staff May 19, 2010

Hi Russell,

While it is true that the editing function is no longer automatically available once a reply to an LWA (Likelihood to Work Again) has been entered, it is always possible to change a non-payment report by contacting Site staff via a Support request to report payment. They will remove the LWA so a new LWA can be entered. Also, it is also advisable to contact staff to remove your previous entry if a situation with a particular outsourcer has changed significantly for the worse.

However, many people, once their old LWA has been removed, do not enter a new one reflecting the updated situation. Casey is right here: a report on the new situation (and on your Likelihood to Work Again for a particular outsourcer) should be made, so the rest of us can get a clear picture of how the outsourcer has treated others.

HTH

Yolanda

Russell Jones wrote:

casey wrote:

The comment should be edited to reflect payment, not removed. Otherwise other translators will not know that the agency has a payment problem. Then the BB is basically useless.


But note Blue Board FAQ number 2.16:
You may edit your entry by clicking on the edit link on the right side of your entry, however, this will only be available before an outsourcer has replied and if your entry is less than a year old. However, any changes are subject to approval by site staff or moderators.

Once a reply has been entered by an outsourcer, you many not edit your entry.



 
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Non-paying customer in Germany. What to do?

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