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Non paying client with invalid complaint
Thread poster: Michele Gile

Michele Gile  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:20
Member (2008)
German to English
Nov 22, 2010

Hi there, I am new to forums and seeking some advise. I had a client that I translated for for about 4 month. All was well, paymnts got slower and slower. He stated I was his best translator and he was very happy.
Then something changed - He had sent me a word document with 148 pages with lots of images and tables, hyperlinks etc.and tageditor file. When I opened the source file word doc an error message came up refereing to the tables and a second message relating to masks and layers.

Prior to project start I told him of these error messages and he said dont worry just work it. I got my PO and translated in Tageditor. Upon conversion into the word file I was not able to touch the wordfile meaning e.g. run a final spell check on it - I had the error message again.
I told the project manager about it and he stated, no problem I will do the spell check. Now 4 weeks later the owner of the company does not want to pay because I did not do the spell check. he wants to deduct 400 Euros (50% of job) for "no spellcheck"

Am I way of here in thinking this is just wrong?
How do i obtain money due to me from Germany?
Thanks so much everybody!!


Barry Appleby  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 18:20
Russian to English
+ ...
Possible approaches Nov 22, 2010

Read your posting and have a number of questions.
Your clearly had problems with this customer's file
and when back to him for clarification as to how to
proceed. Did you communicate with him and the project
manager by e-mail? I f you did and you still have these
messages, then I would suggest that you send them together
with a claim for full payment, stating that you complied with
his instructions and therefore his claim is invalid. It is very important
that you put together all the hard evidence that you have in the form
of e-mails, letters, faxes etc.

Secondly, 50% of the fee for the lack of a spell check
seems extortionate and disproportional to the effort
involved. If this was a Word Document, it could have been
saved as as a text file and a spell check run to on that. He could
also have sent you a file with all this complicated formatting for
the tables removed. As a translator, you are not obliged to do
the customer's layout unless you have specifically agreed to

You do not state what has happened since you did the job.
Has he paid any money at all? He should have at least sent
you 50% of the final fee. If not, why not= Have you been in
contact with him?

Your major problem is that since he is domiciled in Germany and
any legal action would probably have to be taken there. Before you
do any think try to obtain as much information as possible from the
relevant government agency in Canada that deals with queries relating to
the export of services and protector of Canadian exporters. You could also try
speaking tot he Commercial attache at the German embassy in Ottawa. Can
you approach your member of Parliament for help? This is something that we can do in the

I would advise you to try to get whatever you can, as legal action to recover
monies owed to you in another country could be a complicated and protected affair.
I've spent 2 years here int he UK trying to sue a builder through my insurance company
and he has yet to be served with the necessary papers. Since the sum involved is 400 euros,
you cannot really afford to spend hours and hours of your working time trying to recover all
of what you are owed. if he pays nothing and you get nowhere, talk to a debt collection
agency that works internationally and see how much their services would and if they would buy you claim and then add on their own expenses.

If he pays up the 50% that is owing, then try to get the rest by threatening him with having his company blacklisted by and make a formal complaint to at national or land level in Germany to the official agency for trade and commerce.

I do sympathize as I do work for a translation agency in Stockholm and a movie company in Kazakhstan, both of whom are 100% reliable when it comes to payments.

Please feel free to contact me if you feel this would be helpful.
Best regards
Barry Appleby


Simone Linke  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:20
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
Friendly "threats"? Nov 22, 2010

Somewhere in another thread someone mentioned that they had told US non-payers that they'd be reported to the IRS, and apparently that had made these non-payers rush to their wallets right away.

You could send a friendly e-mail with the proof of the invalidity of their claim (as Barry has already explained) and mention in that e-mail that you might have to contact German authorities if you don't see your money.

The German authorities even have a Webform where you can enter details about suspected tax fraud.. maybe that will make this client pay what is due to you, too.


Michele Gile  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:20
Member (2008)
German to English
have copies and proof Nov 22, 2010

Thanks Barry,
I have everything in email. The statment from his project manager that he will do the spell check since their are problems with the doc. -everything. I told that to the boss and even sent him a copy of the exchange with the PM. He ignored it. He told me it is my responsibility to-do final spellcheck and final edit - I believe this is void since I voiced my concern early on and the PM said he would do it

Also, where is the proofreader that ran the spell-check and cost 400 Euros???

I also agree that most professional agencies will take out tables and images and sent a managable file. This agency owner however finds that too much hassle and leaves in images, mask tables you name in a document size of over 60 000 kb

I did not get paid anything, no 50% no nothing. He has been sick since he had to format the document for 8 hours - which in writing he told me had nothing to-do with my translation but the errors in the doc. I have this email also in writing.

I appreciate your advise and reference to authorities for colleting.


[Edited at 2010-11-23 03:27 GMT]

[Edited at 2010-11-23 03:30 GMT]


Joakim Braun  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:20
German to Swedish
+ ...
Mahnverfahren Nov 22, 2010

[Bearbeitet am 2010-11-22 22:51 GMT]


LegalTranslatr2  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 13:20
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Proofreading Nov 22, 2010

Surely you always print out the translation and proofread first (and if not, knowing that you could not perform a spell check, you must have done a thorough proofreading). Therefore, there cannot have been more than a couple spelling mistakes and that would not justify a 50% discount?


Michele Gile  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:20
Member (2008)
German to English
on printing Nov 22, 2010

Hi Jeff,
no i do not print on paper unless it is absolutly demanded, all my bills for house and home are also electronic. However, the point is that I clearly had concerns from start of the translation, i declined it originally due to the format and size etc. and error messages that apreared upon opening.

The PM then agreed, in writing, to-do spell-check. There were no errors other then spelling.

How long does it take to change odor to odour and behaviour to behavior. But that is not even the issue, it is that they do not stand by our agreement.
My clients quotes were amongst others:

He was aware of the corrupt original document

[Edited at 2010-11-23 03:32 GMT]


Laurent KRAULAND (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:20
French to German
+ ...
Trouble is... Nov 23, 2010

Trouble is that, while agencies pay translators and proofreaders on a word basis, they "charge" their internal work by the hour (and often at inflated prices). Taking this into consideration, 50% is not outrageous (*) - I had a similar case once and the agency wanted to deduct 40% of the initial fee.

However, and as the claim came only when the invoice was due according to the agency, 10 working days had largely elapsed by then.

Before going any further, I would ask the agency to send me the final file. If they decline doing so, it may be because they have no proof to support their claims.

(*) However, it is indeed outrageous to use different methods for freelancers on the one hand and for their personnel on the other hand.


Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:20
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Take action Nov 23, 2010

Laurent KRAULAND wrote:
However, and as the claim came only when the invoice was due according to the agency, 10 working days had largely elapsed by then.
Before going any further, I would ask the agency to send me the final file. If they decline doing so, it may be because they have no proof to support their claims.

Indeed. An agency that takes our the claim from the drawer when it is time to pay is not a good business partner.

Ask them for the final version of the document with any changes done by the agency or a hired proofreader. Explain to them that unless they can prove that there were mistakes in the text, you are entitled to a full payment, with a reduction of 1 hour of work for spellchecking.

Do not forget to mention that, unless they prove their claim, you will start a EU small claims procedure against them. Do not let time run any longer.

Furthermore, post a negative BlueBoard entry to warn other translators about this agency.

(Edited to add this: I see that you are in Canada. I am not sure you can use the EU Small Claims procedure. In any case, you can always use other collection methods and sue them for lack of payment.

Also, when you make your BlueBoard entry in, select the options about non-payment, so that can keep the agency from posting jobs in if they do not pay.)

[Edited at 2010-11-23 07:20 GMT]


Michele Gile  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:20
Member (2008)
German to English
had previous agreement Nov 23, 2010

The point really is, they agreed on taking the file althoug I was unable to edit resp. do spellcheck. They agreed on this from the start in writing because the file was corrupt and they did have problems with it from the start.

I completly agree that I would take a deduction in a normal case but since this this whole thing was an issue from the start, e.g. PM stated he will do edit and cleaning of file for me. Then they had problems of their own e.g. it took them 8 hours to process the tageditor file - they stated that is not my fault they are aware of the corrupt file. Then to get to me weeks later when the payment is late and I ask about it, is kind of unprofessional.

comment from Tomas - An agency that takes our the claim from the drawer when it is time to pay is not a good business partner.

Post removed: This post was hidden by a moderator or staff member because it was not in line with site rule

Lucinda Hollenberg  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:20
Dutch to English
+ ...
Non Paying client Nov 24, 2010


I am so sorry to hear about your troubles.

Something came to mind. Did you ask the client whether it was to be a UK or a US English translation? Just because both words that you indicated in your posting were 'odour' and 'behaviour.' They have a different spelling in the one or the other language.

To avoid misunderstandings, I always ask that whether it may or may not be an issue, re subject matter of the translation. I handle Dutch and Flemish to English.

In technical translations it is usually not a biggie but it indeed makes a different in legal and some academic translations.

Regarding the spell checks in complicated files (I do not mind them sending the complete file with the images and the works); I always make a second copy stored as a text file and spell check that. Then all you have to do is save it as the regular file again.

This is now too late but perhaps for the future.

Good luck; I hope that you get all your money.


Post removed: This post was hidden by a moderator or staff member for the following reason: Unedited since 2 weeks
Post removed: This post was hidden by a moderator or staff member for the following reason: Unedited since 2 weeks

XX789 (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:20
English to Dutch
+ ...
Of course, but Nov 24, 2010

Of course e-mails and postings are not work, but they do give a general idea or impression about the average work people deliver. Criteria should indeed be less strict than the criteria for translation, but there are limits really. Your postings did not bode well, that was all.

If the quality of your work was good, give them a 1 on and tell them to pay the full amount within 24 hours. You want a payment remittance as proof. If after 24 hours the amount has not arrived, hand the case over to your lawyer immediately and copy your client in CC. Be absolutely and totally merciless and do not rest until they have paid the full amount or have gone bankrupt. Also copy their end clients in CC and add a message saying that you have reason to believe that your client is not able to fulfill its payment obligations. This is not slander as long as you base it on facts alone.

You can build this up step by step if needed and start with simple threats. Make sure you mention the address of the laywer/bailiff you are going to contact if the client does not do exactly as stated. Do follow through and be very strict about when you do what. "Payment should be on my bank account at 13:00 CET" means "Payment should be on my bank account at 13:00 CET" , not "Payment should be on my bank account at 13:01 CET." This way the client can see that you're someone who should be taken very seriously.

Always worked for me, with one notable exception: a company in Hong Kong (banned from Since I found out that Hong Kong laws offer full protection for defaulting companies located in Hong Kong (the Small Claims Court demands you to show up in the Hong Kong court personally), I therefore demand all my clients in Hong Kong to pay the full amount in advance. Since then I have lost all my clients in Hong Kong. I don't care.

Do realize though this can backfire if the client actually has a point and your translation *is* infested with errors. AFAIK, the Dutch Association of Translation Agencies says that a translation should not contain more than 1 serious error (spelling errors included) per 500 words. Personally I believe that's a ridiculously loose standard, but who am I. If you actually delivered substandard work, no matter the reason, and the client can prove this, you may have a problem.

In this case you seem to be covered for spelling errors. That excludes errors in grammar and terminology though.

However, there are dozens of ways to spell-check Word files that generate errors. In your case, you could have easily exported a bilingual file from TagEditor (File > Save as bilingual) and spell-check from there. So it honestly baffles me why both you and your client ever agreed on following this approach.

[Edited at 2010-11-24 20:51 GMT]

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