Duplicate payment:Agency legal demand for immediate repayment
Thread poster: autor

autor  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 15:22
Member
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Oct 3, 2011

I'd appreciate advice from anyone who has had to face a similar situation.

Almost 2 years ago an agency I worked for paid my invoice twice by mistake. I genuinely did not notice this at the time: if I had, I would have reported it and paid it back.

The agency asked me, in a polite and friendly manner, to check my bank records and confirm that this had happened. I took some trouble to do this, as electronic records were not available to me for this period, and the paper records were in another country. As soon as I saw it was true, I emailed them that a double payment had indeed been made, asking how they suggested we resolve the matter. My own thoughts were that it I could discount any future work up to the amount owed.

By return, I received a reply not from my friendly agency contact, but from a solicitor demanding I make immediate repayment or suffer dire financial consequences. I was shocked and amazed! I was cooperating fully, and had given no inclination that the money would not be repaid.

As a scrupulously honest and hard-working translator, I greatly resent being bullied in this way concerning a mistake not made by me, but by the agency. This is an agency with a very good ProZ Blue Board entry, and yet on this matter it is showing very little respect for the translator.

All advice gratefully received.


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neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 16:22
Spanish to English
+ ...
Tell them to stuff it Oct 3, 2011

autor wrote:

By return, I received a reply not from my friendly agency contact, but from a solicitor demanding I make immediate repayment or suffer dire financial consequences. I was shocked and amazed! I was cooperating fully, and had given no inclination that the money would not be repaid.


Personally, I would draft a formal letter of reply to the agency and their legal eagles, with the help of a lawyer friend if need be, explaining exactly why you feel put upon or harassed by their reaction. If they continue to play hardball, I'd say damn the torpedoes and let them waste their time and money on lawyers' fees by suing you. This may not be good advice if you have much to lose, but at the end of the day it's what I would do.


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Ivan Rocha, CT
Canada
English to Portuguese
+ ...
I would pay them back immediately... Oct 3, 2011

...not because they are threatening, but just because this is the right thing to do. The money is not yours, and should be returned to them promptly.

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xxxmediamatrix
Local time: 12:22
Spanish to English
+ ...
Step 1 Oct 3, 2011

autor wrote:
...
By return, I received a reply not from my friendly agency contact, but from a solicitor demanding I make immediate repayment or suffer dire financial consequences.
...


Unless you already have verfiable evidence of the fact, I suggest that the first step would be to ask your 'friendly agency contact' for confirmation (or otherwise) that the solicitor has in fact been contracted by the agency to handle this matter, and not by some as yet unidentified third party.

Regardless of the answer to that enquiry, it will also give you an opportunity to make known to the agency your 'discomfort' faced with the solicitor's anti-social behaviour.

And maybe step two would be to find out whether the agency is going/has gone bust and its creditors are on the rampage.

MediaMatrix



[Edited at 2011-10-03 19:34 GMT]


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Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:22
English to German
+ ...
Yes, the same happened to me Oct 3, 2011

A few years ago a client from overseas sent an amount of about 1300 dollar twice by accident. I noticed it first, notified my contact and asked for an account number to send the money back. "No, you keep it,", they said. "The wire transfer fees and exchange rates are much too expensive and we both would lose money", and I should keep sending translations instead. Which was a wonderful proof of trust, considering that this client was relatively new.

My question to autor: Did you suggest that you keep the amount in your initial reply?


Edited for typo

[Edited at 2011-10-03 20:49 GMT]


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autor  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 15:22
Member
Portuguese to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Feedback and Resolution Oct 4, 2011

Thanks to all who took the time to reply. And to Nicola - I didn't suggest I keep the amount in my reply, I merely said, "What do you propose for repayment?".

After receiving the unpleasant letter from the solicitor, I replied to him asking why he was threatening legal proceedings when I was cooperating and had not refused to pay the money back. I also asked him to provide the legal basis for his demand that I pay the full amount back within 1 week. I copied this email to the agency.

I also emailed the agency expressing my disappointment and anger that they should resort to a solicitor in reply to my response confirming the double payment.

The agency has since made a full and very detailed apology. The solicitor's involvement was a misunderstanding and he has since been reprimanded. I have accepted the apology and asked for bank details so that I can make the transfer. I have suggested that they consider deducting the cost of the international bank transfer.


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 16:22
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Better control on your part Oct 4, 2011

autor wrote:
Almost 2 years ago an agency I worked for paid my invoice twice by mistake. I genuinely did not notice this at the time: if I had, I would have reported it and paid it back.

Well, this proves that you need a better control of the invoices issued and payments from customers. If you kept track of what invoices are paid and when, you would have noticed the double payment immediately

Yes, indeed the double payment was their mistake and we all have had these situations, but you also need to be able to react to incorrect payments swiftly. 2 years sounds like a bit too long.


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Gilla Evans  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:22
Spanish to English
+ ...
Look carefully at the tax implications. Oct 4, 2011

This has happened to me on a couple of occasions in the past. On one, I returned the payment by bank transfer as soon as it was spotted. On the other, the amount was left in my credit and served as part payment for a later translation. One issue that may arise in your case is that you have probably paid income tax already on this money as so long a time has lapsed. You need to take this into account in dealing with the issue with your client so that you are not out of pocket. And yes, I think it would be normal practice to deduct any transfer fees you have to pay to return the money, the mistake being theirs.

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Lawyer-Linguist  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 15:22
Dutch to English
+ ...
Bank charges Oct 4, 2011

autor wrote:

The agency has since made a full and very detailed apology. The solicitor's involvement was a misunderstanding and he has since been reprimanded. I have accepted the apology and asked for bank details so that I can make the transfer. I have suggested that they consider deducting the cost of the international bank transfer.


If you are making the transfer from a PT online banking account, there are three options: (1) costs to be shared, (2) costs payable by the payer and (3) costs payable by the payee.

Number 1 is the default position on the dropdown list. You could just choose number 3 and transfer the funds.

On the other hand, they could conceivably argue they are entitled to interest for the period you have been in possession of the funds, or at least from their initial date of notice of the fact, but if that issue hasn't been raised yet, it would seem they aren't going to insist, so maybe meet them halfway on the bank charges?

Take care
Debs

PS: As for the tax, you'd need to cancel the relevant "recibo verde" and either deduct the amount of the payment from this year's income, or alternatively submit an amended return for that tax year online, but that is an issue between you and Finanças. It has nothing to do with the client or what you should repay them as, in a perfect world, the double payment should never have been included in your income for that tax year.

[Edited at 2011-10-04 09:38 GMT]


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Gilla Evans  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:22
Spanish to English
+ ...
Agree with Lawyer-Linguist Oct 4, 2011

That the tax situation isn't anything to do with the client, and sorry if my post was misleading on this point. I really wanted to point out to the asker that he would have to remember to sort out this discrepancy in his tax affairs in the current year, so as not to lose out as a result of the mistake made by his client.

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Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:22
English to German
+ ...
The tax situation Oct 4, 2011

There is an addendum to my story which was not relevant previously to our discussion.

My client claimed that they never, ever sent a duplicate payment. They combed through their books like crazy. Their account status was in order. All of the sudden there was a 4-digt amount hovering around, apparently due to a mistake by some bank. We never figured out which one, mine or my client's bank from overseas. The heck will I do to to even remotely commit tax fraud, and my invoices were headed by "Invoice/Receipt" and included the line "Thank you for your payment". This way I could delegate any tax discrepancies to my client...


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