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Late payments from "trustworthy" agency
Thread poster: Johann Audouin
Johann Audouin  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 07:56
English to French
Apr 7, 2013

Hello everyone,

Here is my problem. I have been working with an agency for more than two years. Before 2013, I never had any problems, all my invoices were paid on time.

However, I worked on several big projects in January-February 2013 and sent them a new invoice which remains unpaid. It is now more than one month late, I sent several reminders and dozens of emails to projects managers I work with in order to get answers. After two weeks, someone from financial department finally contacted me and I was told my invoice was taken care of. Two weeks later, I am still waiting for my payment and once more, absolutely no one from the financial department answers me, even after several reminders.

This represents a lot of work and quite a lot of money (well, for me anyway) and I am getting very worried. I do not understand why they do not answer me and why payment is so late. I do not want to damage our professional relationship but I cannot eternally for this payment. What should I do ? Obviously, I am thinking about contacting a debt collection agency but, as I said, I do not want to damage our relationship and still want to work with them, as long as I get paid for my work.

Please let me know what I should do in order to solve this problem.

[Edited at 2013-04-07 19:19 GMT]

[Edited at 2013-04-08 06:48 GMT]


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Hin und Wieder  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 07:56
Member (2012)
German to Dutch
+ ...
Call Apr 7, 2013

Sometimes it helps to make a phonecall. They have to tell you " live " what is going on, why they still did not pay.

Good luck!


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 06:56
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Escalation is called for, by the sound of it Apr 7, 2013

There are some important details that we need to have, Johann.
- I believe you're in France, but where's your client? In France, another EU country or a non-EU country?
- Do you have any idea why they aren't paying promptly all of a sudden?

Particularly if they're in the EU, there's a lot that can be done before you start thinking of a debt collection agency - they take a good percentage of the debt, and may not be interested at all if it's quite small (to them).

Firstly, you need to find out, if you can, whether they have major financial problems. I know the company registers of several EU countries are on the web, though you may have to pay to get their full details. If they've called in the receiver then all you can do is register your claim; if they're dealing with cash-flow problems then they might be very happy to negotiate an instalment plan. If nothing comes of that, and if they have a BB record, I'd contact a few translators who've posted recently and see if they can give you any information.

Certainly a phone call is one thing that might help. If not, there's a standard procedure to be followed in France. You need to send a registered letter and get the proof of delivery ("mise en demeure" sent R+AR). That's the official escalation from emails and phone calls etc. and should give all the details of the debt, the latest date for payment (and methods, just to make it easy), and what the next step will be. If they ignore that, go to that next step: debt recovery or the courts. Writing it off as a bad debt is also an option, of course, but let's not dwell on that.

If it's an EU client and not above €2-3k, the courts may be the best bet. Above that sum I believe it's rather expensive to sue, and debt recovery might be better. But then again, if its more than €3k you'll be wanting to hire legal advice. The Small Claims procedures in the EU can be very cheap (your client pays all legal costs if you win, and suing for non-payment is almost guaranteed to be successful - all you have to do then is get them to pay up). I used the French SCC some years ago very successfully when I lived there, and recently I sent a prepared EU Payment Order to France (from Spain where I live now) which resulted in prompt payment from the client who realised this was going all the way. I didn't have to submit it to the courts at all. Very often, clients (agencies in particular) try to bully translators, using us as free credit so they can keep paying themselves their salaries during hard times. It's up to us to show them that won't work.

Remember, you don't have to beg and you shouldn't threaten. This sort of thing is part of business and there are standard business practices to be followed. Good luck!


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Johann Audouin  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 07:56
English to French
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks for your answers ! Apr 8, 2013

It is a UK and US based company but I am mainly dealing with the UK part. I will phone them this week and try finding a solution out-of-court, if this does not work, I will send a registered letter and see what happens.

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Johann Audouin  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 07:56
English to French
TOPIC STARTER
Still no payment after several calls, what should I do next ? Apr 24, 2013

Hello everyone,

I phoned the agency several times and received answers from the financial department. They gave me all sorts of reasons why my payments were late and told me I would get paid asap. That was two weeks ago... and I still have not received anything.

You mentioned registered letters in your previous messages, could you please explain me more precisely what I should do? If I must go to court or call a debt collection agency, could you please give me advice about this too?

Thanks in advance!

PS: I just wanted to add that the total amount of these invoices is around 3000€, if it helps in any way.

[Edited at 2013-04-24 09:43 GMT]


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 06:56
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
IMO, you need to get your claim official Apr 24, 2013

Johann Audouin wrote:
You mentioned registered letters in your previous messages, could you please explain me more precisely what I should do?

It sounds as though they are having financial problems to me, with that "you'll be paid asap", so you need to lodge a more official claim as quickly as possible. I imagine you're corresponding with them in English: what you need to research is the wording of a "final demand", or the French equivalent, the "mise en demeure". Send that by registered post (as stated in my previous post) to their registered office, which is hopefully the address you gave on the invoices. Make sure you restate all the information about the debt, and tell them you'll take action if it isn't paid by dd/mm/yyyy.

If I must go to court or call a debt collection agency, could you please give me advice about this too?

I can't personally give you any advice about legal action against a US company, but if it's a UK company (that's the first thing you need to find out, by the sound of it - whether the debt is due from the US or the UK) then you might be able to claim for most of it through the EU procedures: https://e-justice.europa.eu/dynform_intro_taxonomy_action.do?1354375024536 . However, for around 3000€, I'd personally advise you to spend another few euros on legal advice.


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Johann Audouin  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 07:56
English to French
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks Apr 24, 2013

Thanks for your quick answer. I will start with a "mise en demeure", I found final demand letter models, I will use them to make my own. I am supposed to use the address of their London office for my invoices so I will send them the letter.

Just two small questions:

- Should I address the letter to the company itself or to the financial department?

- How long should I give them to process the payment?

[Edited at 2013-04-24 11:12 GMT]


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Marie-Helene Dubois  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 07:56
Member (2011)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Winding up notice Apr 24, 2013

Hi Johan,

If the company you are invoicing is registered in the UK, you may try a winding up notice. This is the link:
https://www.gov.uk/wind-up-a-company-that-owes-you-money/overview

Often, simply the smell of a potential winding up notice gives the agency the impression that you know the UK law, you know your rights and you're not going to let them leave your bills unpaid, and that they are going to be in serious trouble if they don't pay.

It does indeed sound as though you have done everything 'friendly' possible and that they're lying to you so it's time to get unfriendly.

I would suggest starting off by saying that you have checked your bank accounts and you haven't found their payment. Ask them, if they have indeed sent the payment and it is a mistake on your part, to send you the transfer slip so that you can check the data with your bank. Explain that if they don't send the transfer slip, the only assumption you can make is that the payment has not been made.

Explain that you have spoken to a solicitor about the next steps available to you to claim your monies and that this solicitor has suggested submitting a winding up petition.

Explain that it is your intention to do so should you not receive the money and/or a solid answer in writing by X date (give them about 14 days).

Then set yourself a reminder for in 14 days' time, forget about it and check your account in 14 days. If the money isn't there and you haven't heard from them (I very much doubt they won't react to this), start the procedure. You don't need a solicitor for this and you don't need to be in the UK either.

It is a good idea too to explain that you will make your colleagues aware of your progress with your payment claim and will be keeping them informed, and then place a message on the blue board explaining your plight. If they're concerned about their reputation, this will usually encourage movement on their part too.

The amount they owe you is a lot and it's worth fighting tooth and nail for.

When they've paid you it might be a good idea to explain that due to their payment default you are obliged to change your payment terms with them and that you will be willing to continue working with them against payment in advance from now on until the balance is re-established. They may not like it but I'm sure you don't like all the extra work they're causing you either, and you never know, they may just agree!


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 06:56
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
"précisions" Apr 24, 2013

Johann Audouin wrote:
- Should I address the letter to the company itself or to the financial department?

I don't know what others do but I always prefer to send it just to the company. Someone will have to sign for it and it's then up to the company how they deal with it.
- How long should I give them to process the payment?
Marie-Hélène suggested 14: being French, you might be happier with 15!
I didn't know about the winding-up order, but I think the final demand has to come before that anyway. I believe you need a solicitor to represent you, and the fees can get quite big, so I really think you should get legal advice before starting on that path. But her link gives a link to Companies House - have you checked their records to see if the company has filed for bankruptcy?

If you do get a lawyer in on this, make sure it's one who actually knows about international (or at least EU) debt-chasing. Some French avocats won't have a clue about suing a UK company.


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Johann Audouin  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 07:56
English to French
TOPIC STARTER
I checked Apr 24, 2013

I just checked, they are not filed for bankruptcy. Anyway, I highly doubt they are in liquidation, they have more than 20 positive entries on the blue board (some negative ones for late payments and they will have one more very soon). It is a huge marketing company based all over the world and I worked on a big marketing campaign for a very big brand. I would very surprised if they stopped all of a sudden.

They told me that they were restructuring their financial department so I guess they have problems dealing with all their payments...


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XXXphxxx  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 06:56
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Winding up notice Apr 24, 2013

Johan, I'd strongly recommend that you follow the link Marie-Hélène has given you. Many have said that this provides instant results.

Good luck!


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Johann Audouin  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 07:56
English to French
TOPIC STARTER
But this is expensive, no? Apr 24, 2013

From what I saw, I need to pay quite a lot of fees before I can actually get a refund and I will be payed back for these fees only if the company actually can afford it. Would not it be more straightforward to contact a debt collection agency? I take your suggestion really seriously but I do not want to receive half of the money they owe me because of fees.

[Edited at 2013-04-24 22:39 GMT]


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XXXphxxx  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 06:56
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Only if it goes to court Apr 24, 2013

As I understand it, fees are only required if it goes to court. The first step is to issue a statutory demand. There is a link to that on the site that Marie-Hélène gave you. It takes you here: https://www.gov.uk/statutory-demands

From what I've heard the statutory demand is usual sufficient for them to understand that you mean business. I haven't yet heard of a case that went to court.


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Johann Audouin  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 07:56
English to French
TOPIC STARTER
My mistake Apr 24, 2013

I see! I thought it was a little weird, thank you very much for the clarification. I did not realise that the statutory demand was the first step. These are my first steps as a lawyer...

Hopefully, I will be able to settle this very soon. Thank you all for your support and your help.


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Marie-Helene Dubois  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 07:56
Member (2011)
Spanish to English
+ ...
The first step isn't the statutory demand Apr 25, 2013

Hi Johann,

I'm sorry if I haven't explained clearly. The first step isn't in fact the statutory demand. The first step is telling the agency what you plan to do. Most people who have mentioned a winding up notice in an e-mail to a client have been paid with immediate effect. I'm not saying that you ought to 'threaten' things that you don't plan to do. I'm just saying that often the simple mention of the fact that you have looked into things and you know the steps that are available to you motivates the agency.

Believe me, you might not want to pay to get your money back but the agency CERTAINLY does not want to be wound up and will try to do anything they can to avoid things getting to that stage, including paying you, which is what you want.

I hope that helps!
Good luck in getting your money and let us know how you get on.
MH


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