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Does the agency have the right to set this payment policy?
Thread poster: freelance522

freelance522  Identity Verified
Taiwan
Local time: 06:56
English to Chinese
+ ...
Oct 24, 2013

I encountered a strange payment policy recently.
The scenario is as follows:
I accepted a small job from a company on Sept 30th. They requested to be charged by the hr and the job was 320 words trans proofing.

However I couldn’t log onto their platform and had to try different browsers and settings. I finally gave up and requested that they re-assign the job to another proofer.
The next day they told me that there was a bug on their website and they had fixed the problem and asked me to finish the job.

I was busy with other jobs at that time, so I declined their request. But they kept asking me to take the job. I finally agreed to take the job and finished it on Oct 2.
On Oct 19, I asked how to invoice them. The person who assigned the job to me told me to log into their website invoice them directly.

I followed their instructions and found out that the job payout was set as 5.57 EURO, they also set a policy that a payout less than 10 Euro cannot be invoiced to them.
They never mentioned this policy and I was upset; so I told them. I also implement a minimum charge policy, too. So I chose to request my minimum charge.
They didn’t reply to me. I waited for 2 days and left a comment on their Blueboard.
They emailed me on the same day, explaining a lot regarding their policy and requested that I pull down my comment.
I refused. I felt that I was cheated. If they had told me their minimum payout policy at the very beginning, I wouldn’t have accepted their job.

Dear colleague, what do you think about this policy? Do you think the agency has the right to set this kind of policy and enforce it on their vendors?


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Jillian Pandor
United States
Local time: 17:56
Spanish to English
+ ...
I'm on the same boat unfortunately... Oct 24, 2013

I haven't had any situation THAT bad where basically they refuse to pay me, but I have always wondered the same question.

I do have to say though, be very skeptical of those companies that have minimums. This has happened with other companies that are website based translations, where people all around the world have apps where they need a short phrase translated in the moment and they count on human translation from freelancers. I remember seeing policies that state if you don't accrue 10-20$ in a month the balance transfers to the next month until the minimum is reached.

As far as I know, the agency is the one who sets the payment terms (30, 60 or 90...ughh!! days). However I will be interested to see the other replies that are left here.

I am also in a debacle related to payment...if your interested and it helps you out, check out these forums that discuss some legal rights as far as not being paid: http://www.proz.com/forum/money_matters/258368-problems_with_agencies_that_dont_pay:_what_can_a_freelancer_do.html#2217022 and http://www.proz.com/forum/money_matters/258418-late_fees_on_invoices:_what_are_freelancers_rights.html


My advice: after this is all resolved, definitely don't ever work with them again (which I'm sure you've already thought about).

Best of luck and sorry I'm not of more help!
Jillian


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 23:56
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Depends on the agreement Oct 24, 2013

freelance522 wrote:
I accepted a small job from a company on Sept 30th. They requested to be charged by the hour and the job was 320 words trans proofing. ...
I found out that the job payout was set as 5.57 EURO, they also set a policy that a payout less than 10 Euro cannot be invoiced to them. ...
I waited for 2 days and left a comment on their Blueboard. They emailed me on the same day, explaining a lot regarding their policy and requested that I pull down my comment.


You were probably right to post this on the BB, as unilateral change in payment terms.

If the company has a policy to accept only invoices of higher than EUR 10 and if they have a policy of not applying a minimum rate or a policy of paying for parts of an hour instead of a whole hour, then that information should have been made clear to you from the beginning. Did they say any of these things in the contracts that they sent you to sign?

A few more thoughts:

It is not very clear whether you had made certain in your initial communication that a minimum rate would be applied. After all, some agencies state their rates as "x per 1000 words" but they don't pay for a full 1000 words. Some of my agencies state an hourly rate as "x per hour", but if the job is 20 minutes long then they pay for 20 minutes, not for 1 hour (I only tolerate this because they send me a whole lot of work that tends to add up sufficiently to make up for the inconvenience). If you want the agency to consider your "hourly" rate as a type of minimum rate (i.e. no less than 1 hour will be charged), then you have to make sure they are aware of that. Again, I'm not sure whether one can reasonably expect a client to know that an hourly rate is also a minimum rate.

Their policy about not invoicing for less than EUR 10 is not unreasonable (if you had known about this beforehand), but it certainly is unreasonable if you don't do any other work for them during your normal bookkeeping cycle. If you don't do any other work for them during the same month or during the same quarter (and if the amount is less than EUR 10), then they should pay you either EUR 10 or the amount of your invoice at the end of that period.


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 23:56
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
@Jillian Oct 24, 2013

Jillian Prevost wrote:
As far as I know, the agency is the one who sets the payment terms (30, 60 or 90...ughh!! days).


In an ideal world (and, AFAIK, legally speaking) the payment terms are set by the service provider (i.e. the translator). However, in practice the payment terms are often simply dictated by the bigger of the two parties (i.e. the agency), and it then becomes up to the translator to either accept the terms or propose something different. Also, if the translator and agency don't agree to anything explicitly, then a combination of common sense, common practice and common law is applied.

My advice: after this is all resolved, definitely don't ever work with them again...


Why?



[Edited at 2013-10-24 09:19 GMT]


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Marie-Helene Dubois  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 23:56
Member (2011)
Spanish to English
+ ...
I don't think they have a right to enforce this policy Oct 24, 2013

freelance522 wrote:

Dear colleague, what do you think about this policy? Do you think the agency has the right to set this kind of policy and enforce it on their vendors?


against your wishes had your wishes been expressed first and had the agency agreed to them. However I think that if it happened to me, I'd put it down to experience and remember to agree a price for a job in the future before starting on it.

I do understand the circumstances and that the whole task started off as a bit of a mess, what with their system going down and your refusal to take the job, followed by their insistence, but I do think that it's up to you to agree a rate prior to starting on a job.

They clearly managed to coerce you into doing it and in a way rushed you into agreeing while you were busy with something else.

If you have a minimum rate though, it's up to you to state this and get agreement from the client on this before you start on the job. If you had had this discussion with the client, the information about their payment policy is likely to have come up and then you could have refused or agreed as you wished.

I don't think there's anything wrong per se with an agency having this policy. I understand that they want to save bank charges, much as a shop might only accept credit cards for payments above a certain price. If you had plenty of jobs from them, this wouldn't be an issue as you could simply add up the various jobs. It only becomes an issue if there's a problem and you're unwilling to continue to work with them before reaching the threshold.

I do sympathise as I think I'd be kicking myself right now if it happened to me but everyone can make mistakes. You just have to learn from them and make sure they don't happen twice!


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Woodstock  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 23:56
German to English
+ ...
What a frustrating situation! Oct 24, 2013

I sympathize with your plight, but have no idea about the legal aspect - sorry! I just wanted to add that I never accept such short jobs. My policy is: If it takes me longer to write the invoice than to do the job, then it is not worth my time. Maybe this will help you and others reading here formulate some kind of guidelines for yourselves. A minimum just makes business sense.

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Philippe Etienne  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 23:56
Member
English to French
My policy Oct 24, 2013

freelance522 wrote:
Dear colleague, what do you think about this policy? Do you think the agency has the right to set this kind of policy and enforce it on their vendors?

Never take microjobs from unknown clients at the other end of the world. First jobs with new customers are always translation-only jobs worth a few hundred. There's no way you will make a first-timer become a returning loyal customer with a 10 min job.
Plus all the trouble trying to get 20 euros intact through overseas banks.

More trouble than it's worth.

Philippe


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Marie-Helene Dubois  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 23:56
Member (2011)
Spanish to English
+ ...
that's a great policy Oct 24, 2013

Woodstock wrote:

My policy is: If it takes me longer to write the invoice than to do the job, then it is not worth my time.


well said Woodstock!


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 22:56
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Tiny urgent jobs are best reserved for existing clients Oct 24, 2013

Woodstock wrote:
I just wanted to add that I never accept such short jobs. My policy is: If it takes me longer to write the invoice than to do the job, then it is not worth my time.

320 words of proofreading really is a very small job. I'd do it for a regular client, no problem. I normally invoice them monthly, so it would just be another line on the invoice and the only other admin would be a quick exchange of emails.

But for a new client, there's always a high overhead. You have to check them out; ensure that all terms are agreed to (hmm...); set up some sort of record for them (I presume we all have client records?); transfer all the relevant info to an invoice (or use a new interface, and that almost always takes a ridiculously long time),.... It's never going to be worth doing that for maybe 20 minutes' pay. My normal minimum for a new client is one hour.

It would ring all sorts of bells with me that this agency didn't already have someone on their books to do this small job, particularly as they were able to wait 3 days for it. It seems that nobody wanted to do it. Now you know why!


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freelance522  Identity Verified
Taiwan
Local time: 06:56
English to Chinese
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks for your feedback Oct 25, 2013

Jillian Prevost wrote:
after this is all resolved, definitely don't ever work with them again (which I'm sure you've already thought about).

When I asked them how to invoice them, I had decided that I would not work for them again. Because during the communication with them, somehow I felt they managed to coerce me to finishing the job (like Marie-Helene said).
Samuel Murray wrote:
If the company has a policy to accept only invoices of higher than EUR 10 and if they have a policy of not applying a minimum rate or a policy of paying for parts of an hour instead of a whole hour, then that information should have been made clear to you from the beginning. Did they say any of these things in the contracts that they sent you to sign?

No, they didn’t.
And we didn't sign a contract either.
I was not sure if I would establish a long term cooperative relationship with this agency. For just one small job, I usually don't ask them to send me a contract.
Samuel Murray wrote:
Their policy about not invoicing for less than EUR 10 is not unreasonable (if you had known about this beforehand)

Going from contact to accepting their job the discussion was mainly focused on the job. I might have misunderstood the way they calculate the rate, but they definitely didn’t disclose any information regarding their minimum invoice payout policy when they assigned the job.
Even when I asked them how to invoice them after I finished the job, they just told me to go to their website to invoice them directly. When I went to their website and hit the [invoice] button, it showed me a message telling me the invoice payout amount had to be at least 10 Euro. Then I started to be upset and felt I was cheated.
Samuel Murray wrote:
some agencies state their rates as "x per 1000 words"

After I left my comment to them, they emailed me to explain they calculated the hourly rate is based on 2000 words per hour, so the payment is [(2000/320) x the hourly rate].
Samuel Murray wrote:
If you don't do any other work for them during the same month or during the same quarter (and if the amount is less than EUR 10), then they should pay you either EUR 10 or the amount of your invoice at the end of that period.

They require vendors using their system to invoice them. With your suggestion, should I just issue an invoice via email and skip their invoice system?

[Edited at 2013-10-25 06:11 GMT]


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freelance522  Identity Verified
Taiwan
Local time: 06:56
English to Chinese
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks for your feedback~~ Oct 25, 2013

Marie-Helene Dubois wrote:
I don't think there's anything wrong per se with an agency having this policy.

Many agencies set their own payment policy, but this is the first time I have learned that the vendor has to meet a certain threshold amount to invoice them. What makes me uncomfortable is they didn't tell me this policy when they required my service. I had no intention of working with them again, and then their policy bans me from invoicing them. I wonder, if this is also a cunning way to get free service for small jobs?
They can pay via paypal, so the bank charges should not be a big issue.

Philippe Etienne wrote:
More trouble than it's worth

Ho, the time I spent on trying to log onto their website and learn how to use their platform was far more than I spent on the job.

Woodstock wrote:
If it takes me longer to write the invoice than to do the job, then it is not worth my time.

I actually don’t really care about the amount but the way they dealt with me was unfair. Like keeping up the requests for me to accept their job, didn’t disclose enough information regarding the invoice and when I questioned their invoice policy, they just didn’t’ reply to me at all (compared with the constant contact me when I declined their job)

Sheila Wilson wrote:
It would ring all sorts of bells with me that this agency didn't already have someone on their books to do this small job, particularly as they were able to wait 3 days for it.

Yes, now I feel the same way. I should have stayed firm by refusing taking the job.
I checked their blueboard record, they got many high ratings with 2 low ones. I thought it might be safe to work with them. Then my trouble started…




[Edited at 2013-10-25 06:37 GMT]


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 23:56
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Try invoicing EUR 10 Oct 25, 2013

freelance522 wrote:
Samuel Murray wrote:
If you don't do any other work for them during the same month or during the same quarter (and if the amount is less than EUR 10), then they should pay you either EUR 10 or the amount of your invoice at the end of that period.

They require vendors using their system to invoice them. With your suggestion, should I just issue an invoice via email and skip their invoice system?


Well, it serves little purpose if you invoice them if you know that they will not pay the invoice unless you follow a certain procedure.

Have you tried regarding the EUR 10 as a sort of minimum fee, and making the invoice for EUR10 and submitting that through their system?


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freelance522  Identity Verified
Taiwan
Local time: 06:56
English to Chinese
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
The Blueboard comment has been hidden Oct 25, 2013

Samuel Murray wrote:

freelance522 wrote:
Samuel Murray wrote:
If you don't do any other work for them during the same month or during the same quarter (and if the amount is less than EUR 10), then they should pay you either EUR 10 or the amount of your invoice at the end of that period.

They require vendors using their system to invoice them. With your suggestion, should I just issue an invoice via email and skip their invoice system?


Well, it serves little purpose if you invoice them if you know that they will not pay the invoice unless you follow a certain procedure.

Have you tried regarding the EUR 10 as a sort of minimum fee, and making the invoice for EUR10 and submitting that through their system?

Their invoice system goes with the project record. The payout has been set as EUR 5.57, I am not allowed to invoice them.

The agency reported to proz.com that the payment is not due yet and the LWA entry was posted before the payment terms agreed. Therefor, my comment was hidden.

Since their system doesn't allow me to invoice them, how can they claim the payment is not due yet?

I think I will nee to wait for proz.com's investigation.

Thanks for your kindly help and suggestion.


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 23:56
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Don't get upset, just follow through Oct 25, 2013

freelance522 wrote:
Samuel Murray wrote:
Have you tried regarding the EUR 10 as a sort of minimum fee, and making the invoice for EUR10 and submitting that through their system?

Their invoice system goes with the project record. The payout has been set as EUR 5.57, I am not allowed to invoice them [any other amount].


I still don't quite understand what the company's policy is when it comes to jobs that fall below their system's invoice threshold. Have they explained to you what they expect you to do?

The agency reported to Proz.com that the payment is not due yet and the LWA entry was posted before the payment terms agreed. Therefore, my comment was hidden.


Well, I can understand their actions -- they're trying everything in their power to keep their BB record clean, and if they can get your comment hidden on a technical point, then that is fair play.

The way I see it, the payment terms have already been agreed, and the agency changed it unilaterally by applying some formula that was not known beforehand, and now the agency has indicated that due to their formula being applied, the amount is below their accounting system's threshold and so essentially they are saying that they are not going to accept your invoice and that they are not going to pay. It doesn't matter if payment is due yet -- if the client says that he will not pay, then in my opinion you don't have wait before reporting it.

But... clearly ProZ.com believes different, so you'll just have to wait until the deadline passes. In the mean time, assume good faith on the part of the agency and try to get them to see reason. I'm quite sure the agency is not trying to be malicious here.


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 22:56
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Can they refuse to accept your invoice? Oct 25, 2013

If you first ask them officially to remove your name from their database, you are giving notice that your collaboration is at an end - you have come to the end of your contract (whether or not one was ever signed). At that point, any outstanding monies become due. If their online interface won't produce an invoice, I really don't think that means that they cannot be made to accept your invoice. Any court (in Europe, anyway) would uphold your right to that payment, and your right to issue an invoice.

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