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Can an agency simply refuse to pay on the grounds of quality issues?
Thread poster: Federica Masante

Federica Masante  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:31
Member (2003)
Italian to English
+ ...
Feb 19, 2005

Dear all,

Unfortunately, for the first time in 5 years of doing this job, a client, in this case an agency, whose name I am not going to mention here for obvious reasons, has got back to me saying that they are not willing to pay me for the job. The job was a rather large and rush one, entailing the translation of over 10,000 words in less than 5 days. I did my best and delivered on time. Now the agency is saying that my translation was not up to their standards and their proofer had to practically re-translate the whole thing. They sent me the corrections and though I agree that some of them do improve the flow of the translation, others are mere stylistic and word choices and not actual errors in the translation.
Even assuming that my work is really not up to scratch (for whatever reason),can an agency simply refuse to pay because they are not satisfied? I never signed any contract stating non-payment in case of quality issues, I just signed an NDA agreement and a PO was sent stating the amount and payment terms.
I would like to know if anyone has been in a similar situation and how they dealt with it.
Personally, I think it is just good business practice to pay for the work that was done and then take it as a lesson to either change subcontractors or change the conditions you are offering in order to ensure better quality next time.

I would appreciate your comments on this matter.




Marijke Singer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 13:31
Dutch to English
+ ...
They should pay but ... Feb 19, 2005

They should pay you either the full amount or come to some arrangement with you.

Did the agency agree it was a rush job? If the answer is yes, then a few "unimportant" mistakes should be ignored (say 1%).

I have been translting for 22 years and have had 2 or 3 cases such as yours (usually involving style issues: not real mistakes just different choice of words or sentence structure). I tend to drop these customers because they never really give you clear guidance on what they want.


Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:31
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
They have to pay if nothing further was agreed upon Feb 19, 2005

It's good practice to let a second translator edit the work of the first, but of course both must be paid. Insist on payment, don't give in, especially if its a new customer. Have you seen any rating of this customer in blueboard etc.?


Evert DELOOF-SYS  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:31
English to Dutch
+ ...
Don't agree here Feb 19, 2005

Heinrich Pesch wrote:

It's good practice to let a second translator edit the work of the first, but of course both must be paid. Insist on payment, don't give in, especially if its a new customer. Have you seen any rating of this customer in blueboard etc.?

I don't agree here.
If a submitted translation is terribly bad and a second translator/proofer has/had to retranslate everything (I'm not talking about proofing and editing) completely, I wouldn't pay, or would only pay a (small) portion.
It goes without saying that I'd first ask the initial translator to redo his/her work (time-permitting). And that I would inform him/her in detail.

If, on the other hand, you're talking style issues and minor mistakes only, I'd agree with you. Then full or partial payment is certainly a must.

Maybe Quality Models like the one proposed by LISA could help in such disputes. I've used it to assess some translations for clients and can only say that it certainly has great merits.

Quoting from their site:

The LISA QA Model 3.0 is designed to help you manage the quality assurance process for all the components in a localized product, including functionality, documentation and language issues. The quality metrics and procedures in the QA Model 3.0 result from a collaboration between LISA members, localization services providers, software and hardware developers, and end-users. Their "best practices and recommendations," along with a basic statistics model, have been compiled to help you streamline your company's product localization quality assurance process

To cut things short and to answer your question, to me it's plain and simple:
Simply ask yourself if you would pay for e.g. real bad grocery products or for real bad car repair services?

[Edited at 2005-02-19 18:24]


Pamela Brizzola  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:31
English to Italian
+ ...
I agree with Marijke Feb 19, 2005

I had a new client who, after assessing my trial text as up to their standards, then complaint 3 jobs out of 3. The first and last three jobs. I told him that it was the first time in 11 years that a client of mine could find 3 bad translations in a row.
All corrections were style choices and very little guidance was given beforehand.
I agree with Marijke. Try and get the higher amount possibile and then discard this client.


Marc P (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:31
German to English
+ ...
Can an agency simply refuse to pay on the grounds of quality issues? Feb 19, 2005

Suggest to the customer that the dispute be referred to your professional association for arbitration.



sabina moscatelli  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:31
Member (2004)
German to Italian
+ ...
I would negotiate Feb 19, 2005

a discount rate. In my opinion they have to pay most of the job you have done. Considering yr experience it can't have been that bad...


Bernadette Mora  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:31
Member (2004)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Similar situation Feb 19, 2005

Hi Federica

I went through a similar situation last Summer. An agency contacted me because they needed a rush job. It was August and most of transtalors were on holidays. I accepted the job but the deadline was too tight, I was given the translation in the afternoon and it had to be ready the following morning. Apart from that, the subject was completely new to me (car ingeneering)and I did not have time enough to carry out some kind of research... Some hours later, the PM got in touch with me saying that there were some mistakes. He had agreed 0,06 € per source word but the proofreading had amounted to 0,03 € per s/w and I only got the difference. But he did not refuse to pay. That's my personal and only experience (let's cross my fingers!).You should agree some kind of discount and forget about it.


Jaroslaw Michalak  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:31
Member (2004)
English to Polish
Maybe it's not entirely the agency's fault... Feb 20, 2005

It ocurred to me that maybe the agency was somehow misled by the proofreader? It is not that hard to "rephrase" someone's translation - if the agency's workers do not know the language, they might think that most of it was bad. Naturally, the unscrupulous proofer might demand much more then he or she deserved.

I'm not saying that it is necessarily the case, but if it is, it would be much better to explain this to the agency instead of getting hostile or, even worse, try to negotiate lower rate right away... (as that might suggest that the translation _was_ flawed).


bergazy  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:31
Croatian to Italian
+ ...
Ask for the third, independent opinion Feb 20, 2005

Dear Federica
if you are sure that errors you've done are irrelevant or without a huge impact on the original meaning of translated text, you should propose to find an independent language expert in order to confirm or reject your arguments.If you are wrong, you will lose your money partially or completely.
If your client is wrong, you will get your money.
Maybe one or several among our Proz colleagues would be willing to check your translation before the final battle with your client begins? For free,of course...

Good luck



Andrea Appel
Local time: 08:31
English to German
+ ...
Request a different Proofer Feb 20, 2005

Hello dear Federica,

try to request a different proofreader. In your case I know you got ripped of. Unfortunately some agency's can not afford a real editor.

Get this translation certified from a good editor and give it back to the agency; request the money for the editor, translation and the lost interest.

This is just a very cheap way out.

Now that we speak did you showed them your award???

[Edited at 2005-02-20 04:44]


Clare Barnes  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:31
Swedish to English
+ ...
Third opinion Feb 20, 2005

Do try to get the agency to get a third opinion from someone. I have done this for a company (not a translation agency, but the end client) as they were worried their proofreader was trying to pull the wool over their eyes. Basically the proofreader had denounced all their translators as terrible and announced that they could do a better job. The texts I received to check were from two translators - one was perfectly okay, the other actually was terrible; this was not what the proofreader had told them. Unfortunately there are others out there who will stoop a long way to get work...

Hope it all works out for you in the end!


Jennifer Baker  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:31
Member (2004)
Italian to English
My experience Feb 20, 2005

Hi Federica,

I went through a similar uncomfortable situation last year. As it turned out, the agency was proofreading my translation by someone who wasn't a native English speaker. Have you seen the corrections made to your original translation? Have you been able to ask for a third unbiased opinion of your work?
I did wind up getting paid in the end, and haven't worked for the agency again- they actually had the nerve to call me again for an "emergency" rush job, which I definitely declined.
Good luck.


Omar Osman
Local time: 14:31
English to Somali
+ ...
Some proofreaders are desperate for work. Feb 21, 2005

I am going through a problem like this now. I have done 26,000 words for a client with my teams (we are 3 translators). The proofreader have read and proofed 236 words in one file which is part of 12 files I delivered totalling 26,000 words and failed the translation. He inserted comments and corrections everywhere with “track changes”, making it impossible to understand anything. The client seems "worried", that all the work is “bad”, but most of the corrections are stylistic and in same cases personal point of view are masked as fact. The project is divided in three batches totalling 60,000 and I have to deliver the third batch next week. In my case at least I have the 4 leading translators in the world (in my language combination) confirming that the file in question is perfectly understandable and clear. Not to mention I have personally advised the client to have the document proofread, because we don't have the use of an electronic spell-check or translation software. The funny thing is that I know who the client of my client is. I actually work for them and never had any problems. If they only knew who did the job.
You get crazy cases out there and really desperate proofreaders.
I would fight for the payment and show your text to one of your colleague for a second opinion.
Good luck

[Edited at 2005-02-21 09:18]


Melina Kajander
English to Finnish
+ ...
Similar situation... Feb 21, 2005

I have an ongoing similar issue - the agency tells me the client has "rejected" my work, that it should be re-written, but I KNOW the work I submitted was of high quality (honestly speaking, better than the lousy original, too, so I'm just astonished that the client has the guts to claim something like this...); I'm sure it must be some stylistic issues. This was a text translated into several different languages, and the client seems to have been unsatisfied with most of them... The agency says the translation is being independently reviewed now, and that's good of course (only how can I be sure how 'independent' the reviewer actually is...? Hmm...).

I guess all I can do is just to hope that justice will finally win!! I wish the same for you, too, Federica!

[Edited at 2005-02-21 17:43]

[Edited at 2005-02-21 17:45]

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