Disputes over terms and conditions
Thread poster: xxxDr Howard Ca
xxxDr Howard Ca  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 17:45
Italian to English
+ ...
Feb 2, 2016

Over the past few weeks, I have noticed an increase in disputes over 'terms and conditions'. I believe that there is at best misunderstanding and at worst cynical manipulation of translators and interpreters by agencies in this respect. When I bid for a job, I clearly state the rate and payment terms, but these have, on occasion, been ignored by agencies on completion of the work. It is the translator and interpreter, the service provider, who sets the rate and terms, not the agency. When I buy a product from a shop, the shop sets the price, bargaining notwithstanding. I recently accepted work from a large UK agency and they 'agreed' my terms and conditions in writing, in advance, but when I had to chase the agency for payment after 30 days, the payment period agreed, the reply was 'our terms and conditions are 60 days following invoice'. I would strongly advise translators to be clear regarding this when bidding for jobs, or agencies will simply continue to 'ride roughshod' over the profession in this respect. The talent and the service lies with the translator and interpreter, not the agency, which is in effect simply an organisation getting paid for getting someone else to do the work and which inevitably operates a 'quick in, slow out' policy for work and payments respectively.

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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 16:45
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Be firm Feb 2, 2016

As you say, it's YOUR right to set the T&C, not the client's. I always insist on getting the client's EXPLICIT agreement to my T&C before accepting the first job. I don't accept the implicit agreement that comes from sending the work, or just giving the go-ahead, even if it's enough for the courts.

If they really refuse to budge, I would advise you to tell them that you are taking legal advice and that your lawyer will be in touch.


Edited to add that as you're in different EU member states there's a really great avenue open to you: the EU Payment Order. Although you have to pay a few euros to actually generate one, you can go through the online procedure and then save the document as a PDF. I once did that and sent it to the client, saying I'd be implementing it on dd/mm/yy. They paid immediately. It's a very effective message.

[Edited at 2016-02-02 11:16 GMT]


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xxxDr Howard Ca  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 17:45
Italian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Money is not really the issue Feb 2, 2016

As far as that particular agency is concerned, I simply waited the extra 30 days and when they paid me, I asked for my details to be removed from their database - I no longer accept work from them. Oddly enough, I do not think money is the real issue here, but rather the over-inflated sense of importance which agencies appear to have adopted. Too often one reads phrases such as 'we will validate you' or 'we will will qualify you' - agencies, of course, can do no such thing. My professional qualifications for translating and interpreting are found in my degrees, awarded by universities, not an agency, which has absolutely no powers to validate, qualify or confer anything at all.

In my opinion it goes even further than this - how many times have you seen postings advertising for 'language collaborators', 'linguistic co-creationists', 'transcreationists' or the like? Agencies frequently change these designations as a control method, implying 'we have the right to change what you do' - they do not. Additionally, I have lost count ( ironically) of the number of times agencies invent new ways to count the source text words - characters, pages, folios and (my personal favourite) 'non-spaced markers' - this has an effect on the price, but again, the real issue is authority. I believe that this attitude is dangerous for the profession and this nonsense needs to be resisted.





[Edited at 2016-02-02 12:25 GMT]

[Edited at 2016-02-02 12:26 GMT]

[Edited at 2016-02-02 12:26 GMT]

[Edited at 2016-02-02 12:27 GMT]


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Thayenga  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 17:45
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
My old time favorite :( Feb 2, 2016

Your case sadly confirms what I've been seeing over the years. Agencies - mind you, there are many great exceptions! - tend to believe that translators are to be treated like children, agree to whatever a translator wants, then enforce your own T & C's.

I've said it before, I'm saying it again: the LSP is the vendor, not the agency. Consequently, the vendor's T & C's must apply, not the buyer's, unless otherwise agreed on a case-by-case basis.

Picking up your store example, although payments via installments are accepted in major stores, the butcher or bakery around the corner wants cash at the moment the goods are handed over. Yet LSP's have agreed to wait an X-number of days before they are paid for their services. This is fine for as long as that number of days before payment arrives has been agreed upon mutually.

And (mutually agreed on) payment terms are only one aspect of this business. The basic foundation must be trust, equal partnership, and fairness.


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Enrique Cavalitto
Local time: 13:45
SITE STAFF
Terms and conditions should be stated in the PO Feb 2, 2016

The valid terms and conditions should be explicitly included in the purchase order, not implicitly assumed from each party's understanding of email exchanges. Neither translators nor agencies can be forced to accept the other party's conditions, but both should know from the start what terms apply to the business transaction.


Too often one reads phrases such as 'we will validate you' or 'we will will qualify you' - agencies, of course, can do no such thing. My professional qualifications for translating and interpreting are found in my degrees, awarded by universities, not an agency, which has absolutely no powers to validate, qualify or confer anything at all.


Agencies are no certification institutions, of course, but they can (and do) evaluate translators to decide if the professionals should be included or not among the agency's team of language service provideras. Probably this is what they meant by "qualifying" or "validating" in the examples quoted.

Regards,
Enrique


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Michael Newton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:45
Member (2003)
Japanese to English
+ ...
Terms and Conditions Feb 2, 2016

Insist on a purchase order from the agency which clearly states the T and C. If the
agency balks or if the PO does not contain important items, decline the job.


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 16:45
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Agencies thinking, very mistakenly, that they are our bosses Feb 2, 2016

I too wouldn't suffer financially at all through waiting an extra 30 days for payment. But it isn't the money that's the most important thing here. It's the principle; the relationship. We are NOT underlings, subservient beings, not even employees, and agencies are not our bosses. They might be the larger business partner, able to throw a bit more weight about, but ultimately we're the ones with the courts behind us. as long as we do the job adequately.

That's why I'll always kick up a fuss about this type of thing. I'm perfectly easy to deal with if the client is fair and respects my role, but I can't stand these domineering "you'll do it our way" agencies. So I'll go the extra mile to accommodate a reasonable client who has legitimate payment difficulties, whether it's temporary cash-flow issues, sanctions being imposed on their countries, new money laundering rules, or whatever else that gets in the way, but I won't give an inch to bullies.

I really don't see the need for a PO, although if the agency raises one then that's fine. Unfortunately, my experience has been that a good 75% contradict what has already been agreed to, and strangely enough it's almost always me who would lose out if I failed to duplicate my admin effort by checking every word in the PO. I've had wrong word counts where two digits were transposed - always in the agency's favour, correct word count and rate with a mysteriously wrong - low, of course - total amount, longer payment terms, even fine print on an apparently OK PO that says I can't even issue the invoice until they get the go-ahead from their own client - what??? All sorts of rubbish that conflicts with my T&C. So my own advice is clear and simple:
- state your T&C in the email;
- ask for a reply explicitly agreeing to those T&C and giving authorisation to do the work.

With both of those emails in your computer's memory, the agency won't have a leg to stand on. If they don't promptly complain of poor quality - and justify that claim - then they can be made to stick to those T&C (assuming always that they are not abusive ones, but you don't tend to see those from freelancers).


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Enrique Cavalitto
Local time: 13:45
SITE STAFF
Mutual trust is better Feb 2, 2016

Long term relationships are based on mutual trust, and a mutually agreed PO is a good tool for building such a relationship.

You can have your terms supported by a court of law, but friendly, repetitive work based on mutually agreed terms looks like a better approach.

Regards,
Enrique


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 16:45
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
I totally agree Feb 2, 2016

Enrique Cavalitto wrote:
You can have your terms supported by a court of law, but friendly, repetitive work based on mutually agreed terms looks like a better approach.

Absolutely! I just don't see the need for a PO, personally. It's always best to work towards quite informal, friendly communication once the T&C framework is clear.


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