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Failure to Pay
Thread poster: Andrew Slusher

Andrew Slusher
United States
Local time: 07:23
German to English
Feb 8, 2016

Hello all, and thanks in advance for any input here. Apologies for the long read, but I feel (almost) all the details are important.

I was working with an agency over the last year, and overall it was going quite well. They were generally good with payment terms--all jobs for each month paid within the first week of the following month.

Then, in early December, I was approached with a 37.000 word job. I agreed to do it, and three weeks later, I had everything in a day or two before the deadline. I got a nice bottle of wine and decided to relax. I am new to this, and this was my biggest job yet.

Roughly one week later, I was asked to do another 20.000 words or so. Same end-client, same website. I agreed to do it, and asked for confirmation that the first part would be paid according to normal payment terms. Communication became sparse, and eventually I was informed that, because it was "one job" (despite two separate emails, a month apart, and no upfront communication of this), it would all be paid together. They weaseled saying that it was because it was "one job," but I sensed, due to their wording, that in fact they were not paying me because the end-client had not yet paid them.

Acting in good faith, I went on with the rest of the translation. It has been in for over two weeks now. It is now two months since I started on the job, I have sent my invoice in, and there has been no payment for any part of the job. They asked me to do more work, and I informed them that I was not comfortable proceeding with almost 3.000 EUR outstanding. Now they wont get back to me, and no one is in the office...

In short, I feel I was misled, and the agency is rather indifferent about the fact that I have bills to pay, and have spent 150+ hours on a translation with not even partial compensation over the course of 2 months.

What should I do? What can I do? Are they violating any laws? I should note, they are based in Switzerland, if that helps.

Thanks again.

[Edited at 2016-02-08 17:59 GMT]

[Edited at 2016-02-08 18:06 GMT]


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Fiona Grace Peterson  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 13:23
Member
Italian to English
Blue Board and legal action Feb 8, 2016

Sorry to hear about your predicament.

You don't say if you have a purchase order or signed a contract, in any case keep all email correspondence.

Continue to contact them, tell them you will make a negative Blue Board entry if they do not pay. I would also recommend finding a lawyer who will write you a letter threatening legal action if they continue not to pay. Often this is enough to make them see sense.

Good luck.


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Andrew Slusher
United States
Local time: 07:23
German to English
TOPIC STARTER
learning the importance of signatures Feb 8, 2016

Fiona Grace Peterson wrote:

Sorry to hear about your predicament.

You don't say if you have a purchase order or signed a contract, in any case keep all email correspondence.

Continue to contact them, tell them you will make a negative Blue Board entry if they do not pay. I would also recommend finding a lawyer who will write you a letter threatening legal action if they continue not to pay. Often this is enough to make them see sense.

Good luck.


Thanks for the advice.

I do not have any signed purchase orders.. I do, however, have all the emails, with the details laid out in a template (compensation, word count, deadline, etc.), and I had to accept the jobs via a special link through their website, provided in the email.

I signed an employment contract when I started working with them. Unfortunately, I never got the signed employment contract back from them. My girlfriend is an attorney, and she believes that they would still be bound to the terms of that contract, given that they drafted it and got me to sign it.


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Emin Arı  Identity Verified
Turkey
Local time: 15:23
Member
English to Turkish
+ ...
Just give a negative blueboard entry Feb 8, 2016

Fiona Grace Peterson wrote:

Sorry to hear about your predicament.

You don't say if you have a purchase order or signed a contract, in any case keep all email correspondence.

Continue to contact them, tell them you will make a negative Blue Board entry if they do not pay. I would also recommend finding a lawyer who will write you a letter threatening legal action if they continue not to pay. Often this is enough to make them see sense.

Good luck.


Fioana is right. Before taking legal action, a negative blueboard entry usually works. This will also be recorded by most of the search engines.


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 12:23
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
A few comments Feb 8, 2016

Andrew Slusher wrote:
I was informed that, because it was "one job" (despite two separate emails, a month apart, and no upfront communication of this), it would all be paid together.
I went on with the rest of the translation.

Unfortunately, I think you'll find that the courts would say that you tacitly agreed to the terms at that point. If you didn't agree, you should have stopped work.

It has been in for over two weeks now.
I have sent my invoice in, and there has been no payment for any part of the job.

Does that mean that payment for this job (i.e. Invoice #2) is now overdue for payment? You said at the beginning of the post:
They were generally good with payment terms--all jobs for each month paid within the first week of the following month.
but that doesn't make it clear when they HAD to pay.

They asked me to do more work, and I informed them that I was not comfortable proceeding with almost 3.000 EUR outstanding.

At that point you stood up for your "no pay; no work" rights. So of course they have nothing else to say to you - you're not playing ball any more so they aren't your friend.

What should I do? What can I do? Are they violating any laws? I should note, they are based in Switzerland, if that helps.

Well, I think (although I don't know for sure - I'm no lawyer) that you'll probably need to wait until Invoice #2 is overdue for payment. Then you can escalate if they still aren't paying. Send them an officially worded final demand by registered post. After that, a lawyer's letter may do the trick and it looks as though that could be cheap for you. If that doesn't work then hiring a debt recovery company with a presence in Switzerland is probably your best bet as the debt is large enough for the percentage commission to be interesting.

However, before risking throwing good money after bad, check out the financial status of the company. If it's insolvent, neither lawyers nor debt recovery companies are going to be able to get your money for you. The Swiss Companies' Register is online, according to this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_company_registers#Switzerland .

I do not have any signed purchase orders.. I do, however, have all the emails, with the details laid out in a template

In the EU plus countries like Switzerland and, I believe, in the US those emails are just as good in law as a signed or unsigned PO or contract.


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Álvaro Espantaleón  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 13:23
Member (2015)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Still early Feb 8, 2016

What you describe is not alarming yet. However, why is it that there's no one in the office? That doesn't sound good.

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Andrew Slusher
United States
Local time: 07:23
German to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you all Feb 8, 2016

Thank you all for your insight. I will have to just move forward and hope for the best. I truly enjoy translating, but it can be such a burden when dealing with companies such as this..

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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 13:23
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Not good business partners... Feb 8, 2016

...make an entry to the Blueboard immediately, so that others are aware of the risk.

To me, you should have been paid the first part of the job as usual. It is completely irrelevant that they have not been paid by their customer: your business is with them, not the end customer. You should be paid as usual. Although it is a bit late now, I wouldn't have done the second part without having paid the first one.


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Andrea Garfield-Barkworth  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 13:23
Member (2015)
German to English
When did you send the invoice for part 1? Feb 8, 2016

Or did you only invoice after part 2 hoping they would pay part 1 early as it were?

Although you say you started 2 months ago, the first part took you 3 weeks, making the overdue date shorter.

I often have work in several sections but I usually issue an interim invoice between the different parts, which has always been honoured so far.

Rather worrying the company isn't answering emails though. Can you give them a call?


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Andrew Slusher
United States
Local time: 07:23
German to English
TOPIC STARTER
No invoice for part 1 Feb 8, 2016

Andrea Garfield-Barkworth wrote:

Or did you only invoice after part 2 hoping they would pay part 1 early as it were?

Although you say you started 2 months ago, the first part took you 3 weeks, making the overdue date shorter.

I often have work in several sections but I usually issue an interim invoice between the different parts, which has always been honoured so far.

Rather worrying the company isn't answering emails though. Can you give them a call?



I only invoiced after part 2. Their payment terms are spelled out in their employment contract: they send a template in the first week of each month which contains all jobs for the previous month; I review, sign, upload and send back by Wednesday; payment comes by Friday. This had worked for 12 months so far.

They did send a template at the end of December, listing the job in question as "in progress." At the time I was still in the dark on their proposal for payment, so I never signed and sent it back, but called them instead. Several days later, it was made clear via email that payment would not be split for the job.

I suppose I do not have much of an argument now that the current invoice is technically overdue by very long. But in any case, no payment came last Friday, and they are not responding now. What gets me is the broader context, and the feeling of having been strung along. Do I have to wait 30 days from invoicing before it is officially considered overdue? I did not specify anything in the invoice as far as due date goes, but assumed the terms of the employment contract, along with the pattern of our 12-month-long working relationship, were sufficient for my expectations.


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ibz  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:23
Member (2007)
English to German
+ ...
Invoice overdue? Feb 9, 2016

Sorry to hear this!
It is not quite clear though if your invoice is alredy overdue ...
If you want, please send me the name of the company to my private e-mail address and I can check if there are any news about this company here in Switzerland.


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Jacqueline White
Austria
Local time: 13:23
Hungarian to English
+ ...
Questions Feb 9, 2016

It's not quite clear to me how long ago your invoice actually fell due, and whether you have sent a reminder by post or fax. Did you finally agree that the work would be paid in two parts or in one?
Is the company on BB? (If so, what's their track record like?)
Does the company answer the phone?


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mariealpilles  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 13:23
Member (2014)
English to French
+ ...
failure to pay Feb 9, 2016

Make a BB entry immediately. Each time I have done it, it has worked even with the latest agency which refused to pay unless I withdrew my comment accusing me of lying since "I was bein paid". I simply answered that "being paid" does not mean "have been paid" and as long as I had no proof of their payment I would not withdraw the comment. They did pay on the same day.
I cannot understand how such people can claim to be honest when they are late payers, then accuse you of lying and even dare threaten you....


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Lori Cirefice  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 13:23
French to English
Overdue or not? Feb 9, 2016

It sounds like you completed the first part around Christmas, so let's assume you sent your 1st invoice by December 31st. Based on the way they have been paying you so far, it sounds like they should have send the payment during the first week of February? So it doesn't seem extremely alarming to me at this point...

The steps you need to take depend on how far past due your invoices are. First reminder, second & final reminder by registered mail, then escalate to more serious debt collection measures.

What does seem more alarming is that you are having difficulty contacting them, I think you need to quickly ascertain whether the agency is having financial difficulties.


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Inga Petkelyte  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 12:23
Lithuanian to Portuguese
+ ...
Not sure Feb 9, 2016

Emin Arı wrote:

Before taking legal action, a negative blueboard entry usually works. ...


I had never reported any agency on the Blueboard before last January. I did make an entry somewhat second week of January and haven't heard anything about it neither from the agency nor ProZ. I ahven't received a confirmation from ProZ either so far though all the messages on the screen were showing that the entry was made successfully and that the ProZ staff would contact me, something in those lines. So I don't know... Maybe 3,5 is a too short time.


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