Agency Refuses to Pay for Proofreading
Thread poster: Whitney Bryan

Whitney Bryan  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:32
Italian to English
Mar 29, 2005

I completed a large proofreading job for a Canadian company on short notice. After sending the first invoice, I did not hear from the company, so I sent a second notice. Still nothing. I then started formal complaints and finally heard from the company. In the e-mail, they stated that the client was unhappy with the translation and that they were meeting with said client. Until then, no payment. After a couple of weeks with no word, I wrote to inquire about the results of the meeting. Today I recieved the following message:
"The client was not satisfied of the translation and they took a new company to do it.
Because they will not pay us, no payment will be issue for this job."
This was a very large (17,300 words)project, and I did it on short notice (client would e-mail at 9am saying he needed 5 pages finished by 1pm and another 5 pages by 5pm). Is there anything I can do to obtain payment, or do I forfeit what I am owed because the client refuses to pay?
Thank you!


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sokolniki  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 21:32
English to Russian
+ ...
They always request an advance payment from the client Mar 29, 2005

[quote]whitneyb1 wrote:

I completed a large proofreading job for a Canadian company on short notice. After sending the first invoice, I did not hear from the company, so I sent a second notice. Still nothing. I then started formal complaints and finally heard from the company. In the e-mail, they stated that the client was unhappy with the translation and that they were meeting with said client. Until then, no payment. After a couple of weeks with no word, I wrote to inquire about the results of the meeting. Today I recieved the following message:
"The client was not satisfied of the translation and they took a new company to do it.
Because they will not pay us, no payment will be issue for this job."
This was a very large (17,300 words)project, and I did it on short notice (client would e-mail at 9am saying he needed 5 pages finished by 1pm and another 5 pages by 5pm). Is there anything I can do to obtain payment, or do I forfeit what I am owed because the client refuses to pay?
Thank you!

[Dear colleague,

All I can say, and this is information from a friend, a former translation agency editor/manager, agencies ALWAYS require a full payment in advance from a new client and at least 50% from an old client. So, this is a bold-faced lie that the client refuses to pay. Even if the client demanded a refund, this is the cost the agency should write-off because they used a lousy translator. Another argument for you is that the client is unhappy with the translation, not with proofreading you were responsible for. I am really sorry. They definitely took advantage of you using the distance and virtual communication. To sue them will cost you more than the money they owe you, and they know it very well. The rush was a red flag from the very beginning, what, 5 pages within 4 hours? The best you can do is place the agency's name is Hall of Fame and Shame in all possible translators' websites. Sorry again. Bella/quote]


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Riccardo Schiaffino  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 20:32
Member (2003)
English to Italian
+ ...
What di your contract or purchase order say? Mar 29, 2005

Unless you signed a contract or a purchase order which specifically indicated that your payment was conditional to your coustomer's being paid by their customers, you have every right to be paid for the job.
Threaten them with legal action unless they pay you.


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MandyT  Identity Verified
English to German
Proper feedback Mar 29, 2005

Hi,

Firstly, Izabella, not all agencies ask for advance payment. I used to work for an agency. When I joined them, they did not ask for advance payment at all. Only later on, they decided to request advance payment (mostly in full) from new clients for the first job. After that credit checks were made and a certain credit limit agreed. Obviously I do not know whether this is different for agencies in the US or Canada (I used to work in the UK).

Whitney, I would suggest you ask for proper feedback from the agency. Their client should provide the agency (and the translator/you in the end) with a list of mistakes that were made and some explanations. Then the translator and you should have the right to justify the translation. If it turns out that the translation was of poor quality, you can agree with them a discounted rate. They can't just turn around and say you won't get paid and that's it.

Good luck

Mandy


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Jesús Marín Mateos  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:32
English to Spanish
+ ...
Never heard of this... Mar 29, 2005

If it turns out that the translation was of poor quality, you can agree with them a discounted rate.


I think they should pay but what I do not believe is in 'discounted rates'. The work is done and it must be paid for, I don't think it is very professional saying yes we did some mistakes so I'll offer you a discount for the mistakes. This is translation not selling a kilo of rotten bananas in a market.
Good luck.

[Edited at 2005-03-29 09:13]


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KLS
Local time: 03:32
Spanish to English
+ ...
Insist on full details Mar 29, 2005

I have to agree with Mandy's answer. If there is a dispute about the quality of the service provided, it is quite proper for the parties to resolve the dispute by negotiation, which may involve one of the parties offering a lesser amount in settlement. Of course, there is no obligation on the other party to accept this offer.
As a first step, Whitney, you should ask for a detailed list of the end-user's complaints about the translation they received (with page/line references etc). This will clarify the situation. Occasionally end-users make very general criticisms of our work such as "it wasn't a good translation" or "we didn't like the style" but when pressed they are unable to justify their comments, which are usually made by non-linguists and often completely baseless.
Once you have the list of their specific complaints you are in a position to defend your work. If you feel on balance that there may be some merit in what the end-user is saying, then you should not hesitate to make an offer to settle the dispute (e.g. 10% discount, 25% discount, etc.). But be prepared for the agency to make a lower counter-offer.
On the other hand if you are totally certain of the quality of your work on this occasion then you should stick to your guns and insist on payment. (The fact that the end-user refused to pay the agency is not a matter that need concern you because you are not party to their agreement.)
If you are not sure, it might be an idea to ask a colleague to cast a fresh eye over the job and give you a second opinion. If your colleague backs you up, you can send their comments to the agency to support your claim.
If all else fails you should use the threat of legal action to persuade the agency to act.
Best of luck with this.

Alan Thompson
Spanish > English


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Alex Lane  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:32
Russian to English
+ ...
What does your agreement say? Mar 29, 2005

What agreement did you conclude with the agency?

If there is no paper trail for your assignment, then you are probably out of luck.

If your agreement specifically states that your payment is contingent on payment by the end client, then you should require the agency to reveal the name of the end client (and contact information) so that you may independently confirm the agency's story. (I would suggest signing no "non-compete" agreements in this regard, so that you at least come out of the deal with a client lead.)

Otherwise, unless the agreement states that the agency can reduce your rate for poor work, IMO they owe you the invoiced amount.

If the agreement does allow you to be docked for poor work, you must request a written justification for the reduction, showing examples of errors that resulted in the reduction (and it must reflect poor *proofreading* work, and not simply mediocre translation).

In the end, however, be prepared for the worst. There are sharks out there. I had an acquaintance who did a $15K job for a client that proceeded to exercise the "we don't have to pay if we're not satisfied for any reason" clause in their agreement and then furnished my friend's translation as a "reference" to a translator who charged 1/3 my friend's rate.

The sharks, however, are vastly outnumbered by truly clueless people who don't understand how this business works, and are willing to leave freelancers high and dry at the drop of a hat.

Good luck.

Cheers...


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Whitney Bryan  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:32
Italian to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you! Mar 29, 2005

Thank you, Bella. I really appreciate your insight and the information about agency practices. Certainly, I am afraid that I may have to simply consider this a learning experience!

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Whitney Bryan  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:32
Italian to English
TOPIC STARTER
Grazie! Mar 29, 2005

Thank you for your response, Riccardo. Unfortunately, I never signed a contract. All our business was conducted via e-mail, and I do have copies of all the e-mails.

Riccardo Schiaffino wrote:

Unless you signed a contract or a purchase order which specifically indicated that your payment was conditional to your coustomer's being paid by their customers, you have every right to be paid for the job.
Threaten them with legal action unless they pay you.


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Whitney Bryan  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:32
Italian to English
TOPIC STARTER
Requested! Mar 29, 2005

Hi Mandy,
I have now requested to see the company's comments.


Mandy Thalmann wrote:

Hi,

Firstly, Izabella, not all agencies ask for advance payment. I used to work for an agency. When I joined them, they did not ask for advance payment at all. Only later on, they decided to request advance payment (mostly in full) from new clients for the first job. After that credit checks were made and a certain credit limit agreed. Obviously I do not know whether this is different for agencies in the US or Canada (I used to work in the UK).

Whitney, I would suggest you ask for proper feedback from the agency. Their client should provide the agency (and the translator/you in the end) with a list of mistakes that were made and some explanations. Then the translator and you should have the right to justify the translation. If it turns out that the translation was of poor quality, you can agree with them a discounted rate. They can't just turn around and say you won't get paid and that's it.

Good luck

Mandy



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Riccardo Schiaffino  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 20:32
Member (2003)
English to Italian
+ ...
If you do not have a contract, then ... Mar 29, 2005

whitneyb1 wrote:

Thank you for your response, Riccardo. Unfortunately, I never signed a contract. All our business was conducted via e-mail, and I do have copies of all the e-mails.



The e-mails constitute an agreement between you and your customer, so, since I doubt that in the e-mail your customer said something like "if we don't get paid by our client we won't pay you", you have something that can be used against them to prove that they had requested a certain piece of work at a certain rate.

As regards the fact that the original client claims the translation was of bad quality: this concerns you only indirectly, since you "only" had to proofread it: depending on what you were actually asked to do in your proofrading you might bear very little responsibility for any error that may still be on the translation:

1) Where you asked to only proofread the translation (i.e., without looking at the original), or to actually edit it (comparing it to the original)? If it was only proofreading, you would certainly bear a lesser responsibility than if you actually edited the work.
2) Who was responsible for inputting corrections: you or the original translator? (If it was the original translator, and he or she actually disregarded your corrections, than they would bear greater responsibility for the quality of the work)

You need to get much more details about the purported issues with the translation - and do press for your rights.



[Edited at 2005-03-29 17:17]


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Burkhard Ziegler  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 04:32
Russian to German
+ ...
contract details - judge what you can prove Mar 29, 2005

Dear collegue,

I think, everything that the collegues wrote is somewhere true.

May I provide you some general advice because I think the civil law in Germany, US and CA differ in details only:


  1. every e mail can assume a contract (purchase order) relation between you and your client
    (Nevertheless, we know that a written (fax) contract is a better proof.)
  2. you should save your e mails always with complete header information
    This kind of information we normally can't see. In MS Outlook express you can find it by clicking "properties - details"
  3. If your e mail assumes a contract relation but does not state payment and quality conditions I suppose that than the General Terms of your purchaser apply (if you could inform yourself about them), than the common ways and conditions of handling such a service renderring


I may suggest you to judge by yourself what you can prove.
If you contact a lawyer don't ask him/her immediately to realize your claim, but first of all to judge/value your position. It should cost you less.

Of course, try to achieve as much information (in written) as you can achieve from the other parties.

good luck
Burkhard

PS
I don't want to consider you as for stupid, I may give you an example for the beginning of complete e mail header data (always try to save them):

Return-Path:
X-Original-To: recipient@domain.de
Received: from mail78.server.com (mail78.server.com [ip address])
by mail-in-06.arcor-online.net (Postfix) with SMTP id A3DCA111B60
for ; Mon, 21 Mar 2005 16:08:47 +0100 (CET)
X-VirusChecked: Checked
X-Env-Sender: xxx@yyy.com
X-Msg-Ref: server-7.tower-78.server.com!.....
X-StarScan-Version: 5.4.11; banners=-,-,-
X-Originating-IP: [....]
and more...


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xxxIreneN
United States
Local time: 21:32
English to Russian
+ ...
Unfortunately, it is obvious that they are pulling your leg Mar 30, 2005

whitneyb1 wrote:

"The client was not satisfied of the translation and they took a new company to do it.


When 2 businesses refuse or fail to settle their money issues, there must be something in writing. Do you believe that they accepted a job from the end client, completed it (with your help)and just let go? Like they bowed and said "yes, we were bad, our translators are everybody's nightmare, including this one, and we set you free without any obligations to pay?" And all this just verbally, without any official complaints followed by proper responses, in other words, without any kind of correspondence that they could have and should have provided you with were they not lying? Nonsense. I don't believe neither in client's total rejection to pay at least a portion of it, nor in any "meetings" with the client etc. I'm very sorry but you have been taken advantage of. Seems like they never intended to pay in the first place. IMHO.

I wonder if this the same Canadian agency that is being discussed here:
http://www.proz.com/topic/30825

I sincerely hope that will become your last experience of the sort.
Best,
Irina


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