"unhappy" client refusing to pay, but unwilling to say why
Thread poster: megmullan

megmullan  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 07:52
Italian to English
May 16

I was contacted to do the translation of a dating show pilot featuring cosplayers. The agency email said they needed someone who knew about manga/cosplay/superheroes to which I responded that I was not a manga expert but loved superhero shows. I was told to go ahead, also working on 1 May, a holiday in Italy. I was excited to do something a bit different but quickly realised that the script was old-fashioned (think 90s game shows) and backward (all about men superheroes wooing women, not viceversa, and no LGBT). The pilot was to be translated from Italian to English, but not localised, with the UK contestants making specific references only understandable to an Italian audience. But I had been told to translate not localise so that is what I did. After delivering, the translation was proofed by someone in the UK agency and passed on to the client.
I didn't hear anything until a couple of days ago when the agency told me the clients were crooks and had said they were unhappy and refused to paid, so would I lower my fee so they (the agency) wouldn't lose so much. I'm quite sure the show was rejected and this is the reason for the clients anger.
The clients have apparently refused to tell them the problems in my work or let them see their supposed retranslated version and have cut off all contact, also cancelling their downpayment. I know the names of the three clients as they at the end of the script and found them easily on LinkedIn - I have not contacted them - so they do not seem to have "disappeared" as the agency claims. The agency is well-established and has mostly 5* on the blueboard. They said the law does not cover this type of situation, since they are in the UK and the clients in Italy.
Since the translation was given the ok by the agency, they are responsible for paying me fee, right?


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Thomas T. Frost  Identity Verified
Member (2014)
Danish to English
+ ...
The agency's problem May 16

This is your agency's problem. You are not involved in your agency's relations to their clients, and most agency contracts specifically ban you from getting involved. It is up to your agency to check the creditworthiness of their clients and to insure the associated risk if applicable.

If there is nothing wrong with the work you have supplied, they'll have to pay your fee.

It’s unfortunate for them, but they can’t simply outsource their risk to you when it goes wrong for them.


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Kuochoe Nikoi  Identity Verified
Ghana
Local time: 05:52
Member (2011)
Japanese to English
Not your problem. May 16

megmullan wrote:
The clients have apparently refused to tell them the problems in my work or let them see their supposed retranslated version and have cut off all contact, also cancelling their downpayment.
(...)
Since the translation was given the ok by the agency, they are responsible for paying me fee, right?

Yup. Unless they can prove that your translation was poor or otherwise inadequate they're obliged to pay you. That said, if the agency is one you have worked with in the past and wish to continue working with, you might give them a small discount (like 10-15%) as a sign of goodwill. That depends on the amounts involved, of course.

[Edited at 2018-05-16 22:10 GMT]


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 07:52
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
The client was aware of the issues and you delivered as requested May 17

You were asked to translate the text but not localise.

I had a translation like that many years ago - a 'phone pet', not the notorious Tamagotchi, but the same idea. I was asked to add a few details for the market in Ireland, but not to worry too much. I showed willing by transferring an episode from Copenhagen Airport to Shannon and finding a hurler instead of a Danish handball player, but told the client the translation risked becoming a parody otherwise. (Besides, they would have to pay more than the word rate for recreating the thing...) They accepted, and promised to localise the story themselves.

So far so good. They paid, and I never heard any more.

Clients can easily run out of money on this kind of thing, if it costs more than they expect and is not as successful as they hope - which is quite a risk with a project like the one you describe.

But that is not your problem. You should not bear a percent of the loss either. Your turnover is probably much smaller than theirs, and you are not at fault. If they cannot point out specific problems which you can try to explain or remedy, then they have to pay you in full.


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Kay Denney  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 07:52
Member (Apr 2018)
French to English
In my experience, May 17

In my experience, a client that doesn't give any details of what was wrong with your translation is just trying to get out of paying.

They pitched the show to some producer and were told it's rubbish. So they're blaming it on the translation because they know their show was fantastic. Shoot the translator, rather than the messenger


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sailingshoes
Local time: 07:52
Spanish to English
The client is not your client May 20

If you work for an agency, they and they alone are buying your services. Once they accept your work (they have the chance to say no at review stage), they are obliged to pay you. The third parties they sell your work to are not language experts and not in a position to judge whether your work is up to standard.

Enforcing all of that is a different matter, but I'd say to go the route of offering a small discount (as someone mentioned above), making it clear you're accepting no responsibility in the matter.


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Thomas Johansson  Identity Verified
Peru
Local time: 00:52
Member (2005)
English to Swedish
+ ...
You should be paid as agreed May 21

It's unfortunate for the agency (if their story is true), but it is their responsibility, and you need to be paid as agreed for your work.

The agency is responsible for what clients it accepts, how it presents its services to them, how it arranges its business relations (contracts etc.), what translators and service providers they select, how they select them, how they process the work they receive (such as your translation), whether they use several layers of work (translation, editing, terminology research, style research etc.) and the final state of the product they deliver to their client.

So, even if this problematic payment situation has occurred because of translation problems in the product delivered to the end client, that is not your responsibility. The agency should have made sure the delivered product met the requirements they had agreed with the end client and that payments would proceed as expected even if the end client wasn't satisfied. And they should be prepared to carry the risks even if their end client doesn't meet their payment responsibilities.


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Georgie Scott  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 07:52
Member (2009)
French to English
+ ...
Strange thing to say May 22

megmullan wrote:

They said the law does not cover this type of situation, since they are in the UK and the clients in Italy.


I would have thought this is covered by international commercial law. Or EU commercial law. From everything I've read on this forum, it would be easier for me to recover funds from the UK than from France, for example.

Give a little discount if you want to keep working for them, but this would ring alarm bells for me. I suspect I would be rolling out the line, "My contract was with you, and, as I cannot take your client to court, I'm afraid I need to insist on payment from yourselves, as per our agreement." It's not like you agreed to go into business with the agency, so there's no reason for you to bear their risk.


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megmullan  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 07:52
Italian to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you May 22

Thanks a lot to all of you for taking the time to help me get that clarified. I will give a very small discount as a formality but ensure they understand I accept no responsibility. Much appreciated!

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