Suspect business practices by agencies
Thread poster: Phlebas

Phlebas
Local time: 18:08
Swedish to English
Aug 7

I was recently contacted by an agency who said that a client had complained about a translation I had done and refused to pay her bill to the agency. The agency's quality manager told me that the client had not provided any reasons or motivations for the complaint but simply refused to pay. As a result the agency would reduce my fee. I would have thought the translator needs to check the complaints first. And I also would have thought the agency would not simply acquiesce without a check-through.
Any thoughts would be appreciated.


 

Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 17:08
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
An unfair and tricky agency/client? Aug 8

In my book, all complaints must be received within a reasonable period (7/14 days) and be accompanied by the original documents and disputed translations with some kind of explanation. Both the agency and the translator need to check the complaints. Otherwise, how do you know if the client is right? Had you worked with this agency before? Do they proofread your work before delivery?

[Edited at 2018-08-08 08:57 GMT]


Valérie Ourset
Nikki Scott-Despaigne
Vera Schoen
 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 17:08
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Challenge them Aug 8

Phlebas wrote:
the client ... simply refused to pay. As a result the agency would reduce my fee. I would have thought the translator needs to check the complaints first.

Either the end client or the agency must certainly provide proof of substandard work, and that means more than an occasional typo or less-than-perfect word choice. Otherwise, full payment is due from the agency. Whether the agency fights their own client for their pay is up to them.

I would reply that if/when they supply the proof, you'll consider whether there are any grounds for you to offer a free revision of the translation. You have the right to be permitted to correct your own errors - for free - and then receive full payment. However, if the deadline has passed or you lack the jargon terminology knowledge to correct it, etc. then offering a discount is the way to go. Note that it's your right to offer a discount; they have no real right to demand one or pay less than 100% of the invoice, although in extreme cases a court may decide you should have offered a discount. If you don't reckon there's enough wrong with it to warrant any discount, it would be up to them to find an independent evaluator.

Is this client new to you? Have you checked their BB record and other online reputation? Maybe they get rich this way?


Tina Vonhof
 

Phlebas
Local time: 18:08
Swedish to English
TOPIC STARTER
RE: Sheila. Known company Aug 8

I have been working with this company for about a year and have dome some 100 assignments successfully. Their vendor management department is based in Poland while the head office is in Copenhagen.
I have tried getting in touch with head office but have been blocked both times and referred back to Poland, where the person concerned refuses to reply to my e-mails and no one picks up the phone.


 

Phlebas
Local time: 18:08
Swedish to English
TOPIC STARTER
Sent letter Aug 8

I have sent a strongly worded letter of protest outlining the very points you have mentioned.
What I find most unsettling is the brick wall that suppliers meet when trying to contact the agency. You can't talk to anyone.


 

Phlebas
Local time: 18:08
Swedish to English
TOPIC STARTER
what's more Aug 8

While I'm here I could also mention the poor communication that exists between the Polish and Copenhagen offices. I won't go as far as to say 'incompetence' but it comes close sometimes, when compared to other agencies.

 

Daniel Frisano
Switzerland
Local time: 18:08
Member (2008)
English to Italian
+ ...
Extra Aug 8

Tell them that they need to substantiate their claim with indisputable evidence of (alleged) poor quality.

Let them know that if the evidence is not conclusive, you will have to charge them extra for the time needed to examine such evidence and settle the issue.


Phlebas
Chris S
Dan Lucas
 

Nikki Scott-Despaigne  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:08
French to English
Four points to note Aug 8

These matters have been discussed extensively on here. A quick search will enable you to access those threads to get the information you need more quickly. The main issues and suggestions.

1 - privity of contract, basic notions

The agency is your client. You agreed to supply a translation and the agency agreed to pay you. If you delivered a translation as agreed, then the agency must pay you as agreed. Why? Because you and the agency have a contractual agreement and you kept your side of the agreement. If the agency does not pay you according to the terms of the agreement, the agency is in breach of contract. There is "privity of contract" between you the supplier and your client, the agency.

It is sadly not unusual for agencies to refuse to pay, or to seek reductions when their client fails to pay. The agency's client may refuse to pay claiming the quality is substandard. The agency's client may seek a reduction if it considers the work is of poor quality. Note carefully that I have said "the agency's client" here. The agency has an agreement with its client; there is "privity of contract" (a contractual relationship) between the agent and its client. There is no contractual relationship between you and the agency's client. In other words, any problems the agency has with its client are not your problem.

2 - he who asserts must prove

An old thing from English law, but basic common sense too. How can the agency expect you to take their word for it? They must demonstrate what has been alleged and provide you with the client's feedback. What is there to stop the agency saying this is the case when it might not even be true?

3 - an agency's role

An agency is an agent. That's stating the obvious but it means they are an intermediary. It is their job to bring supplier and end-client into contact with one another. But their job does not stop there; an agency is not a mere noticeboard or postbox. An agency has responsibilities to its clients but also to its suppliers upon whom it depends. Note this very carefully: the agent is responsible for the work that is finally supplied to their client. Do you know whether the job was proofread before being forwarded to the client? Once it had been proofread, did you have an opportunity to comment and exchange with the agency about questions raised and/or possible mistakes and/or terminological and stylistic choices?
In short, you do not know what text was supplied to the client. However, you can demonstrate what text you sent to the agency. Until you have the necessary information together with specific (written) details, you are not in a position to defend yourself, or to know whether it is even justified at all. You are certainly not in a situation to take their word for it, and should not take it lying down!

Final part on the agency's role: your formal agreement. What did your agreement say about how any quality issues would be handled?

4 - what to do now

Inform the agency that you supplied the translation as agreed and that they must pay you as agreed. Remind them (politely) that if their client refuses to pay, that does not in any way affect the contract between the agency and you as a supplier. I would ask the agency to specify their client's allegations within 24-48 hours. They should be able to do so immediately. Then ask for 48h to reply.

If on hindsight, there is some truth in the client's allegations, make an offer to correct the mistakes and as a commercial gesture, offer a small reduction. If on hindsight, the work contains some monumental mistakes, then make an offer to correct and offer a more substantial reduction. In cases such as these, it is important to admit oversights and mistakes, correct them as soon as possible. This puts the agency in a better mood and makes it more likely to pay you so that you can both forget about it and move on. If this is the case, then neither will probably want to work together again anyway. The idea is to come to a fast and efficient solution. There's no point losing more time over it.

If the allegations are totally fallacious, then prepare your reply with great care. I had this experience last year and it was very unpleasant. My English text had been returned to the agency with a claim that it was full of mistakes. A French client had gone through 3 of the 5 pages "correcting" my English by introducing a whole load of classic mistakes only a native speaker of French would make. The client had also added new sentences and slipped in one or two fairly major modifications. It was full of grammar mistakes, erroneous conjugations and had a handful of false friends. I introduced my reply by reminding them that the translation had been proofread in-house, as always, by a native speaker of British English. My final reply included a list of my corrections of the new mistakes with references to authoritative online sources to back me up, this, for the simplest of mistakes. However, I did start by making a couple of concessions, agreeing that the synonym suggested by the client did work too, for example. This took a lot of time. After a couple of hours, I indicated that I would be only too happy to "frenchify" the rest of the text in accordance with the client's wishes and that this additional service would be charged at my normal hourly rate.

The agency in question had crappy rates but they were very reliable and always paid on time. They paid me for this job without a problem. However, I chose to cease working with them very shortly afterward as the rates were just horrendously low. Although they were honest with me from start to finish and very pleasant to work with, the rate was an insult to my ability, experience and qualifications. It was time to stop working with them.

So, finally, not in a nutshell, some suggestions for how to find your way out of this one. The main thing to bear in mind is that you have a contract with the agency and you supplied, so they must pay.

[Edited at 2018-08-08 09:37 GMT]


Teresa Borges
Chris S
Niina Lahokoski
Pedro Zimmer
Vera Schoen
Yolanda Broad
Tina Vonhof
 

Phlebas
Local time: 18:08
Swedish to English
TOPIC STARTER
RE: Nikki Scott-Despaigne Aug 8

Thanks for your comprehensive reply, practical guidance and for sharing the horrendous experience you had. I think you are correct about keeping a friendly tone even when the going gets rough and not making it too personal. However, I think a stand should be made against the cynical tactics that some cost-cutting, profit-maximising agencies use.

Robert Forstag
 


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