how do you start threatening a non-paying agency/person ?
Thread poster: Chrystal

Local time: 13:14
English to French
+ ...
Oct 21, 2001

basically: what are the steps of escalation to take to see that, when you\'re not paid, not only you ruin the reputation of the abusive non-paying agency, but also you start a claim to eventually get paid.

If cross borders are involved, how does it work? For eg., a delinquent agency located in the UK, and I am in the US (a contract was formed and signed and is governed by the laws of the State of california)???

(since I delivered the work, no responses and no signs of life...basically the agency/individual is playing dead, and ignoring all mails).

Thank you in advance to all participants.


Sven Petersson  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:14
English to Swedish
+ ...
Local customs do vary. Oct 22, 2001

Local customs do vary. Examples:


- 1st reminder by snail mail.

- 2nd reminder by “Kronofogden” (State managed collection agency), .

Republic of South Africa:

- 1st reminder by H&K 9 mm.

- 2nd reminder by AK 47.

Suggest you contact a local ProZ moderator for specific advice!

Best regards,



Nikki Scott-Despaigne  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:14
French to English
Basic recovery advice for recalcitrant clients - UK Oct 22, 2001

1 - Make sure that your contract makes clear provision for what happens in the case of late payment, viz. (interest at X %, whether cumulative or not : i.e. does the interest become part of the amount owed at the end of each applicable period, or is the same amount of interest to be applied each month for example).

2 - Your bill should state a deadline for payment.

2 - If payment is late, send a recorded delivery reminder (some form of receipted delivery service) which enables you to prove that the client has in fact received the bill.

3 - Make sure your reminder states the absolute deadline for payment, and that interest will be applied if X amount has not been received by such and such a date.

4 - If you do not receive payment, then send the reminder with the appropriate amount of interest added on. State that interest will continue to accrue at a rate of X% every month of whatever.

5 - Depending on the amount outstanding you may have to start looking at ways of recovering the money (and costs of recovery) through the courts. The problem with this of course, is that if the company is going down the tubes, then getting your money anyway may be difficult. If it gets to court, then even if the court rules in your favour, you may need to continue your action to get the judgment enforced. If they are just paying hard to get because their client has not paid them – a horribly common excuse, one I got sick of, with agencies in France and the UK – you will have to get tough. Sadly, in Euorpe, payment dates of 2-3 months are very common indeed. Spout forth about the doctrine of privity of contract and so on.

Small claims court are for sums under £5,000 as a general rule. Some sources to help you out :

The government portal. This doc should help.

Small claims in the County Court. How to defend or bring a claim.

A private company offering assistance. Their information section is useful.

Something odd though. The UK specific stuff I have set out will not be relevant to you if the jurisdiciton clause of your contract states that California is where it\'s all to happen. If you are California based, then you need to start looking there. - your Swedish translation partner (X)
Local time: 13:14
Swedish to English
+ ...
Set up a blacklist on your homepage Oct 22, 2001

This is just a suggestion, but make a blacklist on your homepage with those agencies and clients that have not paid, and send a mail to the client that he now is a part of your blacklist.

I have got lots of late payments that way.


Karin Adamczyk  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:14
French to English
Ruining reputation should not be one of your objectives Oct 22, 2001

Ruining the reputation (as you put it) of any company is not a desirable objective and certainly does nothing to improve the professionalism of our industry!

Your objectives should be to determine why you have not been paid on time, help resolve any administrative issues that might be holding up payment, determine a payment schedule if immediate payment is not possible, initiate a *small claims* court proceeding if you are entitled to payment and they refuse to pay, report your experience objectively to warn others.

Your message shows that you probably did not clearly understand the contract (I think you say one was *formed* and signed -- I am not sure if you are saying this was done or if you are asking a question). Contracts are usually written up so that jurisdiction is in the location of the company issuing the contract.

If you ruin the agency\'s reputation, they may go out of business. Trying to claim a court judgment from an out-of-business company will probably not be possible.

I think you need to ask yourself if your goal is to ruin their reputation or to get paid.

Have a look at -- this might give you some new ideas.


Karin Adamczyk


Werner George Patels, M.A., C.Tran.(ATIO) (X)
Local time: 07:14
German to English
+ ...
Fully agree with Karin Oct 22, 2001

I fully agree with Karin. Setting up a blacklist on your own website will do more harm than good - including to yourself. Think about it: if a potential client comes across your website and sees such a list there, they will be put off and discard you as a radical. You would not be able to generate any new business through your website anymore.

In addition, you might expose yourself to lawsuits.

If you have a complaint about a client (and can back it up with facts), you can post it to lists such as TCR: they are usually closed lists, so the risk of lawsuits is reduced (it is not down to zero, but still a lot better than denouncing clients on your website).

I believe that we all have to deal with defaulting clients on a case-by-case basis; of course, it is perfectly alright to share information with fellow translators, but it should be done in a careful manner.

Not being paid can have several reasons, so assess each case carefully before taking any action. In my personal experience, many agencies have gotten too big for their own good and they regularly bite off more than they can chew. Many cases of late payment are due to honest oversights. Send them a reminder and wait for their response: this will tell you whether you are dealing with honest people who simply got in way too deep or with crooks (e.g., if they try to brand you a crook for daring to send out a reminder - happened to me too). No such case is cut and dry, and it will take a concerted effort of the international translation community to raise awareness of this problem among translators AND agencies.


Stefania Williams  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:14
English to Italian
My experience Oct 22, 2001

Hi. What a \"hot\" subject! Most translators association (eg in England Iol, or ITI, offer free legal advice for these circumstances. I was advised ALWAYS to write a contract PRIOR starting the job. (the contract should be signed by the client). Join a professional union, they really help.

As a personal advice, a client who does not pay is not a good client. Get rid of him!



Kate Persson
Local time: 13:14
English to Danish
+ ...
Non-payment Oct 23, 2001


First of all I make a contract where my terms of payment and delivery are stipulated as well as my requirements for an up-to-date source material. Secondly I split-invoice big jobs - and if the first invoice is not paid, I don\'t deliver more translations until the money has been transferred to my account.It works! And the customers even return and say they are very embarrassed about their late payments.

This kind af \"blackmail\" can be necessary - a bit sad - but everybody must understand that it\'s important to have a cash flow management to survive.

In Denmark the Danish Journalist Assosication publishes a blacklist in their monthly magazine, where all Danish rotten apples are listed.

Best regards and good luck


Thao Tran

Nikki Scott-Despaigne  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:14
French to English
"Blackmailing" your clients into coughing up Oct 27, 2001

Yes, a oldie but a goodie.

Recent example. I have been working on one job since the middle of June. The client company has sent me the texts in dribs and drabs. We\'re now four months down the line and I was a bit fed up of churning the stuff out and not having received any money for it. Here\'s what I did.

Before the work started coming in, we had agreed on the sum of X for a given number of words, based on a sample document. (I knew what I was letting myself in for.) As soon as we had reached the number of words agreed upon, I sent them a short letter setting out

- date particular file received / returned

- volume completed

- copy quote

and asking

- what volume was outstanding (rough estimate as I knew the texts were still being written)

- confirming that I would continue as per contract terms, viz : on a per word basis.

and, most importantly, that they pay for the work to date upon the terms agreed.

I know the client and have accepted that they pay 2/3 of what was agreed for the original volume, the final 1/3 to be paid at the end, within a month of their having received my invoice.

As for the work now being done on a per word/true volume basis, they will be billed monthly. If they don’t pay, I won’t work but the amount stand to lose is limited.

OK, it may be a bit odd, but everybody\'s happy with it. In fact, once you have started a job, and things have gone well, going on strike can work as you might find yourself in a stronger position than you think. Your client may realise that he does not want to swop styles more than half way through and you may well be able to twist his arm that way.

What I like about this agreement, is its flexibility. A pay-as-you-go contract is quite useful all round for big jobs. It’s easier on the client’s wallet and helps the translator’s bank manager keep smiling. After all, if you were not doing this client’s work, then you could be working for someone else!

[ This Message was edited by: on 2001-10-27 09:37 ]

Thao Tran

Local time: 13:14
English to French
+ ...
Thank you to the replies!and thoughts on contracts... Oct 27, 2001

Thanks to all the replies and ideas icon_smile.gif
It\'s been great help really...

one point, to com eback to what Stefania what saying re having a contract before you take the job: I am doing that, but i tend to think that if a particular client has been in the habit of being a bad payer for years (but you\'re a victim for the 1st time), they\'re probably not going to care about a contract, especially if they\'re in another country, and especially if apparently the cost of starting litigation based on the contract is likely to exceed the price of the money owed ????


Nikki Scott-Despaigne  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:14
French to English
Bad payers, first timers Nov 17, 2001


On 2001-10-27 15:36, Chrystal wrote:

\"... re having a contract before you take the job: I am doing that, but I tend to think that if a particular client has been in the habit of being a bad payer for years (but you\'re a victim for the 1st time), they\'re probably not going to care about a contract, especially if they\'re in another country, and especially if apparently the cost of starting litigation based on the contract is likely to exceed the price of the money owed ????

I would saw that this is the very type of situation in which you can see just how important it is to have a contract.

Working for a client who turns out to be a historically bad payer, but it\'s the first time you work for them.

Self-defence mechanisms.

1 - You don\'t know them, they don\'t know you. All the more reason to be clear from the word go.

2 - Ask for some money up front. If you don\'t get it, don\'t work for them. (Easier said than done in these internet client-supplies-and-translator-returns days. Never the less sound business practice.)

3 - If you suspect that you are running a risk from the word go, but you are prepared to run the risk, weigh it up. Can you afford to lose the money and write off the bad debt if they don\'t pay up?


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