Bank charges on foreign transfers
Thread poster: Matthew Garland

Matthew Garland  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:15
French to English
Mar 31, 2007

Greetings one and all ,

I'm a regular visitor to ProZ when translating, but have never posted on this forum as of yet... this morning, however, I could do with your help!

I just received payment for three or four invoices (three weeks or more late but, hey, better late than never...). Everything seemed fine... then I checked the next transaction on my account (French) :

FRAIS SUR VIR INTER. RECU XXXX REF XXXX

TRAITEMENT VIREMENT : 16.50 BIC/IBAN ABS. INCOR. : 15.00

As far as I can see, that means that I'm getting charged 31.50 for the transfer, at least partially because the bank details were incorrect/missing. As the details on my invoices are copied and pasted directly from my bank's website, this is clearly not an error on my part.

I phoned my bank and asked them why I had to pay it (this not being the case beforehand, even with the same agency) and they told me that it was simply the person who made the transfer who decided to pass the costs on to me, rather than paying them themself.

Is this normal, acceptable practice, or do I have the right to feel aggrieved? The invoice was for over 350.00€, but this still means the 31.50 paid is getting on for 10% of the total sum. Should I take this lying down or can I complain?

I only translate part time (full time job + up to 20 000 words per month... tiring stuff...) and work with just two agencies: the one in question has always paid late but pays better than the other one (which provides the majority of the work I do and always pays on time, at the end of each month for the month's work). I clearly don't want to lose the work they send me but don't want to accept charges that I shouldn't be paying.

Dipping into the treasure trove that is your vast and wor(l)dly experience, o kind, generous and ever-helpful ProZ community, please tell me what I should do!

Regards,

Matthew


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Jan Willem van Dormolen  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 02:15
English to Dutch
+ ...
Established practice Mar 31, 2007

I don't know about the laws in your country, but in mine there is something like 'established practice', which means that, if something has been done the same way for some time, then both parties can rely on this to STAY the same way. Even if there is no prior agreement.
In your case, the agency has always accepted the costs of transferral, so they can't all of a sudden change their minds. If they want to transfer these costs to you now, they have to bargain for it.
I would send them a polite note saying that you noticed they had transferred the costs to you, and since this was never done before, it's an obvious mistake (which can happen, we're only human, after all?) and would they please amend things?

If they hold the position that they want you to take the charges from now on, then you will regretfully have raise your rates somewhat, which is understandable anyhow, in view of the rising costs of living and all.

This way, you take care not to breach the business relationship, and still make the point you want to make.

HTH.


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Lawyer-Linguist  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 01:15
Dutch to English
+ ...
Query it Mar 31, 2007

If they've always paid the bank costs to date and set that precedent, simply query it.

When I make international transfers (for example), I have 3 options:

Payor pays the costs
Payee pays the costs
Shared costs

It's easy to tick the wrong option in a hurry (on my internet banking layout at least), so ask if this was simply an error or whether they've actually changed their (general) policy.

Agencies also have lots of translators, so maybe they even have varying policies for different ones and have got you mixed up, there could be a host of reasons.

Type of thing I'd do over the phone (less time for someone to think out an excuse), a friendly phone call from your side shouldn't ruin the relationship. Don't just let it go - by doing that, you're tacitly accepting it.

New clients: Always tell foreign agencies upfront that the price you quote is the net you expect to receive in your account and get their confirmation on that point in writing.

Good luck!

[Edited at 2007-03-31 12:01]


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xxxmediamatrix
Local time: 21:15
Spanish to English
+ ...
My reading ... Mar 31, 2007

... is that the BIC/IBAN codes given by the agency were incorrect (BIC/IBAN ABS. INCOR. : 15.00), and in this case it is 'normal' for the bank to levy a charge for handling the transaction. It may also be the case that in these circumstances they always apply all the carges to the 'To:' account, since they can't go back and take another dollop from the 'From.' account.

Within the EU (+Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland), banks are not allowed to charge more for handling international transfers than they do for national transfers, PROVIDED that the BIC and IBAN codes are given AND CORRECT. (This ruling came into force on 01/01/2006).

If I were you, Matthew, I'd check with the agency to see if they made a silly mistake. If YES, then suggest that they add Eur 31.50 as a voluntary bonus to the next payment. If they refuse, add that amount to your next bill. If NO, get a copy of the agency's payment instruction and then complain to your bank and have them sort it out.

MediaMatrix


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Ralf Lemster  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 02:15
English to German
+ ...
Some more details Mar 31, 2007

There's a vital issue missing here:



Within the EU (+Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland), banks are not allowed to charge more for handling international transfers than they do for national transfers, PROVIDED that the BIC and IBAN codes are given AND CORRECT.

Please check the relevant FAQ published by the EU: there are amount limits in place, and the payment must be instructed as a SHARE payment (where each party bears costs incurred at its side).

(This ruling came into force on 01/01/2006).

Two and a half years earlier, in fact (on 1 July 2003); what changed at the beginning of 2006 was that the amount limit went up from € 12,500 to € 50,000.

HTH, Ralf


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 20:15
English to French
+ ...
Common practice Mar 31, 2007

Usually, the client is supposed to send to you the total amount on the invoice. This means that if your invoice was 350.00, they should have sent you 350.00. From there on, usually, it is your responsibility to pay for other fees, like currency exchange fees and the flat fee for cashing in a cheque. But the payment itself should be of the amount specificed on your invoice.

A simple example of how this works outside of translation is when you go to the grocery store and pay with a debit card. Your card gets debited a small fee for the transaction. It comes down to charging financial fees to the party who originated them. If the client made the transaction, it is they who pay the fees.

This is why I offer different payment methods to my clients. They get to choose whatever is most convenient to them, but if there are charges, they are responsible for them because it is they who chose that payment method. I offer them to pay by cheque, which costs next to nothing to them to write up (it also costs next to nothing for me to cash in). If they still choose bank transfers, that's OK, but they have to pay the fees. If they pick PayPal, I ask them to pay 3% as that's how much PayPal will deduct for the use of their services (initiated by the client). 3% on $4000 is money, just like EUR30+ pays a phone bill.

I agree with the above that when there is an established practice, people are expected to stick by them. However, you don't know who went to the bank for the transfer and it may well be that the person who transferred the money doesn't do it often and didn't remember to assume the charges. It can easily be an accident. I think the best thing to do is to contact the client and ask politely why there are charges when usually there aren't any. If they are a good client (from what you say, it seems they are), they will be willing to at least discuss it.

All the best!

[Edited at 2007-03-31 16:50]


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xxxmediamatrix
Local time: 21:15
Spanish to English
+ ...
FWIW ... Mar 31, 2007

Ralf Lemster wrote:

There's a vital issue missing here:



Within the EU (+Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland), banks are not allowed to charge more for handling international transfers than they do for national transfers, PROVIDED that the BIC and IBAN codes are given AND CORRECT.

Please check the relevant FAQ published by the EU: there are amount limits in place, and the payment must be instructed as a SHARE payment (where each party bears costs incurred at its side).

(This ruling came into force on 01/01/2006).

Two and a half years earlier, in fact (on 1 July 2003); what changed at the beginning of 2006 was that the amount limit went up from € 12,500 to € 50,000.

HTH, Ralf


Thanks for the extra info, Ralf.

That said, the info I provided was quoted from a recent (March 2007) statement from my European bank. And whereas there may well be limits - and changes to those limits with different 'apply from' dates - Matthew's transacion (Eur 350) is well within the limits appliying in the past ... 10 years or more.
Finally - as far as I can tell from my European bank's practices, at least - it matters not whether charges are 'shared' or not. You will get clobbered if the BIC and/or IBAN are not provided, or are wrong, regardless.

MediaMatrix


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Charlie Bavington  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:15
French to English
Don't exclude an error by the bank Mar 31, 2007

Notwithstanding the fact that:
a) it appears you are paying this becos of some error in bank codes and
b) my situation is not the same as yours,
I thought I could point out that it is not unheard of for the bank to make a mistake (no, really!)

I regularly transfer money from France to the UK. Obviously this involves currency exchange, but the form is the same form as used within eurozone. I swear that the only thing I ever change on this form (I've got it as a Word doc, which I print and sign and send to the bank in the post) is the date and the amount. The boxes that you tick on the form regarding who pays the fees are the same every time (in my case, for the payor - my French bank account - to pay the fees, not the payee - my UK account)

And yet, about 20% of the time, they make a mistake over this instruction, and I end up paying the fees the UK end, not the France end. Makes no difference to me, it's all my money and the differences are small. But it could be a mistake by the bank, not the agency. It happens.


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Sergei Tumanov  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:15
English to Russian
+ ...
lessons we get in life are of great value.. Mar 31, 2007

... it was simply the person who made the transfer who decided to pass the costs on to me, rather than paying them themself.
...


Great guy! brilliant business idea :0)
Time to change something, either a client or a bank...


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Bank charges on foreign transfers

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