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In a nutshell: We are a team of four freelancers with individual contracts covering a total of 16 business days, 10 of which were cancelled. All contracts have a cancellation clause. The client is based in Spain.

There is a rather long story behind it: I had offered to make a "Master Contract" for the entire interpreting team on the condition that there would be an upfront payment. The client turned this offer down saying they would not make a transfer unless I was incorporated as a business. Since I, on the other hand, was not prepared to take on five digit exposure for a client whom I have never worked with before I agreed to recommend a few colleagues with whom the client would have to sign direct contracts. Which they did.

Alas, surprise-surprise: The course was cancelled. I know that, legally speaking, I am not liable but I am still left with an extremely bad aftertaste and I also have reason to believe that getting the cancellation fee might turn into a problem.

So here's my question to the more business savvy people out there: I know there are factoring companies which "buy" other companies' receivables. So instead of all four of us consulting a lawyer individually and paying legal fees for international collection procedures four times over - would it be possible for one person to "buy" the other colleagues' receivables and file a kind of "class action" suit? Sorry for this long winded question but my assumption is that this problem is not all that uncommon.

asked 28 Sep '12, 04:08

Tanja's gravatar image


edited 28 Sep '12, 09:37

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Dear Tanja,

This is not a direct answer to your question on "buying" other companies' receivables, but it may be interesting for you.

Since January 1st, 2009, it is possible to send an order for payment procedure (Mahnverfahren auf Deutsch) within the EU to recover uncontested civil and commercial claims according to a uniform procedure that operates on the basis of standard forms.

See this link in German or this one in English.

You can download the forms online and the whole procedure is very affordable. I heard this from colleagues but never tried it myself as I've had no problems to date.

Good luck!

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answered 28 Sep '12, 09:49

Delete's gravatar image

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edited 02 Oct '12, 02:15

Dear Tanja and colleagues,

I will keep my fingers crossed for you that you will find a way to get your invoices paid.

One piece of advice I can give to everybody after one negative experience I encountered some time ago is to ask for advance payment - of at least half the expected total - whenever your gut feeling tells you there might be problems. To my own amazement most companies consider this normal practice when recruiting interpreters in other countries. Sometimes it is just a matter of daring to ask for advance payment.

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answered 28 Sep '12, 15:59

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edited 28 Sep '12, 16:01

i can only agree with Almute. But, of course, with hindsight... I would write to the client, reminding him of his obligations; get the colleagues to send individual invoices, deducting any alternative work they may have found; and harass the client. If he still does not pay, the interpreters may want to join forces and hire a lawyer to send him a stern letter. So far, it has worked for me, except once for one particular US agency and I immediately warned all AIIC reg. secretaries about it.

(29 Sep '12, 10:41) Danielle

You are absolutely right, Danielle - and thank you for reminding us of informing AIIC regional secretaries as well! In my case it was also a US company. They made the company look very big and international on their website but actually only consisted of 2 people. They paid after a stern letter from a US lawyer. Our own letters, reminders and phonecalls were to no avail.

(29 Sep '12, 14:41) AlmuteL

Tanja, my heart goes out to you! :-(

Before looking into legal remedies, you should first ascertain what the client's intentions (and then actions...) are vis-à-vis the cancelled days; I take it that everyone still gets/got to work some days but not all originally contracted, in which case each should send/have sent an individual invoice/note d'honoraire covering days worked AND days cancelled, inasmuch as all have contracts with a cancellation clause.

The client should then react to your invoices and presumably pay part of each one... only then can non-payment (of the remainder or the whole if no work and full cancellation) be established and further measures taken, if persuasion proves to be fruitless.

Action by one on behalf of several is possible in more than one way, from mere proxies to co-litigation through joint representation, and indeed (token?) purchase by one of the others' credits, prior to single judicial action by the buyer, but here I strongly advise that you get legal counsel, preferably in both countries... and not to forget tax implications.

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answered 28 Sep '12, 14:38

msr's gravatar image


edited 28 Sep '12, 15:01

Thanks Manuel, - luckily, last week the client paid the first colleague's invoice (the 1 week delay is supposed to have been due to absenteeism in the office). Phewey, anyway: So it looks as though my initial concerns were unfounded after all. Still, it really made me think twice how to handle these situations (do I insist on master contracts for the entire team/upfront payment, alternatively, do I refuse to pass on the names of suitable colleagues if I cannot handle the logistics/what about the moral obligation if I "recommend" a client whom I don't know and who - potentially - turns out to be dodgy etc.).

(14 Oct '12, 17:25) Tanja

Dear Tanja:

I have never deal with any international client for conf-interpreting business. But I did several deals for translation. My sole technique in preventing fraud is to judge it before hand, and if I could tell from common sense that there is something suspicious, I will stop the business with him/her from the beginning. And we made agreement concerning the details including payment, and we just conducted as agreed. I should say I followed my instinct. No idea whether this is of any help for you.

Best regards


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answered 29 Sep '12, 04:50

Paris%20Si%20de%20Chine's gravatar image

Paris Si de ...

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question asked: 28 Sep '12, 04:08

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