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Crisis in the UK: Why Translators Should be Afraid

Tutorials » Crisis in the UK: Why Translators Should be Afraid

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If you ask any translator what their biggest worry is, they will tell you that they fear not being paid for the work they completed. In this day and age, you would think that shouldn’t even be an issue. However, the exact opposite is the case. More and more “companies” are popping up in the UK, positioning themselves as professional translation organizations, only to take orders from clients and have translators do the work, with no intention of paying them. Ever.

But how can that be? Aren’t there laws that prohibit such behavior? The truth is, not really.

This is the result of several loopholes in the laws of England and Wales.

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1) The UK has no form of registration whatsoever for business names. The former Registration of Business Names Act, which merely required registration at Companies House, was abolished by the Thatcher government in 1979. In the UK, businesses can call themselves anything they like (as long as it doesn’t have “royal” in it).

2) The laws make it is easier for businesses to go into liquidation than it is to stick it out and pay off debts. A three-times-bankrupt even boasted about it recently in “The Daily Telegraph”.

3) It is easy to escape creditors, writ-servers, etc., by trading from a secret address. In most other countries, the headquarters are where a business trades from. However, that is not the case in the UK, which uses the “registered office” as the official trading address. It is perfectly legitimate to have a registered office in a place other than the principal place of business; accountants, and occasionally solicitors, act as the registered office for many of their clients. This makes it very convenient for shady businesses to escape confrontations.

In the end, British companies are getting a bad reputation worldwide, especially in the translation business. Other companies that hire translation companies should be aware just how easy it is for fraudulent businesses to exist. One main factor that contributes to this is that client and sub-contractor never meet. So anyone with website building skills can make themselves look just as legitimate as a professional translation organization. After having won the contract with the client, the work is turned over to the project managers whose job it is to farm it out to the cheapest translator they can find. Quality is never a concern.

Another problem in the translation business is that when official tenders are issued by local authorities, government departments and even international organizations, there is no contractual requirement to pay translators. In fact, several companies with an appalling reputation for payment have a clientele consisting almost exclusively of official bodies, including the European Union, through tenders they have won which are renewed indefinitely without any form of quality control. It’s easy to offer the lowest bid when you know you have no intention of paying the translators who worked on it!

So if you’re a translator in the UK, it’s better to consider working for companies based in other countries, such as the US who have much stricter business guidelines. Sure, fraudulent companies can still slip through the cracks (and do from time to time), however it is much less common place in the states.


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Tutorials » Crisis in the UK: Why Translators Should be Afraid

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