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Agencies demanding more and more private information - fair or unfair?
Thread poster: Alison High

Alison High  Identity Verified
Switzerland
Local time: 01:56
Member (2003)
French to English
+ ...
Sep 22, 2016

Hi I've been freelancing since 1999 and I am finding that agencies are now demanding more and more private and personal information from me that I don't think agencies should have the right to demand.

I've recently had requests for my passport number, a copy of my passport, proof that I've paid my taxes or social security contributions (apparently having and proving that I have a social security and taxpayer number is not adequate) and now apparently I'm supposed to be totally happy
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Hi I've been freelancing since 1999 and I am finding that agencies are now demanding more and more private and personal information from me that I don't think agencies should have the right to demand.

I've recently had requests for my passport number, a copy of my passport, proof that I've paid my taxes or social security contributions (apparently having and proving that I have a social security and taxpayer number is not adequate) and now apparently I'm supposed to be totally happy with signing an updated collaboration agreement that states that the agency can ask me what percentage of my annual turnover I make from work I do for that agency, whenever it likes and that I'd have to send it an international registered letter if it gives me work that totals more than 20% of my annual turnover.

I find that that is taking the free out of freelance and very definitely giving them access to information that is none of their business... if they know the total amount in numbers for 20% of my income, they can calculate my entire income, and that information is private. And what's with having to send a registered letter? That is expensive, time consuming and completely outdated!

Is anyone else coming up against this? Does anyone else see this as a breach of their personal information? Is there anyone out there that sees this as totally normal and OK?
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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 00:56
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
You are free - free to say "No". Sep 22, 2016

Alison High wrote:
proof that I've paid my taxes or social security contributions (apparently having and proving that I have a social security and taxpayer number is not adequate)

I don't know about other places, but both France and Spain have a single A4 sheet that simply declares that you are registered and up to date with tax and/or social security contributions. You can get it by pressing a few buttons and saving or printing the form. It's a fairly normal request, I believe, but not one I have to comply with too often.

I'm supposed to be totally happy with signing an updated collaboration agreement that states that the agency can ask me what percentage of my annual turnover I make from work I do for that agency, whenever it likes and that I'd have to send it an international registered letter if it gives me work that totals more than 20% of my annual turnover.

Have you tried telling them that you couldn't possibly give such sensitive information to a client. Or tell them that you'll be only be too happy to oblige once they've shown you their figures that show what proportion of their translation work they assign to you, and who the comes from. Personally, I'd just refuse, and show them the door if they didn't withdraw the request.

I find it's only the larger agency clients that try to throw their weight around in this way. Plus startups that are generally open to education. Direct clients and smaller specialist agencies don't make these demands. They operate on far more sensible principles.


 

Alison High  Identity Verified
Switzerland
Local time: 01:56
Member (2003)
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Agencies demanding more and more private information - fair or unfair? (details) Sep 22, 2016

Sheila Wilson wrote:

I don't know about other places, but both France and Spain have a single A4 sheet that simply declares that you are registered and up to date with tax and/or social security contributions.


I have to send an email request and pay money to get the official letter that proves I've paid my taxes

Have you tried telling them that you couldn't possibly give such sensitive information to a client. Or tell them that you'll be only be too happy to oblige once they've shown you their figures that show what proportion of their translation work they assign to you, and who the comes from. Personally, I'd just refuse, and show them the door if they didn't withdraw the request.

I find it's only the larger agency clients that try to throw their weight around in this way. Plus startups that are generally open to education. Direct clients and smaller specialist agencies don't make these demands. They operate on far more sensible principles.



Just trying to find out what others think first. I have most definitely said that I am not happy signing anything that gives them the right to such information, even if it means we have to stop working together.... it's just annoying because other than for this I have enjoyed working with them.


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 00:56
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Not disagreeing Sep 22, 2016

Alison High wrote:
Sheila Wilson wrote:
I don't know about other places, but both France and Spain have a single A4 sheet that simply declares that you are registered and up to date with tax and/or social security contributions.

I have to send an email request and pay money to get the official letter that proves I've paid my taxes

That certainly makes a difference

Have you tried telling them that you couldn't possibly give such sensitive information to a client. Or tell them that you'll be only be too happy to oblige once they've shown you their figures that show what proportion of their translation work they assign to you, and who the comes from. Personally, I'd just refuse, and show them the door if they didn't withdraw the request.

I find it's only the larger agency clients that try to throw their weight around in this way. Plus startups that are generally open to education. Direct clients and smaller specialist agencies don't make these demands. They operate on far more sensible principles.


Just trying to find out what others think first. I have most definitely said that I am not happy signing anything that gives them the right to such information, even if it means we have to stop working together.... it's just annoying because other than for this I have enjoyed working with them.

It certainly is annoying. And maybe some people will just do as they're told. But it isn't right, and I wouldn't do it. I think some individuals have a very strange idea of these ISO certifications they get. They seem to think "quality assurance" means they have to collect piles of paper/e-paper, presumably to show an auditor they're doing a good job, when it means no such thing.


 

Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:56
Member (2014)
Japanese to English
Logical, but not desirable Sep 22, 2016

Alison High wrote:
I'd have to send it an international registered letter if it gives me work that totals more than 20% of my annual turnover.

The implications of this are not necessarily sinister. I have known manufacturing companies in the past that had a policy of actively discouraging suppliers from becoming too dependent on them. The idea is that if Supplier X relies on Company A for (say) 30% of its revenues, then it is inherently less stable than Supplier Y that only derives 5% of its revenues from Company A.

So if Company A goes through an economic downturn and has to cut back production and consequently reduce its orders to Suppliers X and Y, that would have a much more serious effect on Supplier X than on Supplier Y. The resulting destabilisation could lead to significant financial problems for Supplier X, which in turn could feed back to Company A and cause headaches there. (Imagine, for example, that Supplier X files for bankruptcy and can no longer supply Product L to Company A, and that Company A's customers cannot ship their own products as a result. This kind of thing does actually happen.)

In a similar way, this condition may be an attempt by the agency to reduce both its dependency on certain freelancers and freelancers' dependency on the agency. Having said that, it is clearly there to help the agency rather than you. For a direct client, I might do it, but not for an agency.

Dan


 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:56
Member (2008)
Italian to English
One explanation Sep 22, 2016

One explanation may be that in order to tender for contracts to provide translation services, agencies are required to provide detailed credentials for all the translators they intend to use. There may be good reasons for this, but it's a PITA for the translator who has to provide all this info without knowing what's going to happen to it.

An agency that used to give me a lot of work recently asked me to provide a very detailed personal CV, for that reason. I didn't do it, and the a
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One explanation may be that in order to tender for contracts to provide translation services, agencies are required to provide detailed credentials for all the translators they intend to use. There may be good reasons for this, but it's a PITA for the translator who has to provide all this info without knowing what's going to happen to it.

An agency that used to give me a lot of work recently asked me to provide a very detailed personal CV, for that reason. I didn't do it, and the amount of work I'm getting from them has significantly reduced (luckily I have plenty of work from other sources).
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Viesturs Lacis  Identity Verified
Latvia
Local time: 02:56
Member (2014)
English to Latvian
Not only about discouragement Sep 22, 2016

Dan Lucas wrote:

Alison High wrote:
I'd have to send it an international registered letter if it gives me work that totals more than 20% of my annual turnover.

The implications of this are not necessarily sinister. I have known manufacturing companies in the past that had a policy of actively discouraging suppliers from becoming too dependent on them. The idea is that if Supplier X relies on Company A for (say) 30% of its revenues, then it is inherently less stable than Supplier Y that only derives 5% of its revenues from Company A.

So if Company A goes through an economic downturn and has to cut back production and consequently reduce its orders to Suppliers X and Y, that would have a much more serious effect on Supplier X than on Supplier Y. The resulting destabilisation could lead to significant financial problems for Supplier X, which in turn could feed back to Company A and cause headaches there. (Imagine, for example, that Supplier X files for bankruptcy and can no longer supply Product L to Company A, and that Company A's customers cannot ship their own products as a result. This kind of thing does actually happen.)

In a similar way, this condition may be an attempt by the agency to reduce both its dependency on certain freelancers and freelancers' dependency on the agency. Having said that, it is clearly there to help the agency rather than you. For a direct client, I might do it, but not for an agency.

Dan

In principle, the proportion of a freelancer's work that they perform for a given client may also have legal implications re: employment law. As far as I'm aware, it is one of the criteria that many jurisdictions use to determine whether a natural person is an employee or an independent contractor. An agency may be worried about possible trouble with the local tax/employment law authorities if it turns out that many freelancers (especially locals) derive their principal income from said agency, which might cause suspicion on the authorities' part that their "freelance" status is a sham and they ought to be correctly reclassified as employees of the agency. Of course I don't know whether it realistically applies to the agencies the OP has in mind.


 

Daria Hussels  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:56
English to German
Social insurance purposes? Sep 22, 2016

I have heard of cases in Germany where the authorities made agencies pay social insurance contributions for their freelancers for several years in arrears because the relationship between agency and freelancer was too similar to a situation of permanent employment. This was initiated by government and tax authorities, not the freelancers themselves. Such a situation can cause severe problems for agencies and it is only natural that they should take steps to protect themselves from these demands.... See more
I have heard of cases in Germany where the authorities made agencies pay social insurance contributions for their freelancers for several years in arrears because the relationship between agency and freelancer was too similar to a situation of permanent employment. This was initiated by government and tax authorities, not the freelancers themselves. Such a situation can cause severe problems for agencies and it is only natural that they should take steps to protect themselves from these demands. I would not worry too much about this although it is of course less than ideal that you should have to pay for such a proof of your compliance and independence.

[Edited at 2016-09-22 17:32 GMT]
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Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:56
Member (2014)
Japanese to English
Excellent point Sep 22, 2016

Viesturs Lacis wrote:
In principle, the proportion of a freelancer's work that they perform for a given client may also have legal implications re: employment law.

Yes indeed, I hadn't thought of that. It is related in a way to the lawsuits currently faced by Uber (are its driver employees or not?) but also a longstanding issue for IT contractors in particular in the UK.

Dan


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 00:56
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
But surely there are better ways? Sep 23, 2016

Dan Lucas wrote:
Viesturs Lacis wrote:
In principle, the proportion of a freelancer's work that they perform for a given client may also have legal implications re: employment law.

Yes indeed, I hadn't thought of that. It is related in a way to the lawsuits currently faced by Uber (are its driver employees or not?) but also a longstanding issue for IT contractors in particular in the UK.

It's a problem in France and Spain too, but surely the onus is on the company to make it clear that they aren't trying to do that, not up to the freelancer to prove anything? It seems quite irrational to me.
1. AFAIK (though it would need confirmation), a company can't be held responsible if it allocates 10 hours per week to one freelancer when, unknown to them, the freelancer is only working 10 hours per week. They know if they're allocating 30+ hours of work per week to one contractor, surely?
2. The contract could clearly state that the freelancer is contracted to inform them if the agency is supplying more than a certain percentage of their total business income, as this would constitute grounds for a new contract (or less work). That's enough, surely? No questions from the agency; no proof from the contractor required; just a statement that "last week/month/year (?) you provided nn% of my total income". I can imagine that many freelancers wouldn't want to admit that, as they'd lose the client or at least some of their work, but the agency would surely have covered itself sufficiently even if the freelancer doesn't own up. I imagine there has to be intent to evade the costs and responsibilities of hiring an employee.
3. Anyway, 20% is surely far too low, isn't it? These laws are supposed to kick in at a very high percentage - approaching 100%, aren't they?


 

Alison High  Identity Verified
Switzerland
Local time: 01:56
Member (2003)
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Still unconvinced. Sep 23, 2016

Thanks for the input everyone

Sheila Wilson wrote:

2. The contract could clearly state that the freelancer is contracted to inform them if the agency is supplying more than a certain percentage of their total business income, as this would constitute grounds for a new contract (or less work). That's enough, surely? No questions from the agency; no proof from the contractor required; just a statement that "last week/month/year (?) you provided nn% of my total income". I can imagine that many freelancers wouldn't want to admit that, as they'd lose the client or at least some of their work, but the agency would surely have covered itself sufficiently even if the freelancer doesn't own up. I imagine there has to be intent to evade the costs and responsibilities of hiring an employee.


Two different agencies - one wanted the proof of tax payment certificate that I have to pay for; the other wants me to agree in a contract to send a registered letter if the work they send me exceeds 20%. They've also put in the agreement that I have to tell them the exact percentage of my income derived from work they gave me if they ask for it.

But if I'm telling them they provided me with x% of my turnover in a certain year they can do the sums and work out my total turnover and that's what I don't like. It feels like something an employer would demand of an employee not something an agency should be allowed to demand of a freelancer, my turnover is between me and my taxation and social contribution authorities. And a contract with a freelance agency that states that I should diversify my client base is clearly telling me how to run my business... when I'm a freelancer and they have no right to tell me how to run my business, that would really be leaning towards an employer-employee relationship.

I don't like begin required to send the info via registered letter either. It's not like they're paying for it. A yes/no quesition with an answer via email would bother me less.

I've asked for more specifics and since they say it is due to "regulations". I've asked for the exact reference to the regulation so that I can see the legal nature of the requirement for myself.


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 00:56
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Good idea! Sep 23, 2016

Alison High wrote:
I've asked for more specifics and since they say it is due to "regulations". I've asked for the exact reference to the regulation so that I can see the legal nature of the requirement for myself.

Please share what they come up with, if you can.


 
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Alison High  Identity Verified
Switzerland
Local time: 01:56
Member (2003)
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Been there and done that Sep 23, 2016

Gitte Hovedskov wrote:

Alison High wrote:

... It feels like something an employer would demand of an employee not something an agency should be allowed to demand of a freelancer...



No agency or any other client has the right to demand anything from you at all. It is entirely up to you as an independent businesswoman to decide who you want to work with and what information you want to share with them.

I don't even think there's any point in getting annoyed or offended by this. Your clients just have different views from yours. Tell them where you stand, what information you are prepared to submit, and that's it. If they don't accept your stand, don't work with them. But be prepared for that to be the result, i.e. no collaboration.

I recently discussed potential collaboration with an agency, which appeared to be a good prospect, but then went on to send me 8 densely written pages of NDA to read and sign as well as another couple of smaller documents to read, and they wanted my bank details before they had even mentioned any specific work. On top of this, the company, which had presented itself as being based in an EU country, turned out to be subject to US legislation and wanted our collaboration to be subject to that, too. I told them I was not prepared to read and sign 8 pages of NDA and that I didn't want our collaboration to be subject to US legislation. They responded "but this is all part of our procedure, if you don't do this, we can't start collaboration". I responded as follows:

"That's quite all right. "

Needless to say, collaboration did not commence...



Yes I've been there and done that numerous times... when the contracts they want me to sign state that I agree with other documents that may or may not be provided or give the agency access to my computer, thus breaking any NDA I have or will ever sign, and the corker was a contract that said I agree to all the ISO something specification.... which they did not and would not provide but expected me to blindly agree to or shell out hundreds of francs to purchase.


Sometimes as freelancers we need to hear other people's points of view regarding certain matters... we can become very insular in our thinking so that's why I started this thread.... to see if I'm way out on my own in the way I think or not or if I need a reality check, so thanks for chipping in.


And this is an agency that I've been working with for a year or so who've suddenly decided to make us sign an "updated" agreement. It's easy to say no to something you don't like in a contract when you've never worked for an agency. You try and find a way to make it work when its for an agency that you've enjoyed working with.

[Edited at 2016-09-23 16:20 GMT]


 

Alison High  Identity Verified
Switzerland
Local time: 01:56
Member (2003)
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Never did get a satisfactory reply Jan 11, 2017

Hi all, sorry I thought I'd shared the reply I got.

Yes its about proving I'm a freelancer not an employee and economic dependency.

They started of telling me this was because of "regulations". When I asked for specifics I was told "French regulations".
When I asked for a reference number of the French regulations to which they were referring so I could see the legal basis for the request with my own eyes, I was told "French case law".

So none of that
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Hi all, sorry I thought I'd shared the reply I got.

Yes its about proving I'm a freelancer not an employee and economic dependency.

They started of telling me this was because of "regulations". When I asked for specifics I was told "French regulations".
When I asked for a reference number of the French regulations to which they were referring so I could see the legal basis for the request with my own eyes, I was told "French case law".

So none of that sat well with me and I never signed their updated agreement and haven't worked with them since.

I enjoyed working with that agency and would like to work with them again. Turning down an agency you've never worked with is way easier than deciding to no longer work with an agency that you really liked working with.

Thanks for your opinions anyway.
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