7 Ways Translation Agencies take advantage of their customers

The translation industry can be confusing – especially to customers who only know little about languages and localization processes, merely wanting to reliably increase their reach on the Global Market.

Large agencies often sit on their information and only choose what to reveal – profit maximization can play a major role here. During their pursuit of the big money, those agencies sometimes opt for unfair practices that may result in customers having to pay more than the service they received is worth. And often there is no way for them to know that this is happening!

Let’s shed light on some things – here are 7 methods that agencies use to take advantage of their customers (and capitalize):

  1. Changing analysis
    Some Agencies change the statistics of your analysis to increase word counts or decrease match rates – the difference to the actual analysis is used to increase the margin.

    This practice is often used with established relationships where customers do not obtain multiple offers.

  2. CAT penalty settings

    A sneaky but very efficient way to decrease match levels and thus increase margin is to inflate the penalty settings in the CAT tool.

    Basically, this method increases the percentage of the penalty that is applied to variations. With this, an extra space could increase from a small penalty to a 30% penalty effectively pushing matches into a lower match category – which is more expensive for the customers.

    This tactic is used in low competition scenarios.

  3. Not applying TM

    A very commonly used way to increase margins is to either not use a TM (Translation Memory) at all, or use it internally but not give the customer any discounts produced by the TM.

    This is very common – especially with customers who are not very knowledgeable in terms of translation processes.

  4. Charging a lot for repetitions

    TM (Translation Memory) allows for amazing applications especially with repetitive or standardized content. The standard rates for 100%+ matches is 0% - 10% of the normal word price. However, often a lot more is charged for content that does need very little review.

  5. Using the cheapest and underqualified translators

    A commonly used strategy to maximize profit is to use the cheapest translator. Agencies have different strategies. Either they ask 50 translators and award the job to the cheapest offer. Or translators are constantly asked to lower their prices putting a lot of pressure on the translators who ultimately provide the service. – This, as you can imagine, leads to several issues on the translator side.

  6. Do machine translation while charging for human translation

    Unfortunately, a practice that has become more and more common in the last few years is selling human translation (which is qualitatively superior to machine translation) and then conduct the project with machine translation and human proofreading (or machine translation with post editing (MTPE))

  7. Sell 4 / 6 eye principle and do only 2/4

    An absolute classic and around for decades is the promise to do a 4 or 6 eye principle (they are exactly the same – 6 eyes is counting the project manager) with a human translator and a proofreader. Very often the project is then only conducted by one translator with the agency pocketing the added money for the proofreader.

Now, not all agencies use these tactics and not all use all of them.

Andreas Jacobi

Andreas Jacobi


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