There appears to be a need in our space for contract language. Maybe this could become a special area here on RBC?
"No matter what, the "But For Rule" will rule this contract. IF I bring information TO YOU that allows an interview to be set up, an offer to be made and a yes procured from a candidate to a new job, I'm getting paid, NO MATTER that you have the candidate "in your database." Period. Double Period. No argument."
I'm an internal recruiter but have +/-10 years agency experience so have been on both sides in similar circumstances. We now have an ATS in place and outside recruiters submit their candidates via the ATS If we already have the candidate on file, they receive an email telling them so and that's usually the end of the story unless the agency recruiter can come up with a good reason for us to consider paying a fee.
If, for some reason, we don't realize that duplication has taken place until well into the process, we generally either negotiate a reduced fee or pay full fee, depending on the circumstances.
If a recruiter calls me and says "I met this great candidate and tried to submit but was blocked" and can sell me on why we should work together on the candidate, I'm open to the argument. I have, and will continue to, checked to see when we originally got the candidate and how, before making a decision.
The flip side to this, which you may not realize, is that if a candidate is originally submitted via an agency, we honor that 'ownership' in our database for a year. I have done searches in the ATS and contacted agencies about viable candidates they've submitted in the past, so it works both ways.