United States: The Third Party To Your Franchise Agreement: Congress?

Last Updated: August 17 2015
Article by Alexander S. Radus

The Fair Franchise Act of 2015 (the "Act") makes a lot of promises: it will promote fair business relations, protect franchisees, and create a thriving franchise business climate, better wages and benefits, etc. But the Act can't fulfill any of them unless it makes (and keeps) one more promise – to become the squeaky third wheel in the contractual relationship between Zees and Zors. And that is the one promise the Act is certain to keep.

First, a little background. The Act was introduced in the House by Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) on July 23, 2015, and it was co-sponsored by Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) and Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA). But it's not a new concept. Representative Conyers worked closely on similar legislation in the late 1990's as did Rep. Huffman four years ago when he was a California legislator.

Many prohibitions will sound familiar: Zors cannot make untrue statements; they cannot disclose FPR's that are inconsistent with their FDD's. What is different this time around is that the Act creates a private right of action, meaning Zee's can sue Zor's under federal law for such activities. And not only that – the Act creates a private right of action under the FTC Rule as well, which for nearly four decades has only been enforceable by the Federal Trade Commission.

Yes Zee can / No Zor can't

Among the Act's many prohibitions, Zor's cannot:

  • hinder the formation of or participation in Zee associations,
  • charge "excessive and unreasonable" renewal fees,
  • enforce certain arbitration provisions, or
  • require Zee's to maintain non-competes with the Zee employees.

Conversely, Zee's can do any or all of the following (and Zor's cannot terminate or fail to renew the franchise):

  • refuse to take part in a promotional campaign if it is not "reasonable, implemented in good faith, and expected to promote the profitability of the franchisee's business,"
  • refuse to sell product or services at the Zor's suggested (or even required) price, or
  • refuse to keep the business open during unprofitable hours.

We'll know it when we see it...

The Act also prohibits Zor's from engaging in conduct and behavior that is difficult to define with particularity. What does it all mean? No one will know until Zee's and Zor's litigate and courts decide. Zor's cannot impose a "standard of conduct or performance" on Zee's unless the Zor can "prove" that the standard is "reasonable" and "necessary." Zor's must deal "fairly" and "in good faith" and exercise "due care" with Zee's in all business matters. Zor's cannot sell (or even offer to sell) a product or service to a franchisee unless the price is "fair and reasonable" or unless the Zor has a "reasonable expectation" that the sale will be profitable for the franchisee's business.

Just when you thought you were out...

The Act singles out franchise transfers, renewals and terminations for specific treatment. Here perhaps more than anywhere else, the Act prohibits contractual provisions that parties routinely take for granted.

Transfers: Most contracts frequently contain prohibitions on one or both parties assigning their contractual rights. But under the Act, a Zor must accept a transfer if the transferee satisfies "reasonable qualifications," which must be based on "legitimate business reasons." A Zor may want to update a franchise agreement for the new transferee, but under the Act, the Zor cannot change any material terms or financial requirements. Finally, if existing Zee's want to sell assets or securities to one another or engage in other business consolidations, the Zor generally must accept such changes.

Renewals: Under the Act, Zor's must renew franchise agreements unless they have good cause. Of course, the failure to pay royalties is good cause, right? Not necessarily. The Act suggests that Zor's must renew a franchise even if a Zee does not pay royalties, advertising or marketing fees, unless the failure to pay is "repeated and intentional." Zor's must provide a cure period for nearly every kind of breach, cannot enforce certain non-competes, and Zor's cannot charge "unreasonable" renewal fees.

Terminations: The Act would require Zor's to show good cause to terminate a franchise or to "substantially change the competitive circumstances of the franchise." Alternatively, a Zee can terminate without any further liability over "substantial negative impacts" or "substantial financial hardship" caused by changes in the system or competitive circumstances.

The Act is still just a bill on capital hill, far from becoming law. But its provisions showcase how far from center some lawmakers stand on issues central to the franchise model – and how deeply into the contractual relationship between Zors and Zees some lawmakers are willing to reach.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
Alexander S. Radus
 
In association with
Related Topics
 
Related Articles
 
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions