Franchisees need fair-deal law

Everyone warns prospective franchisees to investigate before investing, but exactly how are they supposed to check out the records of the 1,350 franchisors who want to sell them a business? Which are exemplary, which have reasonable standards of conduct, and which are practicing legalized fraud?

The Toronto Star
September 4, 1998

Franchisees need fair-deal law
John Deverell

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FRANCHISEE FIGHTER: Former franchisee Les Stewart has taken up the cause of franchisees.

WHAT PROTECTS A SMALL FRANCHISEE IN ONTARIO AGAINST UNFAIR DEALING BY THE FRANCHISOR CONTROLLING THE SYSTEM?

We asked Les Stewart, a landscaping supplies retailer in Barrie and a former franchisee and founder of the fledgling Canadian Association of Franchise Operators. (second of two parts)

Franchising is a $100 billion sector and a powerful concept of business organization. Many of Canada’s 76,000 franchise operators make a good buck.

But others, like Stewart, an MBA from the University of Western Ontario in London, have sad stories about being put into failing situations by deceptive franchisors, stripped of their savings and crushed by the costs of litigation in Ontario’s totally unregulated franchising regime.

Everyone warns prospective franchisees to investigate before investing, but exactly how are they supposed to check out the records of the 1,350 franchisors who want to sell them a business? Which are exemplary, which have reasonable standards of conduct, and which are practicing legalized fraud?

The best approach is to talk to franchisees in the system to find out whether head office delivers the business training and support it promises, and respects the commercial territories it purports to sell.

Unfortunately, there is no efficient way to identify and then locate those who have the most interesting tale to tell – the franchisees who failed. How many of these unfortunates have been spat out by each franchise system, who are they and why did they sell or go under?

Most U.S. states addressed this question with law decades ago, and Alberta adopted a similar standard in the 1990s. They require public disclosure of contract terms and verifiable disclosure of franchisee experience.

The laws cover all franchisors from mighty McDonald’s and across a business gamut that includes, among many others, such familiar names as Coffee Time, Mr. Sub, Mr. Lube, Giant Tiger, Mail Boxes Etc., First Choice Haircutters, Medichair, M&M Meat, Kiddie Kobbler, One Hour Motophoto, Ramada, Rent-a-Wreck, Ryan’s Quality Pet Foods, Shred-It, Servicemaster Lawn Care and about 1,340 others.

Ontario should have the disclosure Alberta has – and more, Stewart says. The law should allow franchisees to associate without fear of reprisal, and fact-finding to resolve disputes or affordable compulsory arbitration.

Any franchisee can go to court, says Stewart, but it’s no fun playing David to a franchisor’s Goliath in long and costly civil proceedings.

In Ontario, the Harris government’s draft legislation does not provide for a central registry of franchisor disclosures, and requires only that disclosure be made to a franchisee prospect before a contract is signed.

That’s essentially worthless, says Stewart. He says Queen’s Park should recognize franchising as an important function like banking or securities trading.


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Risks: Greenwashing: insincerely claiming to be environmentally friendly, David and Goliath story, Justice only for the rich, Les Stewart, Canadian Association of Franchise Operators, CAFO, Arbitration, Register franchisees and franchisors, Life savings gone, Talk to former franchisees, Affordable, early and non-legal dispute resolution mechanism, Retaliation, David & Goliath, Selling franchises same as stocks, mutual funds, lending, and securities, War of attrition, Imbalance of information and power, Canada, 19980904 Franchisees need

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