Bill to rule on fairness in franchise deals

The current effort to regulate franchise agreements is geared in part to complete work done on the matter in the late 1960s and early 1970s by Tory MPP, Arthur Wishart, who also represented Sault Ste. Marie. Wishart, who became attorney general, commissioned a study on the “evils of franchising”, billed the Grange Report.

The Sault Star
January 29, 2000

Bill to rule on fairness in franchise deals
Sault MPP has changes in mind, hopes to see area residents at information session
Jeffrey Ougler

Flak over franchise agreements will gain a public ear when the Ontario legislature takes the thorny issue on the road for a series of March meetings.

The Standing Committee on the Regulation of Private Bills is reviewing Bill 33 – The Franchise Disclosure Act – which is geared to legislate fair dealing between parties to franchise agreements; it will touch base in Sault Ste. Marie on March 7.

The franchise issue hits close to home for Sault MPP Tony Martin.

He’s been grappling with the matter throughout his tenure at Queen’s Park, tabling his own Bill 35 three times in an effort to quell what he contends is a trading situation more akin to the Wild West than to the civilized system Ontario should have.

Martin says the hearings will afford individuals a safe opportunity to speak out on the injustice of franchise deals in which they’re involved.

“I have a bill that I am considering now to be complementary to the government bill,” the standing committee’s NDP member told a press conference Friday.

“If the government is actually interested in doing something that will have an impact, have an effect, it will give franchisees and small business people some relief.

“We are hopeful we will hear from people, their stories, what happened to them, their concerns, and then of course, some suggestions and recommendations from them as to what we should be doing with the government bill to actually make that effective and worthwhile doing.”

Remaining committee members include two Liberals and five Tories.

The exercise will mark the first time Ontario has sent a bill out for hearings after first reading; it’s the product of some recent rule changes.

“The bill has not been passed at second reading in principle, and therefore, there is more room for recommendation of change,” Martin said.

“Under the previous process, after second reading, if the bill’s been processed, anything that you’d bring forward by way of either discussion or recommendation or amendment, if it didn’t fit within the principle of the bill, it was ruled out of order. It’s a whole new process.

“We’ll be setting some precedent here.”

Late last year, Lock City Dairies owner Vic Fremlin voiced his support of Martin’s efforts to get legislation passed that would loosen the leash as to the products grocery store franchisees can stock, Fremlin said he was concerned about the chain store market, especially franchise outlets where large corporate head offices won’t allow local owners to stock local products.

Martin has been helped along in his efforts by Les Stewart of the Canadian Alliance of Franchise Operators.

He joined Friday’s press conference via telephone from Barrie.

Franchise contracts are often muddled documents, riddled with fine print and complex wording, Stewart said, adding as 40 per cent of all Ontario retail sales go through franchised outlets, it’s critical that amendments be made as soon as possible.

“It’s very common to have a 75-page franchise agreement that even franchise lawyers don’t understand some of the provisions,” he said.

Stewart’s group acts as a sounding board for franchisees.

The current effort to regulate franchise agreements is geared in part to complete work done on the matter in the late 1960s and early 1970s by Tory MPP, Arthur Wishart, who also represented Sault Ste. Marie.

Wishart, who became attorney general, commissioned a study on the “evils of franchising”, billed the Grange Report.

Martin contends many of the issues outlined in this document remain pertinent.

The standing committee’s other hearings are slated for Toronto on March 6, Ottawa on March 8 and London on March 9.

Anyone interested in making a presentation must contact the committee at (416) 325-3615 by Feb. 11.


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Risks: Can't buy local producers' products, Grange Report, Arthur Wishart, Political champions, Appropriate franchise law, Ontario public hearings, 2000, Les Stewart, Canadian Alliance of Franchise Operators, CAFO, Masterpieces of deceptive wording and artful omission, Wild West of the business world, Evils of the system, Canada, 20000129 Bill to

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