Franchise lobby fracas

As a consequence of a long battle with her franchisor and a number of appearances on Channel Seven's Today Tonight, Mrs Byron resolved to create a franchisees' association. "The Franchise Council of Australia is a franchisor's organisation and is a law unto itself," she said. "I started negotiations to form a franchise association to help our franchisees and others in other franchise systems."

The Australian
November 4, 2003

Franchise lobby fracas
Peter Switzer

Moves to establish a lobby group for franchisees have been thrown into confusion by a family dispute over who coined the idea.

The fledgling Australian Franchisees Association (AFA) is heading for trouble, with a rival organisation set to launch in the New Year headed up by the sister of the founder of the AFA.

Only last week, The Australian reported exclusively that lawyer Anthony Fraser had launched the AFA, securing the former small business minister in the Hawke government - David Bedall - as the association's president.

The initiative was welcomed by the federal Small Business Minister Joe Hockey and the small business commissioner of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, John Martin.

However the revelation was not well received by Mr Fraser's sister, Sue Byron, who claims that her brother registered her idea for a franchisees' association.

Mrs Byron, a one-time franchisee, has recently won a judgment in the Federal Court against her franchisor - Arnolds Ribs & Pizza.

Directors of the company had agreed they had engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct in the promotion of, and negotiations for, the sale of franchises.

Mrs Byron and other franchisees from the same franchise had their action supported by the ACCC. By way of compensation, the court ordered that $200,000 was to be paid to various franchisees.

As a consequence of a long battle with her franchisor and a number of appearances on Channel Seven's Today Tonight, Mrs Byron resolved to create a franchisees' association.

"The Franchise Council of Australia is a franchisor's organisation and is a law unto itself," she said.

"I started negotiations to form a franchise association to help our franchisees and others in other franchise systems."

"I rang Tony and said that I had a proposition," she said. "I told him: We are starting a franchisee association and would you act as a legal adviser to us when our franchisees get into trouble?"

Not long after, Mrs Byron alleges, Mr Fraser registered the name Australian Franchisees Association Incorporated. Dianne Booth of Mackay, who also was a franchisee of Arnolds Ribs & Pizza and was in dispute with the franchisor was surprised by the registration.

"I was flabbergasted when I learnt that Tony had registered the Australian Franchisees Association name," she said.

"Sue always had definite ideas about any association that it would be run by franchisees and not by a bureaucracy."

Mr Fraser denies that he stole his sister's idea, and believed they were acting in concert.

He says his sister approached him with a problem with her franchisor, and he suggested she go to her franchisee association, and then found out that none existed.

It was at this point, Mr Fraser said, that they worked together on establishing such an organisation.
He says he took up the running on the AFA for a very simple reason: "It's unfortunate but my sister is a bankrupt."

Mrs Byron said she lost nearly half a million dollars because of her troubles with Arnolds Ribs & Pizza, and this sent her into bankruptcy.

"It's not my fault, it's the law of the land," Mr Fraser said. "As a bankrupt she can't promote the incorporation of an entity."

His sister begs to differ.

"My trustee says I could form an association," Mrs Byron said.

The rival organisation will be launched in January. The name is to be kept under wraps until it is registered.


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