For Franchisors

"That contract's not worth the paper its written on".  I understand that this is how people may feel, when they have  taken the time to make a contract, yet a dispute arises anyway.  Nevertheless this statement is rarely true, where a contract is properly drafted.

The point of a contract is to provide the parties to the contract, with a starting point, in case there is a  disagreement.  It is not the case that a White Knight will ride in, to put things right, when the terms of the contract are broken.  If the agreement is properly drafted there will be a good number of matters on which it is more difficult to have an argument.  Yet there will remain scope for an argument and it is up to you to enforce your rights.  You will see below there are things that you can do to make a dispute less likely.

The Competition and Consumer Act makes "unfair" contract terms void. If a clause is void it cannot be enforced.

Business people should review their standard form contracts regularly to ensure that they are fair. Consumers should be aware that they may not be bound by the terms of any contract that they have entered into if those terms are not fair. In order for the act to make an unfair contract term void, the contract must be a consumer contract and the contract must be  in standard form. A consumer contract is a contract for the supply, to an individual of goods or services or land for  reasons of personal, household or domestic use or consumption. It is hard to be sure what a standard form contract is. It is likely however that any contract which is based on a document prepared in advance of any negotiations, that is little changed as a result of negotiations or the considerations of the particular circumstances are likely to be standard form contracts.

Most transactions whether for the sale of property or a business include at least two or three important dates. These dates are:

1. The date that the contract is signed by the parties to that contract

2. The date that special conditions are satisfied

3. The date that the contract reaches settlement or completion. The completion date and the settlement date are different words, used to describe the same thing.

Which of these dates do authorities rely upon when determining the date of the sale?

The Australian Personal Property Security Register was due to commence in May, then October this year and now, will commence in early 2012. It will affect most businesses and it is worthwhile looking at the impact of these new laws as soon as possible. Financiers, Lessors and Suppliers will need to make sure that they do not lose their rights over assets which they have secured. Buyers will need to make sure that no-one else has an interest in the item they are buying.

The new register will replace most traditional securities including bills of sale and company charges.

So what should you do to ensure that you are not affected?

The cost of preparing legal documentation to turn a business into a franchised system is between $8000 and $20,000 plus GST .  This cost may be recovered by the sale of  franchises. Once the template documents are prepared the franchisee should pay the franchisor's costs to prepare and issue the documents, as well as the cost of negotiations. We set up franchise systems for clients throughout Australia. Please contact us for an instant quote.  The task of preparing this documentation is a routine legal engagement for us however it is a lengthy process where each step in the process must be respected. We can usually provide draft franchise documentation within 2 weeks of receiving instructions.

The cost and time involved is determined by the complexity of  the system, and the extent to which the client has resolved issues relating to the workings of the system.  For example if the franchise system relates to a home or vehicle based system, then the cost is generally not much more than $8000 plus GST. When it is necessary to incorporate procedures relating to retail shop leasing then this would normally add another level of  processes and cause cost increases.

Raine & Horne Pty Ltd –v- Adacol Pty Ltd [2006] NSWSC 36

What is the effect of a restraint of trade after termination of a Franchise Agreement?

 Adacol was a  Raine & Horne franchisee at Brighton and Ramsgate in Sydney.

The franchise agreement provided:

“29.1 - The franchisee and the (guarantors) agree they will not for a period of 12 months after termination (for whatever reason) of this deed, conduct or be in any way employed or interested in any real estate agency business which carries on business substantially within a 5km radius of the premises.”

The franchisor terminated the Franchise Agreement on the basis that Adacol “voluntarily abandoned the franchise business or the franchise relationship” prior to the end of the term.

Adacol continued to operate from the same premises but instead as a Ray White franchisee.   It was a condition of the Ray White franchise agreement that franchise fees be waived until the end of the Raine & Horne term.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has instituted proceedings against Sensaslim Australia Pty Ltd (Administrator Appointed) (Sensaslim), Mr Peter Clarence Foster, Mr Peter Leslie O’Brien, Mr Adam Troy Adams and Mr Michael Anthony Boyle.

The ACCC alleges that Sensaslim and several of its officers engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct and made false representations in relation to the identity of Sensaslim officers, the Sensaslim Spray and the business opportunities offered by Sensaslim.

The alleged conduct includes:

· Failing to disclose the involvement of Peter Foster in the business of Sensaslim;

· Falsely representing that the Sensaslim Spray was the subject of a large worldwide clinical trial when in fact no such trial was conducted;

· Falsely representing that Dr Capehorn, an obesity specialist, gave unqualified support to the effectiveness of the Sensaslim Spray and the purported clinical trials; 

The Federal Court has penalised Allphones Retail Pty Ltd $45,000 for contempt of orders following action by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

Justice Nicholas found that the conduct was both ‘serious’ and ‘deliberate’, having been undertaken by a number of Allphones’ senior personnel.

The orders which Allphones has been found to have breached concerned two undertakings given by Allphones to the court in October 2008.

They prohibited the company from withholding consent to the assignment of an Allphones franchise if the franchisee would not sign a deed releasing Allphones from liability and required Allphones to give the ACCC 7 days’ written notice of its intention to withhold consent to the assignment of an Allphones franchise on the basis that the new franchisee must enter into a new franchise agreement.

“This decision sends a clear message that the ACCC and the Court regard breaches of court orders very seriously,” ACCC Chairman Graeme Samuel said today.

The implementation of the new Personal Property Securities Register (PPSR) will affect most Business across Australia. Business owners and individuals who take security interests over personal property will need to understand the new system and how it differs from the existing registries. We will run through the some of the terminology and benefits of the new Register as well as provide some helpful information about ensuring your security interests are protected. In the same way that you can lose your interest in a house if you do not register that interest on the title. You can also lose your interest in any personal property in which you have taken an interest if it is not registered. If you operate a business where you retain title to goods until you receive payment then these changes have a particular impact on you.

Look at any shopping centre in Australia and you will notice that many of the shops across many different shopping centres are the same. We see from this, the huge popularity of franchising in Australia. The need for retail premises with each of these Franchised retail stores means that decisions need to be made about who controls the premises. Should the owner of the business (Franchisee) take a lease of the premises? This means taking the direct benefit and risk associated with the lease. If the Landlord has a complaint or needs to sue for performance of the lease the first point of contact would be the lessee. If the business owner or Franchisee signs the lease then they are personally and directly responsible to the landlord. Alternatively, should the Franchisor take the lease, and then give a licence to the franchisee? This means that the Franchisor is in control of the premises. The benefit for the Franchisor is that, if there is a falling out with the Franchisee or, the Franchisee leaves the business, there is no direct impact on the lease, provided that, the Franchisor continues to honour the Franchisors obligations under the lease. I should point out that generally a Franchisor will ask for an indemnity from the Franchisee in respect of all the obligations of the Franchisor written in the lease. This is done so that the franchisee shares the same risk as the franchisor, regardless of how the premises agreement is structured.