The Quebec Superior Court recently revisited certain franchising principles and reaffirmed the leading principles of Dunkin' Brands Canada Ltd v Bertico inc concerning the duties of franchisors, while holding both franchisor and franchisee responsible for their respective actions and negligence that led to the downfall of their relationship. This decision highlights the importance of exercising franchisee claims in a timely manner and the dangers of tacit acceptance of franchisors' misrepresentations.
The Supreme Court of Canada recently dismissed the proposed class action brought by Mr Sub franchisees against Maple Leaf Foods for damages resulting from a listeria outbreak linked to Maple Leaf cold cuts. By ruling in Maple Leaf's favour, the majority of the court found that no duty of care is owed by an exclusive supplier for purely economic losses suffered by franchisees with which the supplier has no direct contractual relationship.
In 2017 the Ontario government enacted the Cutting Unnecessary Red Tape Act with the objective of alleviating unnecessary regulatory burdens for businesses. The act provided for a series of proposed amendments to Ontario's franchise disclosure legislation and ultimately came into force on 1 September 2020. The amendments include measures to clarify the province's franchise laws and temper or delay franchisors' disclosure obligations towards prospective franchisees in certain circumstances.
Ontario's Arthur Wishart Act (Franchise Disclosure) requires franchisors to provide adequate pre-contractual disclosure to potential franchisees, failing which a franchisee may be entitled to rescind its franchise agreement. When properly invoked, rescission by a franchisee imposes extensive obligations on the franchisor. The Ontario Court of Appeal recently dealt with the issue of whether a notice of rescission of a franchise agreement is valid if it is contained within a pleading.
Common law jurisdictions recognise that certain circumstances could arise that would lead contracting parties to have some type of pre-contractual good-faith obligation, including where they have a 'special relationship' – typically characterised by an imbalance of information. A franchise arrangement has been characterised as an example of such a special relationship that could fall within the narrow set of particular requirements for good faith in the pre-contractual context.