Under German law, a plaintiff does not only have to prove the unlawful behaviour of a liable party (ie, in the case of cartel damages, a competition law infringement such as a cartel) and any damage caused by this behaviour; the Act Against Restraints of Competition also requires a plaintiff to be "affected" by unlawful behaviour. However, the broad wording of the act could still be too restrictive in light of a recent European Court of Justice decision and will therefore have to be amended or reinterpreted.
The Federal Cartel Office has fined three companies and three persons a total of approximately €646 million. The companies agreed and exchanged certain supplements and surcharges for so-called 'quarto plates' in Germany for approximately 14 years. Companies and associations should review their practices with regard to price components (particularly surcharges) as this is not the first decision on this matter.
Wrapchic, which fell into administration in 2019 after shareholders refused to lend further funds as it continued to make losses, is one of a number of recent casualties in the UK food and beverage sector. However, unlike some of the more high-profile casual dining brands that have suffered a similar fate, Wrapchic was almost entirely franchised and operated in the generally more resilient quick service restaurant segment of the sector. So why did it fail and what lessons can franchisors learn?
English law has traditionally resisted implying the obligation of good faith into commercial contracts, except in limited circumstances. However, in a growing line of authorities (of which two recent cases are particularly significant), the English courts have confirmed that a duty of good faith will be implied into certain types of agreement as a matter of law. This article considers the ramifications of these decisions for parties to this special category of commercial agreement, which includes franchise agreements.
In two recent cases, the English courts considered whether the duty of good faith should be implied into commercial contracts. These cases demonstrate that the issue of good faith is evolving in English law. Parties to relational contracts must therefore monitor developments to ensure that foreseeable risks are mitigated effectively in their contracts and commercial practices.
The EU Trade Secrets Directive seeks to harmonise the protection of trade secrets in all EU member states. In general, the implementation of the directive is positive for franchisors, as the protection of trade secrets and confidential information is key to the success of a franchise system. Although franchisors may be able to rely on the statutory definition of 'trade secret' set out under the directive, they should nonetheless continue to ensure that their confidential information is safeguarded contractually.
In a recent case, the Court of Appeal considered whether a threat not to enter a contract could amount to economic duress, holding that it would not unless the threat was made in bad faith. While the decision provides useful and comforting guidance for franchisors, it also serves as a reminder to review contractual terms and processes and ensure that they are both robust and fair, as there is a fine line between protecting the integrity of the network and abusing a position of power.
Against the backdrop of a number of high-profile business failures in the UK retail sector, the government has issued a report on the insolvency regime, which will affect the operation of termination rights in supply agreements. This article considers the proposals and provides a best practice recommendation for recovering goods in the possession of a franchisee once they have entered some form of insolvency protection.
In a recent Court of Appeal case, a landlord was unsuccessful in its appeal against a first-instance decision that a 'non-reliance' clause in a lease had attempted to exclude liability for misrepresentation. The decision, which will have ramifications for franchise agreements, demonstrates that such clauses must be fair and reasonable and have regard to the circumstances which were or ought reasonably to have been known to or contemplated by the parties when the contract was made.
Franchisors expanding into the United Kingdom need a thorough knowledge of any UK rules and regulations which may affect them, particularly in a post-Brexit Britain. Understanding the risks and issues and managing those risks through effective structuring and enforceable legal contracts will enable international franchisors to reap the rewards of doing business in one of Europe's largest and most dynamic markets.
Four former Vision Express franchisees were recently successful in their claim against their franchisor, in which they alleged that they had been induced to enter into their franchise agreements on the basis of false information provided by a Vision Express employee. The case highlights the importance of ensuring that a franchisor's employees stay on message during the sales process and information which is provided to prospective franchisees is scrutinised to ensure its accuracy and relevance to the investment.
Franchising provides a flexible model for growth or re-engineering, with a variety of structures to meet different needs. Of all of the structures, the joint venture franchise is the least understood and most likely to cause difficulties if not structured correctly. In order to understand why this is so, it is necessary to consider the rationale for using the joint venture model and the manner in which such a relationship should be structured.
Franchise relationships are rarely life-long commitments; most will be for a fixed term with a right to renew. The renewal process provides an opportunity for both parties to re-assess and recalibrate the relationship, as well as to settle any issues before either renewing their vows or deciding to go their separate ways. This all makes good commercial and legal sense; however, it is surprisingly common that the renewal process is not always followed.
The recent KFC chicken supply crisis highlights the importance of supply chain management and illustrates how parties that rely on the functioning of a supply chain must protect themselves from a contractual and legal perspective. It also offers franchise businesses an opportunity to review the management and procurement of their supply chains, as well as the terms which govern their upstream relationships with third-party manufacturers and suppliers and their downstream relationships with franchisees.
The year 2017 was relatively quiet for franchise disputes in the English courts. Nevertheless, five cases involving franchise and distribution relationships provide some lessons for businesses. They highlight, among other things, the need for clear contractual provisions over ownership of customer data and the importance of businesses checking whether there are prior rights when seeking to register their mark.
Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond recently delivered the Autumn 2017 Budget, the first budget in the new annual tax policy-making cycle. Although there were no radical policy changes, some changes will affect the UK franchise business sector, particularly with regard to the tax treatment of royalties, corporate tax and the digital economy, environmental tax, value added tax and business rates.
A number of businesses which franchise will interact with the gig economy, particularly those which operate with a low entry threshold, such as contract cleaning and other service-based franchises. Both franchisors and franchisees in these sectors may have individuals working for them in this capacity, so they must be aware of existing issues and the regulations that will likely be introduced.
The Payment Practices and Performance Regulations 2017 require large UK businesses to report publicly twice yearly on their payment practices and performance. Large franchisors must ensure that they comply with this new regime. For franchise businesses which fall below the reporting threshold, the regulations are good news, as they are designed to improve and promote transparency and fairness in supply chain management.
The European Franchise Federation (EFF) recently adopted a new version of the European Code of Ethics for Franchising. The updated code aims to address some of the perceived imbalances and inequities in the franchise relationship and bring self-regulation into the digital age. However, although the British Franchise Association's (BFA's) interpretation of the code may include some variations from the EFF's text, much of the BFA's existing code and its practices are already in line with these updates.
Recent events have given the first real insight into the Brexit process. Franchise businesses should start preparing for the potential impact of Brexit by auditing their IP rights in the European Union and assessing their key contractual relationships with suppliers and franchisees. Preparations for the General Data Protection Regulation should continue and a watchful eye should be kept on events as they unfold.