Franchising updates

Canada

Contributed by Lapointe Rosenstein Marchand Melançon LLP
'Special relationship' between franchisors and franchisees: could it give rise to a pre-contractual duty of good faith?
  • Canada
  • 14 July 2020

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.

Can good faith require parties to help each other properly exercise their rights?
  • Canada
  • 12 May 2020

It is well known that franchisors have been facing increasing pressure to conduct themselves in accordance with the principles of good faith. A recent Ontario Superior Court case has led to questions with respect to a franchisor's duty to protect its franchisee's right to operate in circumstances where the franchisor is the gatekeeper of rights with respect to a third party. In its decision, the court navigated the duty of good faith owed in respect of the renewal of a head lease between a franchisor and a landlord.

COVID-19 and the franchise landscape
  • Canada
  • 28 April 2020

While some franchised businesses have transitioned to working remotely and have ramped up their e-commerce business models in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the vast majority of traditional franchised businesses are in a precarious state due to a drastic reduction in revenues and uncertain economic conditions for the foreseeable future. This article sets our practical tips and considerations for franchisors and franchisees with respect to navigating COVID-19.

Franchisee defaults: when is it 'material' enough?
  • Canada
  • 25 February 2020

Few areas of contract law have created as much confusion as the nebulous distinction between material breaches, substantial breaches and breaches going to the root of the contract. This distinction is important in a franchise context, where franchise agreements often provide that the franchisor has a right to terminate the franchise agreement for material breach by the franchisee, leaving what constitutes a 'material' breach open for interpretation.

Franchisees can't have their cake and eat it too: statutory disclosure exemptions have consequences
  • Canada
  • 29 October 2019

In recent years, many Canadian provinces have adopted franchise-specific disclosure laws with a view to remedying the inequality of bargaining power between franchisors and franchisees. Subject to certain limited exemptions, franchisors must provide prospective franchisees with full and accurate information in respect of all material facts relating to the franchise business before entering into a franchise agreement, failing which franchisees can bring a claim for rescission and damages against the franchisor.


European Union

Keeping your trade secrets safe – EU perspective for franchisors
  • European Union
  • 15 October 2019

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.


France

Contributed by Aramis Law Firm
Franchisees cannot be classified as employees
  • France
  • 24 March 2020

Some jurisdictions have recently held that certain independent workers (eg, Uber drivers) are actually classified as employees. This raises the question of whether franchisees should also be classified as employees. However, as opposed to a Court of Cassation decision which classified an Uber driver as an employee, a recent decision from the Limoges Court of Appeal seems to clarify that a franchisee cannot be classified as an employee due to the specific features of any franchise contract.

Intercompany financing: alternative financing method for franchisees?
  • France
  • 21 January 2020

The overriding principle which governs credit transactions in France has been relaxed over time in order to allow for, among other things, intragroup financing. Among the more recent derogations to the rules are those of 2015 and 2019, which made it possible for micro and small and medium-sized enterprises to obtain financing from companies with which they have economic links. The relevant implementing decrees make it clear that 'economic links' includes franchise agreements.

Franchisor's change of control and its impact on renewing existing franchise contracts
  • France
  • 17 September 2019

The Paris Court of Appeal recently held that a franchisor had not breached its duty of loyalty towards its franchisee in reorganising its business following its change of control. In the context of an internal business reorganisation, franchisors should therefore be careful in statements that they may make to franchisees, including in the pre-contractual disclosure documentation.

Freedom of association and franchising: duty of loyalty in question
  • France
  • 30 April 2019

The concept of loyalty is frequently used as a general (and often fallback) principle by franchisees and franchisors in the litigation context. As a franchise agreement cannot identify every illegal behaviour of the parties, loyalty and good faith are often used as key principles to determine what is allowed. The Court of Cassation recently considered the loyalty principle in a case opposing a franchisor and a franchisee in the computing school sector.

Take care in online presentation of franchised outlets
  • France
  • 13 November 2018

As part of the promotion of their networks, franchisors often edit websites displaying contact details and other relevant information regarding the franchise network's outlets, whether they are owned by them or operated by franchisees. In a recent decision, the Versailles Court of Appeal held that a franchisor had treated a franchisee's stores on its website unfairly compared with its own stores.


Germany

Contributed by Noerr LLP
When the asterisk is missing: Munich Higher Regional Court's King of the Month decision
  • Germany
  • 02 June 2020

Special deals are common among competing burger chains. Although this may be detrimental to franchisees, the Munich Higher Regional Court recently decided that such deals do not infringe antitrust rules. This decision deserves particular attention, as it concerns the common situation of a franchisor using non-binding price recommendations in its advertising and once again clarifies how important the asterisk reference is in such cases.

Inadmissible imitation of 'presentation of dishes': stronger protection for gastronomic concepts
  • Germany
  • 13 August 2019

Franchisors must typically consider the extent of concept protection if franchisees which have left the franchise system reuse the concept in a largely unchanged fashion or if third-party competitors (outside the franchise system) copy the concept's main features. A recent decision concerning a fast-food restaurant franchise reinforces the IP protection of gastronomic concepts against competitors' inadmissible imitations.

Bogus self-employment and unethical franchise agreements
  • Germany
  • 30 April 2019

Case law from the highest German courts on franchise law matters is rare, which makes a recent Federal Court of Justice decision on the subject of bogus self-employment of franchisees – a perennial issue for franchise law practitioners – even more noteworthy. The case concerned claims for payment under a licence agreement and the question of whether the licence agreement was void due to the franchisee's bogus self-employment.

For want of an asterisk: regional court scrutinises franchisor's TV advertising
  • Germany
  • 15 January 2019

The Munich Regional Court I recently established a new precedent for competition restriction, which is prohibited in franchising systems under the Act against Restraints on Competition. The court found references to "participating restaurants" in a franchisor's TV advertising insufficient and in violation of the price maintenance prohibition. This decision deserves special attention as it relates to advertising with non-binding price recommendations, which is common among franchisors.

Admissibility of lawsuit despite effective mediation clause in franchise agreement
  • Germany
  • 02 October 2018

A recent Hamburg Regional Court decision is generally understood to have solidified the first franchise-related court judgment on bad faith regarding mediation clauses rendered by the Saarbruecken Higher Regional Court in 2015. However, at second glance, the Hamburg judgment provides a different reasoning for bad faith regarding a mediation objection and might therefore serve as a new application of bad faith in future franchise-related court proceedings regarding mediation clauses.


International

COVID-19 Weekly Report (4-10 May 2020)
International Law Office
  • International
  • 11 May 2020

The impact of COVID-19 is being felt in almost every work area across the globe. In order to keep readers abreast of this evolving situation, ILO's COVID-19 Weekly Report provides insight into the major legal developments of the past seven days, as well as a round-up of our panel of experienced international legal commentators' legislative and regulatory guidance.

COVID-19 Weekly Report (27 April-3 May 2020)
International Law Office
  • International
  • 04 May 2020

The impact of COVID-19 is being felt in almost every work area across the globe. In order to keep readers abreast of this evolving situation, ILO's COVID-19 Weekly Report provides insight into the major legal developments of the past seven days, as well as a round-up of our panel of experienced international legal commentators' legislative and regulatory guidance.

COVID-19 Weekly Report (30 March-5 April 2020)
International Law Office
  • International
  • 07 April 2020

The impact of COVID-19 is being felt in almost every work area across the globe. In order to keep readers abreast of this evolving situation, ILO's COVID-19 Weekly Report provides insight into the major legal developments of the past seven days, as well as a round-up of our panel of expert international legal commentators' legislative and regulatory guidance.

Joint venture franchises: the whys and wherefores
Fieldfisher LLP
  • International
  • 21 August 2018

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.