Franchising From the Franchisee Lawyer Perspective

Imagine a client walks into your office wanting to get out of a contractual arrangement that they entered into three years ago. They explain that they are losing money, and that the contract makes no sense for them any longer.

In probing them, and reading the contract, you learn your client’s business is essentially controlled by the other party. The contract dictates the most basic aspects of the business—the hours of operation and the training requirements of the employees. It gives the other party approval rights over who the manager will be; the layout and appearance of the location; and controls what products and services your client can sell. Digging further you find that your client had to buy all of the original FF&E from the other party, and once open, is required to continue buying all inventory from the other party and its wholly owned affiliates, all at prices that are above what your client could get on the street for the exact same products. And, beyond controlling the price of goods (by being the only seller of those goods your client is allowed to purchase from), the contract also allows the other party to control the retail price of the goods and services your client may offer as well. In sum, your client has little to no control of their own profit margin.

The financial terms surprise you. Your client paid $75,000 to be in this one-sided relationship, and continues to pay 8 percent of their gross revenue to stay in the relationship, irrespective of whether they are making any money.

The boilerplate terms are no better. Your client is required to indemnify the other party for anything that happens at the location, even if it is the fault of the other party (and the indemnification is not reciprocal). The contract expressly disclaims any obligation the other party has to act in good faith. The dispute resolution provisions give the other party the right to bring injunctions, but your client does not have that right. Your client’s right to bring a claim is subject to a one-year statute of limitations, but there are no such limits on the other side. Venue and choice of law both favor the other party. And the attorney fee provision is also unilateral; the other party can get theirs if they win, but your client has no such stated right.

Finally, getting to the reason your client came in, you turn to the termination provisions. The agreement, which is for a 20-year term, while allowing the other side to terminate, inexplicably gives your client no right to terminate for any reason. And, if your client “breaches” by terminating because…read more

 

*NOTICE: This article is intended solely for informational purposes and should not be construed as providing legal advice. Please feel free to contact us with any questions you may have regarding this article.