Although the full impact of COVID-19 remains unknown, many franchisors are looking to the future and new opportunities for franchise sales. Some franchises may be dramatically affected, either temporarily or permanently, and may have to significantly alter their business model to remain profitable. Others might actually benefit from the pandemic.
Unlike some states’ franchise laws, the Missouri Franchise Act gives limited protection to franchisees. However, it does provide that if a franchisor fails to give 90 days’ notice of cancellation or termination, the franchisee may be awarded “damages sustained, to include loss of goodwill, costs of suit, and any equitable relief that the court deems proper.” A recent case provided much-needed clarification on how damages are measured if a franchisor fails to give a proper notice of termination.
On May 8, 2017, the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA) released its final commentary on financial performance representations (FPRs), providing franchisors with additional clarification and guidance on how to prepare one of the most important parts of their franchise disclosure documents (FDDs).
Many states have seen attempts over the past several years to enact new franchise relationship legislation. California’s bills have made it further in the legislative process than those of other states, and by Sept. 30, we should know whether the latest attempt, bill AB 525, will make it all the way.
The smart money is betting that California Gov. Jerry Brown will sign the new bill that modifies certain provisions of the California Franchise Relations Act. The purpose of the bill is to give more protections to franchisees. Last year, the governor vetoed a similar but more franchisee-friendly bill (SB 610).
In a closely watched case with far-reaching implications, the California Supreme Court determined that Domino’s Pizza, the franchisor, should not be held liable for the alleged sexual harassment by an employee of one of its franchisees. The lengthy, well-reasoned decision gave great weight to the contemporary realities of the franchise business model and the unique nature of franchising. Noting how franchising has become such an important and thriving part of our economy, the Court followed the modern, enlightened view and rejected the reasoning of the old line of cases that found a franchisor vicariously liable for acts of its franchisees based on the degree of control they exercised over their franchisees.
The advances in technology have undoubtedly opened opportunities for franchisors and franchisees to enhance their business, enhance productivity, improve sales. However, such opportunities carry additional burdens and are not free of risk. Two recent examples of franchisor's potential liability arising out of technological advances highlight the need to be vigilant.