Fear mongering begins in Ontario Wishart Act proposed change

November 11, 2010

Some professionals hold fast to their word.

They continue to practice with integrity, dignity, grace and humour, often under extreme conditions.

If faced with insurmountable economic hardships, they choose to leave a field rather than sell-out their principles.

Bev Cline writing for the Globe and Mail attributes the following excerpt to a Sotos LLP partner:

Another concern is that franchisors will essentially be asked “to crystal ball gaze” into the future in creating the educational document, says Allan Dick, a franchise lawyer at Sotos LLP in Toronto. “Currently a franchisor has to disclose, through the disclosure document [as mandated by the Arthur Wishart Act], everything that is material to the opportunity,” says Dick. The disclosure document, he points out, “is not a ‘general’ document; it’s a very specific document for a specific opportunity for a specific franchise.”

So, in terms of the proposed educational document, Dick asks: “If the franchisee is relying on a franchisor who is being forced [in the educational document] to crystal-ball-gaze into the future, to provide information that the franchisor could not know, will this benefit the prospective franchisee?”

The point is that prospective franchisees’ immediate interest and goal is to “look for the best opportunity they can find to be successful in business,” says Dick.

The implied threat to politicians, always sensitive to job loss or creation, is in the last sentence.

In addition, if franchisors are held liable for predicting business prospects in an unrealistic way, says Dick, they may be reluctant to enter into certain markets in the first place.

In WikiFranchise.org, Risk #12 is 95 per cent of legal fees are paid by franchisors. The full article: before and after I had “Wiki-ed” it (eg. told a story through a case study risk analysis).

Who are you going to trust?

— Thanks to This Isn’t Happiness

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The Grange franchise investigation stands the test of time

November 2, 2010

Samuel Grange, Q.C. and his 1971 “Report of the Minister’s committee on Franchises”: the Grange Report.

In 1970, the Honourable Arthur Wishart, W.C., M.P.P. (Sault Ste. Marie),  Minister of Financial and Consumer Affairs commissioned a public inquiry into referral sales, multi-level or pyramid sales, and franchises. He appointed Grange to head a public inquiry. The current Ontario law was named in 2000, specifically to point backwards in time to Grange’s independent recommendations.

Even after almost 40 years, Justice Grange cuts through the nonsense.

SUMMARY OF RECOMMENDATIONS

Franchises
1. Legislation is to apply to all industries and to all franchises within each industry
2. Prohibition against dealing in franchises except as provided
3. Franchisor to file prospectus setting forth detailed information on scheme
4. Franchisee to have compulsory 48-hour cooling-off period before execution of agreement
5. Franchisee to have right to apply to Tribunal or Court to determine,
(a) whether contract is fair; and
(b) whether conduct of franchisor is fair in circumstances
6. Tribunal or Court to discourage following:
(a) arbitrary termination
(b) arbitrary refusal of assignments or renewals
(c) arbitrary forfeiture of deposits
(d) forced purchases and secret profits
(e) competitive and discriminating practices by franchisors

General
1. The formation of a separate branch of division with its own Registrar to administer multi-level and franchise matters.
2. Control of advertising
3. Regular renewal of permission to operate to be required
4. Suspension and cancellation of permission to operate
5. Regular inspection of records
6. Provision for escrow of investments or fees to protect investors and franchisees
7. Application of legislation to leases as well as sales

Full Report

It is my impression that the current Ontario judiciary is on same frequency as was retired Appeal Court Justice Grange.

York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School Alumni Association Honours Three Outstanding Members of the Legal Profession


The public Role of Tier 2 franchise attorneys

August 12, 2010

In my post On the Nature of Tyranny, I tried to present Northrop Frye‘s analysis of William Blake.Blake saw the fundamental struggle on earth between two opposing forces:

  1. champions of tyranny (not the apparent nasties but those that profit from defending them; those that write for power; sophists) and
  2. visionaries (the “enlightened ones” lol).

Franchise bar: In advanced franchising cultures, there are two archetypal fixers: one for the franchisors and ditto for franchisees.

Everyone else in the franchise bar is lower status individual, dependent on these two alpha males and the evolution of the bar’s sociology: norms, history, rewards/punishments, career advancements, access to law makers/regulators, referrals, who is “us” and who is “them”,  etc.

One role of the Tier 2 attorneys is to engage in battles on behalf of the pack when here is a threat.

Their out-of-character behavior explains a lot about a system that created, empowers and defends tyrants.


So Ontario, Canada is a worldwide franchise industry outcast? Okay then

August 11, 2010

Peter Dillon of Siskinds LLP is an expert in franchise law and a practicing franchise lawyer.

In this month’s  edition of Canadian Lawyer magazine an article entitled Ontario courts side with franchisees, Mr Dillon is quoted as believing:

…franchise law and its judicial interpretation by the courts of Ontario has created probably the most perilous jurisdiction in the world in which to conduct franchises,”

The Wishart Act and its appeal court justices have created the “most perilous jurisdiction in the world“?

Mr. Dillon is reported as having sent out this warning:

He concludes his memorandum by advising his franchisor clients that the courts have clearly demonstrated they are favouring the franchisees, which therefore “creates a high degree of risk and uncertainty that will put some franchisors out of business and will deter many others from commencing to do business through franchising.”

Taking it further, he’s quoted as having:

…spoken to many U.S.-based franchises “that want nothing to do with Ontario. In an era where franchising plays a large part in our retail economic engine, it’s a shame to have mechanics at work that seem bent on lowering the horsepower or spiking the engine altogether.”

These are not the first unsubstantiated claims made in rejection of even the most tepid legal franchisee protection provisions nor will they be the last.

Just simply the next new article I added to the WikiFranchise.org collection.


Trust in franchising? What a concept

April 23, 2010

Two people I trust in franchising.

I need to check in with the second next month although everyone has their role to play.

Resulted in the Arthur Wishart Act (Franchise Disclosure), 2000. Thanks to Bob Runciman who has gone onto his just reward.

BTW: This may be cryptic, but it is not unnecessarily so.

Some information requires care in transmitting and must be done in person. Words can hurt but iIf you don’t understand, that’s okay.

Trusting yourself enough to choose who to trust is 99% of the solution.


Sterns’ warning: Don’t do a half-assed job on disclosure reviews

April 9, 2010

Ontario’s 35,000 lawyers should consider themselves warned.This is not just outstanding peer-to-peer legal advice (which it is: both carrot and stick) but it’s also crucial information for all current Canadian franchise investors.

The benefit of collective franchisee action has never been more justified.

David Sterns of Toronto’s Sotos LLP writes in March’s Canadian Lawyer magazine an article called: Advising the purchaser of a franchise business.

Sterns’ bottom-line advice to lawyers? (especially general attorneys):

The harsh reality is that some franchises have a failure rate as high as or even higher than non-franchised businesses. When the franchised business fails, the results are often catastrophic for the franchisee. The legal advice provided by the reviewing lawyer will come under close scrutiny, particularly if the franchisee misses the rescission window because it was unaware of its rights…

Lawyers should allocate sufficient time and charge a sufficient fee to permit a proper document review and reporting to the client. Otherwise, they should decline the retainer.

Lots of implications for the general and franchise Ontario bar.

But, hey, huge importance for the 40,000 ON investors in a current franchise relationships who are organized. Disclosure requirements are not just for the entering but whenever a material change happens to the relationship (ie. during, at renewal: any time a material or “significant” franchisor decision is made).

Did you get proper disclosure documents the last time your franchisor decided to change the rules in the middle of the game?

These are the business risks I assigned and that appear in the WikiFranchise.org entry:

  1. Arthur Wishart Act (Franchise Disclosure), 2000, Canada,
  2. Buying an existing outlet even riskier than from scratch,
  3. Courts extremely picky about shoddy disclosure practices,
  4. Disclosure documents are deficient,
  5. Disclosure document: one, bound and delivered at the same time,
  6. Disclosure document certificate,
  7. Disclosure document must disclose all material facts,
  8. Disclosure document must include third party contracts (suppliers),
  9. Disclosure documents never given,
  10. Disclosure documents not given within proper timeframe,
  11. Duty of care,
  12. Franchise law being ignored,
  13. Independent businesses survive longer than franchised ones,
  14. Independent businesses much higher profit than franchised ones,
  15. Lawyer alert: advise only prospects with adequate legal due diligence budgets or risk being sued,
  16. Lawyers being threatened with lawsuits for speaking out,
  17. Material facts were not disclosed,
  18. Outstanding advice,
  19. Professional negligence,
  20. Refuses to take client,
  21. Rescission,
  22. Sue the lawyer,
  23. Unintentional or hidden franchises

This is an important article that I will visit again.


Ontario franchise law is +90% irrelevant

October 22, 2009

OntarioExisting laws are a result of a competition.

A competition of interests, normally between opposing groups.

Any statute exists because:

  1. some interest(s) wanted them,
  2. that group had the clout to push the political system to put it into place while
  3. defeating opposing views.

Franchisees face the combined strength of what I have defined as Big Franchising. The pathetic state of Canadian franchise law is the predictable result. Ontario, PEI, Alberta and (sort of) New Brunswick have specific franchise laws.

In Ontario, the relevant law is the Arthur Wishart Act (Franchise Disclosure), 2000.

I helped push for the first Ontario, starting in 1998. I was even an expert witness at the public hearings. The Wishart Act was sold to me as a “compromise” or as a “first step”. Those were lies and I believed them: then.

The Ontario government has refused to listen to repeated calls for improving the laws, from franchisees.

Privately, many MPPs know the score but Big Franchising blocks for their friends to the Premier.

The industry had a problem in the lat 90s: they couldn’t sell as many outlets because of very high profile nightmare cases such as Pizza Pizza or 3 for 1 Pizza and Wings.  They needed a fake law (McLaw: make-believe fairness) and they got it. The Ministry of Consumer’s reaction to  Country Style’s alleged dirty CCAA and the Grand & Toy mass terminations confirmed that.

99% of all abuse is never seen by Ontario judge (let alone a jury of citizens)

The high cost of litigation and the franchise bar’s “filtering process” sees to that.

The law needs to change to become relevant or be abolished.

Now.


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