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Before You Terminate

By November 4, 2015September 4th, 2018

Your patience is exhausted. You have done everything in your power to help your unappreciative franchisee. You may have even suggested the best course might be to sell the franchise and you would be willing to refer your franchisee leads for his/her territory. The franchisee still will not comply with his or her franchise agreement. Perhaps the franchisee is the type that believes their way is better than yours and their conduct is starting to have a detrimental effect on your franchise system. Whatever the reason, you have reached a point of no return for this particular franchisee and believe he or she must be expunged from the franchise system.

What should you know and do before making the decision to terminate? The starting point for termination is to look at your Franchise Agreement and determine the conduct of your franchisee that constitutes a default and grounds for termination. Next, determine if you have adequate documentation to prove the violation. If you are terminating for a reason other than a standard violation (for example, failure to meet sales requirements) consult us; there are special rules which apply and careful contract drafting is essential. Review all of your contractual obligations to make sure you have fully complied with your side of the bargain; for example, if you are providing a product, has it always been timely supplied? Also, review what your prior course of dealing has been with other similarly situated franchisees. You may have modified your contractual rights. Believe it or not, there are states that permit written agreements to be modified without a subsequent writing even if the contract provides otherwise.  Be prepared for your franchisee’s argument that the covenant of good faith and fair dealing requires uniform treatment and he or she is being singled out.

Make sure you are familiar with applicable state franchise protection statutes. There are at least 17 states that require a type of good cause for termination and/or an opportunity to cure. Keep in mind that many states ignore contractual choice of law provisions if that state franchise law would otherwise be circumvented. Some states, like Texas, have a Deceptive Trade Practices Act holding the franchisor liable for certain business conduct.

Make sure you have not given your franchisee any arguments that assist him or her in claiming you have caused a defacto termination because you are in violation of the agreement or that you are actually terminating the franchisee as a penalty for his or her refusal to participate in illegal activity; for example, an unlawful tying or price fixing scheme in violation of antitrust law and “little FTC Acts.”

The main point I want to stress is the importance of knowing how to build your file before termination. Correctly done, the integrity of your franchise system will be preserved.

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