Archive for category Franchises

Franchisor’s internet trading breaches restraint clause

There is a translation key(widget) on the mirrored blog for ease of reading for non-English speaking members of the public or professionals. The mirrored blog can be found at http://roberthaybarrister.blogspot.com.au/

 

Franchise agreements often restrict the franchisor from selling the franchised product in the territory in which the franchisee operates. Franchisors that engage in internet selling might be acting in breach of such clauses. This issue was highlighted in a recent appeal in New South Wales from the decision of a Magistrate to award damages against a franchisor. See: Video Ezy International Pty Ltd v Sedema Pty Ltd [2014] NSWSC 143.

 

In Video Ezy the franchisee operated a franchise business renting and selling DVDs.

A company related to the franchisor operated a website from which customers could order DVDs. The franchise agreement precluded the franchisor from carrying on a “trade or business involving the rental and/or sale of video products or any other business of a similar nature within the territory of the franchise” (restraint clause).

The franchisor contended that the online business did not breach the restraint clause because it did not refer to the rental and sale of DVDs “into” the territory of the franchisor: a business could undertake transactions in a place without it being correct to say that the business is “within” that place.

The court rejected the franchisor’s contention on the basis that it was “artificial” and did not give the phrase “within the territory” its natural and ordinary meaning.

The court dismissed the franchisor’s appeal. The franchisor and the related company operating the website were treated as one entity and found liable for breaching the restraint clause and an implied duty to act in good faith and for unconscionable conduct under the Australian Consumer Law.

 

My clerk can be contacted via this link for bookings  http://www.greenslist.com.au/

 

From 31 July 2014, liability limited by a scheme approved under Professional Standards Legislation

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Franchisees beware of arbitration clauses

There is a translation key(widget) on the mirrored blog for ease of reading for non-English speaking members of the public or professionals. The mirrored blog can be found at http://roberthaybarrister.blogspot.com.au/

 

Prospective franchisees should be cautious about agreeing to the inclusion of arbitration clauses in franchise agreements. It is common for a franchisee to enter into an ‘occupancy’ or ‘licence’ agreement with an entity associated with the franchisor which entity is the lessee of the premises from which the franchisee will conduct its business.

 

At the sane tine the franchisee usually enters into a franchise agreement with the franchisor. The so-called ‘occupancy’ or ‘licence’ agreement commonly has all the characteristics of a lease with the consequence that the agreement is a lease. In Victoria, if the ‘occupancy’ or ‘licence’ agreement is a lease any dispute will constitute a  ‘retail tenancy dispute’ governed by Part 10 of the Retail Leases Act 2003 (2003 Act).

 

VCAT has exclusive jurisdiction to hear and determine ‘retail tenancy disputes’.  If the dispute resolution provisions in the franchise agreement require that disputes under that agreement be referred to arbitration the franchisee could be in the difficult position of having to prosecute or defend two proceedings at the same time – one  in VCAT and another before an arbitrator.

 

This is the consequence of the Court of Appeal’s decision in Subway Systems Australia v Ireland [2014] VSCA 142. In that case the franchisee conducted its business from premises in Doncaster, Victoria.  The arbitration clause in the franchise agreement required the arbitration to take place in Queensland. VCAT held that the “licence” agreement was a sub-lease with the consequence that that dispute will be determined as a ‘retail premises dispute” in VCAT in Victoria under the 2003 Act.

 

VCAT also decided that it  could hear and determine the dispute under the franchise agreement. The Court of Appeal held that VCAT did not have jurisdiction to hear and determine the dispute under the franchise agreement which will have to be heard and determined by an arbitrator in Queensland.

 

My clerk can be contacted via this link for bookingshttp://www.greenslist.com.au/

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VCAT is a “court” and therefore arbitration clause effective

There is a translation key(widget)  on this blog for ease of reading for non-English speaking members of the public or professionals. http://roberthaybarrister.blogspot.com.au/

 

In  Subway Systems Australia Pty Ltd v Ireland [2013] VSC 550 Croft J held that a requirement in a franchise agreement that disputes be referred to arbitration did not prevent VCAT hearing and determining the dispute.

The matter came before Croft J as an application for leave after a VCAT member declined to find that the Tribunal was bound by  s.8 of the Commercial Arbitration Act 2011 (Vic)) (CAA) to refer the dispute to arbitration.

In broad terms s.8 of the CAA requires a court before which an action is brought in a matter which is the subject of an arbitration agreement to refer the matter to arbitration if one of the parties makes that request. Croft J held that VCAT was not a “court” for the purpose of s.8(1) and therefore VCAT was not bound to refer the dispute to arbitration.

In Subway Systems Australia Pty Ltd v Ireland [2014] VSCA 142 the Court of Appeal allowed an appeal from Justice Croft’s decision. Maxwell P and Beach JA held that VCAT was a “court” for the purposes of s.8 of the CAA. Kyrou AJA dissented. This means that the dispute must now be referred to arbitration. The Court of Appeal’s decision can be found here:

Subway Systems v Ireland_merged_17114[1]

 

My clerk can be contacted via this link for bookings  http://www.greenslist.com.au/

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