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Misrepresentation is one of the most common franchising disputes. A franchisee could claim a franchisor misrepresented a franchise opportunity. If a franchisee’s claim is successful, a court could cancel the franchise agreement and order a franchisor to pay damages. However, franchisors can avoid giving franchisees cause to make such a claim. The key is to ensure that your statements are true. This article will further explain misrepresentation and how franchisors can avoid it.
What is Misrepresentation?
During pre-contractual negotiations, parties often make statements to each other. These statements are known as representations. If one party makes a false statement that convinces the other party to enter the contract, this might be considered misrepresentation. In such cases, the affected party can bring a claim against the party that made the false representation.
There are three types of misrepresentation. The following table outlines each.
|Type of Misrepresentation
|Where somebody knowingly, without belief in its truth, or recklessly makes a false statement.
|Where somebody carelessly makes a false statement, or the author of the statement had no reason to believe the statement was true.
|Innocent misrepresentation involves somebody making a false statement they believe to be true.
Franchisors are wary of making misrepresentations, especially as they might make a statement that they think is true but is later revealed to be false. Franchisors must make statements when expanding their networks and attracting prospective franchisees. The key to avoiding misrepresentation is ensuring that these statements are true.
A franchisee could claim that a franchisor made false statements about a franchise opportunity. For example, they might say the franchisor missold the franchise opportunity by exaggerating financial projections. If a franchisee’s misrepresentation claim is successful, a court could treat the franchise agreement as if it had not existed, and you could owe the franchisee damages.
It can be expensive to handle misrepresentation claims, so the best course of action is to avoid giving a franchisee cause to make such a claim. Avoiding misrepresentation should be at the forefront of your mind when advertising a franchise opportunity and speaking to prospective franchisees.
Franchisor Best Practices for Avoiding Misrepresentation
1. Be Honest and Transparent
The most crucial principle in avoiding misrepresentation is honesty and transparency in all your communication. You should keep to the facts. Do not oversell an opportunity. Additionally, you should ensure that all statements and financial forecasts are as accurate as possible.
2. Provide a Franchise Disclosure Document
Franchisors can provide prospective franchisees with a franchise disclosure document (FDD). This document covers essential points such as your:
- business experience;
- business’s financial history; and
- financial projections.
It provides a clear and complete picture of a franchise opportunity. The FDD forms a part of due diligence and allows the potential franchisee to decide whether the franchise opportunity is right for them.
Franchisors do not have to provide an FDD in the UK. However, in other territories, franchisors are legally required to provide one. For UK-based franchisors, providing a transparent FDD can help you mitigate the risk of a franchisee bringing a misrepresentation claim in the future.
It is also in your best interests that franchisees are fully informed and aware of the implications of their investment. You want to onboard only those aligned with your brand and its goals.
3. Seek Legal Advice
An experienced franchising lawyer can help you ensure your operations as a franchisor are legally sound and in line with relevant regulations. They can ensure that your franchise agreement is well-drafted and robust. A lawyer can also reasonably limit your liability and mitigate the risk of future legal disputes, including misrepresentation claims. If you are concerned about misrepresentation, you should seek legal advice.
4. Review and Record
You should ensure that your sales and marketing materials are up-to-date and that you can support any claims with facts. Additionally, you should keep records of your discussions with prospective franchisees. If they later claim you made a misrepresentation, you can provide these records as evidence.
This handbook covers all the essential topics you need to know about franchising your business.
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Franchisor misrepresentation often involves a franchisor making a false statement during pre-contractual negotiations with a prospective franchisee. Misrepresentation can be fraudulent, negligent, or even innocently made. If a franchisee succeeds in their misrepresentation claim, the court can cancel the franchise agreement, and you may also have to pay damages. Franchisors should:
- be honest and transparent in all dealings with prospective franchisees;
- provide a franchise disclosure document;
- seek legal advice;
- ensure the franchise agreement is well drafted; and
- keep records of pre-contractual discussions.
If you need legal advice relating to your franchise business, our experienced franchise lawyers can assist as part of our LegalVision membership. For a low monthly fee, you will have unlimited access to lawyers to answer your questions and draft and review your documents. Call us today on 0808 196 8584 or visit our membership page.
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