WA franchise inquiry has kicked off

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Public hearings for the West Australian Government’s inquiry into franchising started on Monday in Perth. About 40 franchisors and franchisees attended the hearing but all but two of those who made an oral submission was a franchisee or former franchisee.

The inquiry, which is being chaired by franchisee Chris Bothams, manager of the South East Metro Small Business Centre, follows cries for help from Jack Cowin’s Competitive Foods following the company’s failure to renew its KFC franchise agreements in WA as they fall due.

But the inquiry has become a rallying point for all disgruntled franchisees and former franchisees across the country. Sue Brown and Frank Buemi, former Lenards poultry franchisees made submissions, as did Deanne De Leeuw, former Bakers Delight franchisee.

Richard Taylor, chief financial officer of franchisor Bakers Delight, appeared on behalf of the bakery chain that has been the target of recent negative publicity.

Competitive Foods was represented by barrister Tim Castle. Competitive Foods would like to see the law changed so that franchisees have more rights at the end of the franchise agreement.

But the terms of terms of the WA inquiry into franchising are much broader, and include reviewing the adequacy of existing legislative provisions, both state and federal, and identifying whether emerging trends in the franchising industry disclose patterns of unconscionable conduct that may not be covered under existing laws.

It has been criticised by the franchisor representative body the Franchise Council of Australia for interfering in matters covered by federal laws.

On Friday, public hearings will be held in Bunbury, two and half hours south of Perth.

None of the written submission to the inquiry will be made public before the inquiry chair Bothams reports to the Minister for Small Business in WA on 31 March.

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