MP renews calls for investigations into mistreatment of Bakers Delight franchisee

West Australian parliamentarian Joanna Gash has renewed calls for the Australian Federal Police to launch an investigation into accusations Bakers Delight and ANZ bank colluded to put a franchisee out of business.

West Australian parliamentarian Joanna Gash has renewed calls for the Australian Federal Police to launch an investigation into accusations Bakers Delight and ANZ bank colluded to put a franchisee out of business.

Gash raised the accusations in Federal Parliament on Monday in response to a private member’s motion bought by fellow Don Randall on the issue of rogue franchisors.

Gash told Parliament last year that Bakers Delight and ANZ bank conspired to put former franchisee Deanne de Leeuw out of business. De Leeuw ran Bakers Delight stores in Shellharbour, Kiama and Vincentia under the banner of South Coast Bakeries.

On Monday, Gash revisited the case in Parliament, producing emails from Bakers Delight chief financial officer Richard Taylor and ANZ executives that she says shows “plans had been conspired to terminate Ms de Leeuw’s franchise well ahead of time”. (To read Gash’s full speech, click here.)

Last night, Gash called for the Australian Federal Police to investigate the matter.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission investigated Gash’s allegations earlier this year and announced in April that Bakers Delight had no case to answer.

“Having conducted an in-depth investigation, including analysing a large amount of documentary evidence and conducting a number of detailed interviews with various witnesses, the ACCC has decided not to take any further action,” the regulator said in a statement at the time.

But Gash has questioned the ability of the ACCC to conduct an investigation into franchisee allegations. “The only sensible conclusion I can draw is that the ACCC is incapable of performing a forensic investigation and, as such, is incapable of protecting consumers even if they are franchisees,” she told Parliament last night.

But Bakers Delight CFO Richard Taylor told SmartCompany that one of the emails referred to by Gash – in which she quoted him as writing “the South Coast Bakeries group heads closer and closer to oblivion” – was actually written three months after Bakers Delight terminated de Leeuw’s franchise agreement.

“Why would a franchisor who is hellbent on churning give a franchisee… an extra three months to sell her business?” he says.

Taylor says he is disappointed that Gash made no reference to the ACCC’s investigation of Bakers Delight during her parliamentary speeches. He says the ACCC cleared the company over the allegations of churning and says the practice would be counter-intuitive.

“If you are actively out there, actively trying to undermine the performance of your franchisees, then your network will die.”

Taylor says he is “frustrated but not surprised” that the allegations have been dragged up again.

“It’s a bit like when you’ve got to the end of the footy game and your team has lost and you say ‘gee, those umpires were against us’.”

A spokesperson for the ANZ said the allegations were without foundation and it was not in the bank’s interests for franchisees to fail.

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