Franchisees divided over Abetz bill

Franchisees are divided over a decision by Liberal MP Peter Abetz to push ahead with his WA franchise bill despite an investigative committee advising against it.


Late last year, Abetz introduced a private member’s bill in the WA state parliament, calling for state-based legislation to protect WA franchisees from “rogue” franchisors.


The proposal was met with criticism from the Franchise Council of Australia and, as a result, the bill was put before a parliamentary committee.


The committee said it had found limited evidence of rogue operators in the industry, but Abetz plans to push ahead with his bill regardless of the committee’s verdict.


Abetz claims support for the bill has been unaffected by the committee’s report, stating: “The evidence in the report gives the tick of approval to the bill on all the issues it was asked to investigate.”


“Many of the findings of the report are simply not supported by the expert submissions,” Abetz told SmartCompany.


“No one disputes that reform of franchising is best done at the federal level.  However, what the majority report failed to recognise is that the quickest way to achieve federal action is for West Australia to move the Franchising Bill 2010 through the state parliament.


“Given that the South Australian Government has committed to introducing similar legislation, and moves are afoot for private members’ bills in NSW and Queensland, it will put enormous pressure on the Federal Labor Government to act to implement what it promised to do during the 2007 election, but so far has failed to deliver.”


Franchisee Trevor Banks, who would not disclose which franchise he was associated with, cast doubt over the effectiveness of the current laws, claiming franchisees are suffering as a result of a “lopsided playing field”.


“Despite numerous government reviews such as that by [Queensland Labor MP] Bernie Ripoll, state government actions… and [the views of] noted academic Frank Zumbo, there is still a considerable lack of good faith and trust in the franchise industry,” Banks says.


But coffee franchise Muzz Buzz has vehemently opposed Abetz’s franchise bill, labelling it as unnecessary and unsubstantiated.


“Mr Abetz claims that the bill is to protect franchisees from ‘rogue elements’ within the franchising industry but he fails to name these ‘rogues’ or provide any evidence to substantiate his claims,” the company said in a statement.


“[He] has no such knowledge and absolutely no experience as either a franchisee or a franchisor. Where is Mr Abetz getting his information and what is he basing his accusation on? It’s certainly not from firsthand knowledge or personal experience.”


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