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Will My Franchisor Retaliate If I Join a Franchisee Association?

By Published On: January 25th, 2018

The AAFD hears frequent concerns from franchisees as they contemplate creating or joining a franchisee association. One of the most common fears is franchisor retribution. While these concerns are understandable, franchisees need to know that the law of the United States is on their side and that their franchisor cannot legally retaliate against members of a franchisee association. Additionally, the AAFD has developed and helped implement successful strategies to address and protect against attempts at franchisor coercion or punishment.

Your Right of Assembly

The right of franchisees to join, support, and participate in an independent franchisee association is a protected right of assembly, which is part of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. This, in and of itself, is enough protection to deflect any retaliatory actions made by a franchisor. 

However, the right of assembly is also referenced in the Federal Trade Commission’s Franchise Rule. Additionally, fifteen to twenty states have enacted specific legislation that recognize the right of franchisees to join and participate in franchisee associations. These specific statutes prohibit franchisors from inhibiting the right of franchisees to join such associations. (The AAFD supports continuing efforts to pass similar legislation in all 50 states in our union.)

How the AAFD Protects Its Franchisee Chapter Members

The U.S. Constitution itself gives you the right to form a franchisee association, but just because a law exists doesn’t mean it’s always followed. After all, murder is against the law, and it still happens. In other words, some franchisors may still decide to retaliate against franchisees who join an association in ways that may be blatant or very subtle.

This is why the AAFD makes it possible for franchisees to join an association anonymously. To do this, a franchisee can instruct his or her attorney to join on his or her behalf. The attorney becomes the “face” of your membership while you receive the benefits of joining the association. At the same time, neither the franchisor nor even the franchisee association will know your identity. The association can, however, count you as a member in its collective strength.

Most AAFD-affiliated attorneys are happy to provide this service without charge or for a very modest fee to cover their time.

Franchisor Retribution Is Rare

We have worked with scores of AAFD-affiliated franchise chapters over 25 years, and while fear of franchisor retaliation is common, actual instances of retribution have been rare in our experience. In the vast majority of cases, the franchisor ultimately recognizes the franchise association and seeks to form a collaborative relationship once the association achieves significant support from franchisees. In the end, franchisors and franchisees do want to achieve the same goal – increasing the success of the brand. They can’t do that by punishing their franchisees, and they certainly don’t want to risk legal liability if they are caught!

If you are on the fence about joining a franchisee association due to fears of retribution, then consider joining anonymously. You can identify yourself at any time when you feel more secure. Don’t let fear of retaliation stop you from seeking a collaborative and productive relationship with your franchisor and ultimately getting your concerns heard!

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Written by : Robert L. Purvin

Robert Purvin is the Chairman and CEO of the American Association of Franchisees and Dealers, a national non-profit trade association that is dedicated to supporting and protecting the rights of franchise owners. The AAFD's mission is to define, identify and promote Total Quality Franchising practices, and the AAFD supports is mission by: Promoting strong and effective independent franchisee associations as affiliated chapters of the AAFD. The development of the AAFD's Fair Franchising Standards, the most comprehenisve body of negotiated principles of recommended franchise practices in existence. The advocacy of fair and balanced franchise agreements and relationships that respect the legitimate business interests of both franchisors and franchisees for the good of the franchise relationship. The education of franchisees and prospective franchisees by the development and publication of the AAFD Fair Franchising Standards and the promotion of the AAFD Franchisee Bill of Rights.