Since the publication of the sixth edition of The Franchise Law Review, there has been little let-up in major economic and geopolitical developments and these continue to have a significant impact on world trade; the ongoing Sino-American trade war, sanctions on Iran and Brexit being only three of these. Through all this, however, the apparently inexorable march towards the globalisation of commerce has continued unabated. While there have been some economic bright spots, the global economy is still not performing as well as it might, and there remain concerns that the US economy may yet crash.
As a consequence, businesses are often presented with little choice but to look to more vibrant markets in Asia, the Middle East and Africa for their future growth. At the same time, South–South trade is on the increase, perhaps at the expense of its North–South counterpart. All of this, coupled with the unstable wider geopolitical landscape, presents business with only one near certainty: there will be continued deleveraging of businesses in the coming years and, thus, growing barriers to international growth for many of them. All but the most substantial and well-structured of such businesses may find themselves facing not only significant difficulties through reduced access to funding for investment in their foreign ventures, but also challenges arising from their lack of managerial experience and bandwidth.
Franchising, in its various forms, continues to present businesses with one way of achieving profitable and successful international growth without the need for either substantial capital investment or a broad managerial infrastructure. In sectors as diverse as food and beverages, retail, hospitality, education, healthcare and financial services, franchising continues to be a popular catalyst for international commerce and makes a strong and effective contribution to world trade. We are even seeing governments turning to it as an effective strategy for the future of the welfare state as social franchising gains still more traction as a way of achieving key social objectives.
Given the positive role that franchising can play in the world economy, it is important that legal practitioners have an appropriate understanding of how it is regulated around the globe. This book provides an introduction to the basic elements of international franchising and an overview of the way that it is regulated in 28 jurisdictions.
As will be apparent from the chapters of this book, there continues to be no homogenous approach to the regulation of franchising around the world. Some countries specifically regulate particular aspects of the franchising relationship. Of these, a number try to ensure an appropriate level of pre-contractual hygiene, while others focus instead on imposing mandatory terms upon the franchise relationship. Some do both. In certain countries, there is a requirement to register certain documents in a public register. Others restrict the manner in which third parties can be involved in helping franchisors meet potential franchisees. No two countries regulate franchising in the same way. Even those countries that have a well-developed regulatory environment seem unable to resist the temptation to continually develop and change their approaches – as was well illustrated by changes to the Australian regulations in the recent past. The unstoppable march towards franchise regulation continues, with countries such as Argentina, which previously had not specifically regulated franchising, adopting franchise-specific laws in the past year or so.
Many countries do not have franchise-specific legislation but nevertheless strictly regulate certain aspects of the franchise relationship through the complex interplay of more general legal concepts such as antitrust law, intellectual property rights and the doctrine of good faith. This heterogeneous approach to the regulation of franchising presents yet another barrier to the use of franchising as a catalyst for international growth.
While this book certainly does not present readers with the complete answer to all the questions they may have about franchising in all the countries covered – that would require far more pages than it is possible to include in this one volume – it does seek to provide the reader with a high-level understanding of the challenges involved in international franchising in the first section, and then, in the second section, explains how these basic themes are reflected in the regulatory environment within each of the countries covered. I should extend my thanks to all of those who have helped with the preparation of this book, in particular Caroline Flambard and Nick Green, who have invested a great deal of time and effort in making it a work of which all those involved can be proud. It is hoped that this publication will prove to be a useful and often-consulted guide to all those involved in international franchising, but needless to say it is not a substitute for taking expert advice from practitioners qualified in the relevant jurisdiction.
Bird & Bird LLP