New Democrats call for legislation to protect franchisees

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VANCOUVER – The B.C. Liberal government should be taking more action to ensure that British Columbia franchisees are operating on a level playing field with the corporations they are partnering with, say the New Democrats.

“Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs in this province, yet the lack of support from their provincial government means that they are often at the mercy of large franchisors,” says New Democrat finance spokesperson Carole James. “British Columbia needs legislation like they have in other provinces to ensure that these large corporations deal fairly with small businesses.

“If the Liberals aren’t prepared to introduce this type of legislation this spring, New Democrats will.”

James said the regulatory void means franchisees often have obligations to the parent company but fewer rights. Franchisors exert significant control over the small businesses, she said.

“When people buy real estate, the seller is required to disclose everything pertinent about the property, yet that level of transparency does not exist for franchisees,” said James. “This puts all the risk at the feet of the franchisees, who may not have the means for the kind of investigation needed to determine whether their investment is a good one.”

Former Blenz franchisee Wayne Taylor calls the current situation like “the wild west.”

“Small business owners like myself have little protection against large corporations,” said Taylor, who risked more than $150,000 in an arrangement with Blenz in 2008. “We are the job creators, we assume the risk, but the big companies have all the power.”

Five provinces currently have franchise legislation: Alberta, Prince Edward Island, Ontario, New Brunswick and Manitoba. Alberta’s is oldest, dating back to 1971.

“Franchise legislation supports B.C.-owned small businesses as they create jobs in our communities and ensures a fair and level playing field,” said New Democrat MLA Adrian Dix. “Four years after Manitoba and more than a decade after other provinces, it is time to act in this session of the legislature.”

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