The Jena Higher Regional Court recently held that a clause which allows a franchisor to adjust the franchise fee at the beginning of each quarter and does not clearly disclose to the franchisee the scope of the fee increase mechanism is in breach of the law regarding general terms and conditions, which applies to standard-form contracts and thus standardised franchise agreements. The decision shows that caution is needed when drafting fee adjustment clauses.
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to significantly affect the franchise sector, along with many others. In May and July 2020 the German Franchise Association issued a guidance document which provided an overview of the COVID-19 Mitigation Act and the associated legal issues specific to franchising. A few months on, this article examines which issues remain the most relevant for franchising practice.
Special deals are common among competing burger chains. Although this may be detrimental to franchisees, the Munich Higher Regional Court recently decided that such deals do not infringe antitrust rules. This decision deserves particular attention, as it concerns the common situation of a franchisor using non-binding price recommendations in its advertising and once again clarifies how important the asterisk reference is in such cases.
Franchisors must typically consider the extent of concept protection if franchisees which have left the franchise system reuse the concept in a largely unchanged fashion or if third-party competitors (outside the franchise system) copy the concept's main features. A recent decision concerning a fast-food restaurant franchise reinforces the IP protection of gastronomic concepts against competitors' inadmissible imitations.
Case law from the highest German courts on franchise law matters is rare, which makes a recent Federal Court of Justice decision on the subject of bogus self-employment of franchisees – a perennial issue for franchise law practitioners – even more noteworthy. The case concerned claims for payment under a licence agreement and the question of whether the licence agreement was void due to the franchisee's bogus self-employment.