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Problems With Your Franchisor? Don’t Use Their Email System

Bundy & Fichter PLLC June 1, 2023

Franchising in the United States accounts for more than 10 percent of all businesses operating in the country. Fast food restaurants such as McDonald’s and KFC account for the majority of these franchises, followed by gas stations/convenience stores and full-service restaurants.   

Franchises generally may provide a path to business success, but they also present some limitations and liabilities. You must pay royalties, advertising and marketing fees, and you must strictly follow their business models. If disputes arise, the franchisees may find themselves locked into agreements that are challenging to get out of. 

The franchisor can have access to the data stored on your business computer, as it is linked to theirs by contract. This means that anything you do on that computer system – including emails and search history – will be available to the franchisor.   

This is a crucial consideration in a dispute with the franchise organization. Emails to your friends or legal consultants will be readily available to the franchisor. If you decide to pursue litigation, your opponent will know what you’re thinking or planning to do.  

If you, as a franchisee in or around Seattle, Washington, are facing issues with your agreement and a dispute is looming with the franchisor, contact Bundy & Fichter PLLC. The franchise attorneys are well-versed in every aspect of the laws and regulations governing the industry. We also serve clients throughout the United States, including Oregon, Texas, and Florida. 

Risks Inherent in Using the Franchisor’s Email System

As a franchisee, you may have to establish an email system linked to the franchisor’s organization. For instance, you may have to set up an email account such as yourname@franchisename.com. When you do, the emails you send on that system will forever be available to the franchisor. Even if you try to delete the emails, they will forever be accessible to the franchisor.  

Now, in the ordinary course of business – say you’re just asking questions of the franchisor or notifying customers of new bargains or offers – this will be no problem. You should use their system. However, if you suddenly have an issue with the franchise agreement and reach out to friends or attorneys and express your thoughts, it will be available to the franchisor. This will be a serious problem if you seek a legal remedy through court or arbitration. 

Alternatives to Using the Franchisor’s Email System

You should have a private computer and email system to avoid the franchisor’s access, even if issues relate to your frustrations or concerns about your franchise operation. You certainly don’t want your franchisor to know your dinner plans, let alone your thoughts about how the franchisor is making matters difficult for you in one way or another.  

Something may come up in your franchise operation that troubles you. Maybe there’s a sudden fee for marketing or advertising, or a planned discount offering, that you feel will cut into your profits and may lead to a loss of revenue. You want to get advice on what to do. If you use the company’s computer system, the franchisor will have access to your worries and thought processes. You need another avenue, meaning an email and phone that can’t be monitored by the franchise headquarters. 

How a Franchise Attorney Can Help

Friends and fellow franchisees can offer great moral support and even pertinent advice when matters take a turn you don’t like. However, franchises – and franchisors – are governed by state law and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). When you bought into your franchise, you had to sign a franchise agreement, and before that, you were provided a Franchise Disclosure Document (FDD). Together, the FDD and franchise agreement should have spelled out both your rights and obligations.  

If matters change or weren’t spelled out in the legal documents provided when you signed, you need to consult with an attorney who has knowledge about franchise laws and regulations and can review your FDD and franchise agreement. Again, do not contact friends or attorneys using your franchise email system. Use your personal email or personal phone, or meet in person. You don’t need to signal “disloyalty” or “discontent” to your franchisor. 

Skilled and Insightful Legal Guidance

At Bundy & Fichter PLLC, the attorneys have been consulting on franchise law for more than four decades. Though the firm's location is in Seattle, the attorneys conduct business virtually, so wherever you are located, we can advise you on any issue facing you as a franchisee. Reach out today with all your questions and concerns.