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In the Brisbane Federal Court, a self-defending little franchisor faces the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission in full force and hell bent on arming a Federal Small Business Minister.
In the wake of constant criticism of ACCC inaction regarding franchisee complaints it seems too obvious that a direction has been given to ACCC chairman Graeme Samuel to give an appearance of effective regulation; find soft targets, win at all costs and make it public.
The ACCC also instituted proceedings against the director of Seal-A-Fridge, Nigel Rooney, alleging he contravened the Franchising Code of Conduct and acted unconscionably.
Rooney states the allegations are false;
All I did was increase the fee of two of my franchisees for a total of $25,
These unjust allegations are really going to hurt our franchises and the business as a whole.
In typical fashion the ACCC did not file an action originally claiming that a ‘contract issue’ required a civil remedy.
They initially didn’t want to deal with the complaint, then years later they all of a sudden slam this on us.
The ACCC arrived in court with a QC, 2 barristers, 3 solicitors and 6 other ACCC observers to clearly intimidate a lonely Nigel Rooney and influence the Court over $25. The ACCC claim they are running a test case.
Why is the ACCC going after small companies and not touching the multi-million dollar businesses? That is the crux of the matter.
It seems the ACCC only targets companies it knows it can bully into submission.
No one in franchising has missed that the ACCC chase for sacrificial lambs coincided with the advent of the 2008 State and Federal Inquiries into franchising and the subsequent and anticipated criticism of what many consider a history of pathetic failures to act on complaints while using a multitude of excuses to allow the slaughter of thousands of innocent franchisees.
This current onslaught by the ACCC follows a refusal to act on years of constant complaints against the big-end- of-town franchises such as the much publicised Bakers Delight, Midas Car Care, Kleenmaid and Lenards Chicken. The consequences of the reported behaviours and practices led to millions of dollars of loss for victims and outraged sections of Federal and State Parliaments, the media and a country of franchisees and out-of-pocket customers.
Small time systems such as Nigel Rooney’s Seal-a-Fridge, Spray Pave and Personalised Chocolates 4U seemingly do not have Franchise Council of Australia’s influence with the ACCC. Apparently someone had to be sacrificed at the Minister’s alter but obviously it could not be friends in high places.
No doubt we will be hearing more of the Emerson driven, back-room designed, bully tactics set to justify a weak response to the needs outlined in the recommendations from 3 Australian franchising inquiries.