As disclosed in the last post the new amended FTC rule concerning franchise disclosure documents requires franchisors to update their UFOC by no later than July 1, 2008. After July 1, 2008, franchisors must comply with the new FTC rule only. Currently, franchisors may comply with either the former rule or the new rule.
Here are some key differences between the former rule and the new rule:
- Use of unaudited financial statements. Start-up franchisors may phase-in the use of audited financial statements. In this case the franchisor must clearly and conspicuously disclose that the franchise has not been in business for three or more years and cannot include all required financial statements. (There may still be requirements to submit audited opening balance sheets in registration states). Franchisees should make sure to review the financials carefully as always.
- Financial Statements. The FTC will allow the use of financial statements prepared according to U.S. generally accepted accounting principles ("GAAP"). There must be separate audited financial statements for any parent that "commits to perform post-sale obligations for the franchisor or guarantees the franchisor’s obligations" in the disclosure document.
- No Broker Disclosures. The Amended FTC rule eliminates the broker disclosure requirement. However, the broker will need to be listed on the Receipt Page because the Receipt Page requires the franchisor to identify all "franchise sellers".
- Litigation. Franchisors will be required to disclose material franchisor-initiated litigation against its franchisees. The rule will be more lenient as a franchisor will only have to disclose actions that the franchisor filed during its last fiscal year – not the last 10 years. Further, a full description of the case will not be necessary. If a counterclaim is filed against a franchisee the disclosure will need to be treated as any other franchisee-initiated action and the regular, full disclosure will be required. (Franchisees will need to more fully investigate whether franchisor-initiated litigation occurred whether it is in the disclosure document or not).
- Financial Performance Representations. The new rule encourages franchisors to provide financial performance representations but it is still voluntary. Franchisors may provide a more detailed cost and expense analysis which could be helpful for prospective franchisees. Also, franchisors may provide financial representations based upon a subset that shares the same characteristics.
There are other differences so be sure to talk with an attorney experienced in franchise matters if you are looking at purchasing a franchise.