A bill designed to provide greater safeguards to owners of the more than 40,000 franchised businesses in Florida has been filed in the Florida Legislature. The measure is intended to level the playing field between franchise owners and their corporate franchisors.

It’s called the Small Business Parity Act. One of the bill’s sponsors, Sen. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, says it will introduce a greater degree of fairness for franchise owners in Florida.

“Florida’s hard-working franchise owners typically invest more than $375,000 of their own personal savings in order to pursue their dream of owning a small business, and we must do our part to help protect these investments in our local communities,” said Steube.

The bill would add protections for franchise owners from having their contracts unfairly terminated by a corporate national franchisor. It would also provide franchise owners with the right to be able to sell or transfer their businesses and supplies.

The measure would also require that any legal disputes that might arise between a franchise owner and the corporate franchisor would have to be settled in a Florida courtroom, rather than an out-of-state court.

“These dedicated small business owners employ more than 404,000 Floridians, and I am proud today to do my part to file common sense legislation that would protect the livelihoods of these men and women,” Steube added.

“We simply want to level the playing field for these small business owners,” said Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen, R-Fort Myers, the House sponsor. “The unfortunate truth is that many of these large, out-of-state corporations are taking advantage of the tremendous imbalance in the franchisor-franchisee relationship. This is wrong, and this bill provides an opportunity to level the playing field.”

The measure is supported by the Coalition of Franchisee Associations. The CFA, which is the largest franchisee-only trade association in the country, says it’s time Florida does what 22 other states have done and provide stronger protections for franchise owners in the state.  

“Franchise owners like me support our local economies, hire people from our communities, and pay state taxes — we deserve a stable relationship with the corporate brands, so we can both grow and foster Florida’s economy,” said Terry Hutchinson, a Florida franchise owner.

The bills have been filed in both the House and Senate and have been referred to committees.

Post Leader