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Understanding Franchise Law: Franchise Disclosure Document (FDD) - Item 17: Renewal, Termination, Transfer, and Dispute Resolution

Navigating the complexities of franchise law is essential for both franchisors and franchisees. One critical component of this legal landscape is the Franchise Disclosure Document (FDD), a key element in ensuring transparency and fairness in franchise agreements. Item 17 of the FDD is particularly important, as it outlines the terms regarding the renewal, termination, transfer of the franchise agreement, and dispute resolution mechanisms. Understanding these terms can help protect your interests and facilitate a smoother franchising experience. Contact us by either using the online form or calling us directly at 414-253-8500 to learn more.

Navigating the Terms of Item 17: Renewal, Termination, Transfer, and Dispute Resolution

Aspect Description Typical Conditions


The process by which a franchisee extends the term of the franchise agreement.

Compliance with current agreement, performance benchmarks, payment of renewal fees, and timely notification.


The conditions under which a franchise agreement can be ended by either party.

Breach of contract, failure to pay royalties, bankruptcy, fraud, and criminal activity.


The ability of a franchisee to sell or transfer their franchise to another party.

Franchisor approval, meeting specific conditions, payment of transfer fees, right of first refusal.

Renewal of the Franchise Agreement

Renewal terms in Item 17 specify the conditions under which a franchisee may renew their franchise agreement. These terms can vary significantly between franchisors but generally include:

  1. Duration of Renewal: The period for which the franchise agreement can be renewed.
  2. Renewal Fees: Any fees associated with the renewal process.
  3. Conditions for Renewal: Specific conditions that must be met, such as compliance with the current franchise agreement and meeting performance benchmarks.
  4. Notice Requirements: The timeframe within which a franchisee must notify the franchisor of their intent to renew.

It's crucial for franchisees to understand these terms to ensure they can continue their business without interruption. Failure to comply with renewal conditions can result in the loss of the franchise.

Termination of the Franchise Agreement

The termination section of Item 17 details the circumstances under which a franchise agreement can be terminated by either the franchisor or franchisee. Key elements include:

  1. Grounds for Termination: Specific actions or failures that can lead to termination, such as breach of contract, failure to pay royalties, or bankruptcy.
  2. Notice and Cure Periods: The process for notifying the other party of the termination and any opportunity to remedy the situation (cure period).
  3. Immediate Termination: Situations where the agreement can be terminated immediately without a cure period, often due to severe breaches like fraud or criminal activity.

Understanding the termination clauses is vital for franchisees to avoid inadvertent breaches that could end their business prematurely.

Transfer of the Franchise Agreement

Item 17 also covers the terms related to the transfer of a franchise agreement, which can occur when a franchisee wishes to sell their franchise or transfer it to another party. Important aspects include:

  1. Approval Requirements: Whether and how the franchisor must approve the transfer.
  2. Transfer Fees: Any fees associated with the transfer process.
  3. Conditions for Transfer: Specific conditions that must be met for the transfer to be valid, such as training for the new franchisee and financial qualifications.
  4. Right of First Refusal: Whether the franchisor has the right to purchase the franchise before it is sold to a third party.

These terms ensure that the integrity and standards of the franchise are maintained even when ownership changes hands.

Dispute Resolution Mechanisms

Disputes between franchisors and franchisees can arise, making the dispute resolution section of Item 17 critical. This section typically includes:

  1. Arbitration: Whether disputes must be resolved through arbitration rather than litigation, and the rules governing the arbitration process.
  2. Mediation: The possibility of resolving disputes through mediation before proceeding to arbitration or court.
  3. Governing Law: The state law that will govern the franchise agreement and any disputes.
  4. Venue: The location where disputes will be resolved, which can be crucial for franchisees operating in different states or countries.
Mechanism Description Advantages Typical Usage


A voluntary process where a neutral third party facilitates a resolution between disputing parties.

Less formal, quicker, cost-effective, preserves relationships.

Used as a first step before arbitration or litigation to resolve disputes amicably.


A formal process where an arbitrator hears evidence and makes a binding decision.

Faster and less costly than court litigation, binding decision, limited grounds for appeal.

Often specified in franchise agreements as the primary method for dispute resolution, avoiding court cases.


The process of resolving disputes through the court system.

Formal, potential for a thorough legal examination, decision is public record.

Used when arbitration is not specified or if arbitration agreements are challenged.

Effective dispute resolution mechanisms can save both parties time and money, and provide a clear pathway to resolving conflicts.

Best Practices for Franchisors and Franchisees Regarding Item 17

Understanding the intricacies of Item 17 is not only about comprehending the legal jargon but also about implementing best practices to ensure a harmonious and successful franchise relationship. Here are some specific considerations and best practices for both franchisors and franchisees.

Best Practices for Franchisors

  1. Clear and Consistent Terms: Ensure that the terms related to renewal, termination, transfer, and dispute resolution are clearly outlined and consistently applied across all franchise agreements. This helps in maintaining transparency and trust.

  2. Training and Support: Provide thorough training and ongoing support to franchisees to minimize the likelihood of breaches that could lead to termination. This also fosters a positive relationship and enhances overall franchise performance.

  3. Regular Reviews: Conduct regular reviews of franchisee performance and compliance with the agreement. This proactive approach can help identify potential issues early and provide opportunities for correction before they escalate to termination.

  4. Open Communication Channels: Maintain open lines of communication with franchisees. Encouraging dialogue can help address concerns promptly and avoid disputes.

  5. Fair Dispute Resolution Mechanisms: Design dispute resolution mechanisms that are fair and accessible. Consider the potential financial and logistical burdens on franchisees and aim for methods that are efficient and equitable.

Item 17 Requirements and Format

According to the latest statute outlined under 16 C.F.R §436.5(q), the franchisor must disclose Item 17 in a specific tabular format. Here is how the table should be presented, incorporating all the necessary elements:


Provision Section in Franchise or Other Agreement Summary

a. Length of the franchise term

Section [X]

Duration of the franchise agreement (e.g., 10 years).

b. Renewal or extension of the term

Section [X]

If compliant, the franchisee can renew for another term by signing the then-current franchise agreement.

c. Requirements for franchisee to renew or extend

Section [X]

Must sign the then-current agreement, pay a renewal fee, and comply with other conditions.

d. Termination by franchisee

Not Applicable


e. Termination by franchisor without cause

Not Applicable


f. Termination by franchisor with cause

Section [X]

Franchisor can terminate if the franchisee defaults.

g. “Cause” defined—curable defaults

Section [X]

Franchisee has 30 days to cure defaults such as non-payment of fees.

h. “Cause” defined—non-curable defaults

Section [X]

Immediate termination for severe breaches like fraud or felony conviction.

i. Franchisee's obligations on termination/non-renewal

Section [X]

Complete de-identification and payment of due amounts.

j. Assignment of contract by franchisor

Section [X]

Franchisor can assign the contract without restriction.

k. “Transfer” by franchisee—defined

Section [X]

Transfer includes change of ownership or sale of the franchise.

l. Franchisor approval of transfer by franchisee

Section [X]

Franchisor must approve transfers, will not unreasonably withhold approval.

m. Conditions for franchisor approval of transfer

Section [X]

New franchisee must meet qualifications, pay transfer fee, and comply with other conditions.

n. Franchisor's right of first refusal to acquire franchisee's business

Section [X]

Franchisor can match any offer for the franchisee's business.

o. Franchisor's option to purchase franchisee's business

Section [X]


p. Death or disability of franchisee

Section [X]

Franchise must be assigned by estate to approved buyer within a specified period.

q. Non-competition covenants during the term of the franchise

Section [X]

Franchisee cannot engage in competing businesses during the term.

r. Non-competition covenants after the franchise is terminated or expires

Section [X]

Non-compete applies for a specific period and within a certain distance after termination/expiration.

s. Modification of the agreement

Section [X]

Generally, no modifications allowed except for changes in the operating manual.

t. Integration/merger clause

Section [X]

Only the terms of the franchise agreement are binding, subject to state law.

u. Dispute resolution by arbitration or mediation

Section [X]

Most disputes must be resolved through arbitration, except for specific claims.

v. Choice of forum

Section [X]

Litigation must occur in the specified state, subject to state law.

w. Choice of law

Section [X]

The franchise agreement is governed by the law of the specified state, subject to state law.

This table should be clearly formatted with "THE FRANCHISE RELATIONSHIP" in capital letters and bold type, following the guidelines set forth by the FTC. If any provision is not applicable, it should be clearly stated as "Not Applicable." Footnotes should be used to describe policies that are not explicitly mentioned in the agreement but are offered as a matter of policy by the franchisor.

Best Practices for Franchisees

  1. Thorough Review of Terms: Before signing a franchise agreement, carefully review Item 17. Understanding the terms of renewal, termination, transfer, and dispute resolution is crucial for long-term success.

  2. Seek Legal Advice: Engage an attorney with experience in franchise law to review the FDD and the franchise agreement. This can help identify any unfavorable terms and negotiate better conditions.

  3. Maintain Compliance: Adhere strictly to the terms of the franchise agreement. Regularly review your operations to ensure compliance, particularly with financial obligations and performance metrics.

  4. Prepare for Renewal: Keep track of renewal deadlines and the requirements needed to qualify for renewal. Planning ahead can prevent last-minute issues that could jeopardize your ability to renew the franchise.

  5. Plan for Transfer: If you plan to sell or transfer your franchise, start the process early. Ensure that the potential buyer meets all the conditions set forth in the franchise agreement and obtain the necessary approvals from the franchisor.

  6. Utilize Dispute Resolution Options: If a dispute arises, utilize the dispute resolution mechanisms outlined in the agreement. Approaching disputes in a structured manner can help resolve issues more amicably and efficiently.

Legal Considerations and Compliance

Compliance with federal and state franchise laws is imperative for both franchisors and franchisees. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulates franchising at the federal level, and many states have additional laws and regulations that must be adhered to. Key legal considerations include:

  1. State-Specific Requirements: Some states have specific laws regarding the content and delivery of the FDD. Ensure that the FDD and franchise agreements comply with both federal and state regulations.

  2. Disclosure Obligations: Franchisors must provide the FDD to prospective franchisees at least 14 days before any agreement is signed or any payment is made. Failing to comply with these disclosure obligations can result in legal penalties.

  3. Good Faith and Fair Dealing: Both parties are expected to act in good faith and deal fairly with each other. This principle underpins many aspects of franchise law and can impact the enforcement of Item 17 terms.

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. What is the Franchise Disclosure Document (FDD) and why is it important?

The Franchise Disclosure Document (FDD) is a legal document that provides prospective franchisees with essential information about the franchisor and the franchise system. It includes details about the business, fees, legal obligations, and the franchisor's financial health. The FDD is important because it ensures transparency, allowing potential franchisees to make informed decisions before entering into a franchise agreement.

2. What are the typical renewal terms in a franchise agreement?

Renewal terms in a franchise agreement typically specify the duration for which the agreement can be renewed, any associated fees, and the conditions that must be met for renewal. These conditions often include compliance with the existing agreement, meeting performance benchmarks, and notifying the franchisor within a specific timeframe of the intent to renew.

3. Under what circumstances can a franchise agreement be terminated?

A franchise agreement can be terminated under various circumstances, such as breach of contract, failure to pay royalties, or the franchisee's bankruptcy. The agreement usually outlines specific actions or failures that can lead to termination, as well as the notice and cure periods. Some situations may warrant immediate termination without a cure period, such as fraud or criminal activity.

4. How can a franchisee transfer their franchise to another party?

A franchisee can transfer their franchise to another party by following the transfer terms outlined in the franchise agreement. This typically involves obtaining the franchisor's approval, meeting specific conditions (such as training and financial qualifications for the new franchisee), and paying any associated transfer fees. The franchisor may also have a right of first refusal to purchase the franchise before it is sold to a third party.

5. What are the advantages of mediation and arbitration in resolving franchise disputes?

Mediation and arbitration offer several advantages in resolving franchise disputes. Mediation is a voluntary process where a neutral third party helps the disputing parties reach a mutually acceptable solution, which is often quicker and less formal than litigation. Arbitration is a more formal process where an arbitrator hears evidence and makes a binding decision, providing a faster and typically less costly alternative to court litigation. Both methods can help maintain the business relationship by providing a structured yet amicable resolution process.

Contact an Experienced Franchise Attorney

Contact an Experienced Franchise Attorney

Understanding and effectively managing the terms outlined in Item 17 of the Franchise Disclosure Document is crucial for the success and longevity of a franchise relationship. Both franchisors and franchisees must be diligent in reviewing and adhering to these terms to ensure a smooth operation and to mitigate potential disputes.

If you are involved in franchising and need assistance with Item 17 or any other aspect of the Franchise Disclosure Document, contact an experienced attorney at Heritage Law Office. Our team is dedicated to providing knowledgeable legal support tailored to your needs. Reach out to us through our online form or call us directly at 414-253-8500 to learn more.

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