Mediation and franchise agreements – best practices
We have seen in a previous post the advantages of mediation as an alternative dispute resolution method in franchise agreements. From there, what recommendations could we give to make better use of mediation? Although we will have to adapt them to each specific case, the following points could be very useful:
- Specifically foresee in the contract a mediation clause as an alternative dispute resolution method. Although the franchisee and franchisor can agree to mediate once the conflict arises without having reflected it in the contract, it will surely be more complicated to do so when both have already initiated the discrepancies. It is preferable, therefore, to do it before: it places the parties in a better predisposition, they will be able to choose the procedure in a better way, as well as the institution, the mediator, the formalities, etc.
- If the parties have agreed on a mediation agreement, this may be initiated at the request of only one of them, without having to re-reach an agreement.
- The mediation clause is also recommended, because once an application for the initiation of mediation has been agreed upon, the limitations period of the legal actions will be suspended until the termination of the mediation.
- By virtue of this agreement and having initiated the mediation, the courts will not be able to hear such controversies during the time in which the mediation takes place, provided that the interested party invokes it.
- In the clause, it is convenient to foresee some elements, such as what issues may be the subject of mediation (all or only some of them), the need or not of a previous negotiation, adequate deadlines to avoid that this procedure can be used to delay other ways, the applicable law to mediation and to the agreement reached with it, the competent jurisdiction for the adoption of precautionary measures, where appropriate, or the jurisdiction or arbitration to settle the dispute in case of failure of mediation.
- It is true that one of the principles of mediation is its voluntary nature. However, the existence of the clause and being obliged to attend at least one informative session before initiating any judicial procedure can convince of its advantages even the most reticent party.
- Include the mediation as an alternative dispute resolution method within the pre-contractual information that the franchisor must deliver to potential franchisees. Although the Spanish norm does not seem to expressly demand that reference be made, this seems an optimal moment to show transparency and the will to solve possible problems in an agile manner. It also predisposes the good understanding, cooperation and good faith of the franchised brand before the beginning of relations.
- Appropriately select the mediation institution to which to refer in case of conflict or foreseeing the best way to choose the most appropriate mediator. Currently there are many institutions or professionals that offer guarantees of impartiality. It may be relevant that it is a mediator with specific training, who facilitates the communication and confidence of the parties and, insofar as possible, who can fully understand the nature of the franchise. There are institutions in Spain such as the Signum Foundation (http://fundacionsignum.org/) or MediaICAM of the Madrid Bar Association (https://mediacion.icam.es) that can be good choices.
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