In April of 2015, the Supreme Court of Korea ruled that under Article 4; Article (9)(1); and Article 41(1) of the prior version of the Fair Transactions in Franchise Business Act (“Franchise Act”) damages may be obtained, from a franchisor, for all material omissions (Supreme Court 2014 DA 84824,84831, April 9, 2015) within Korean Franchise Disclosure Documents.
Monetary damages may be obtained under Article 37(2) of the Franchise Act of Korea and Article 56(1) of the Monopoly Regulation and Fair Trade Act of Korea for “material omissions” within Franchise Disclosure Documents and other document presented to prospective franchisees.
The damages may include the cost of build-out, rental, franchise fees and even, in some cases, lost opportunity costs. Additional, in some cases fines may be imposed, franchises can be de-registered and criminal charges may be brought against employees and management.
The Fair Trade Commission may, additionally, impose a fine, even if no sales/profits, have accrued to the franchisor up to KRW 500,000,000 (c. USD 450,000).
The opinion of the Korean Supreme Court clarifies what the Court will determine as “material.” The Court opined that if a franchisor fails to notify a prospective franchisee of a fact that may lead a franchisee not to invest in a franchise – the franchisor shall be deemed to have violated the Franchise Act of Korea and, thus, may be held liable for damages.
The Court noted it will look to “principles of experience,” thus, allowing the possibility of a court appointed expert to opine if a reasonable franchisee would invest in the franchise if the alleged fact was not omitted from the Korean disclosure document.
It is best, in Korea, to err on the side of inclusion. The most trivial may come back and bite. Disclosure of prior violations of the Franchise Act and Monopoly Regulation and Fair Trade Act; violations of law by management; prior cancellation of a franchise registration; and the nuts and bolts mandated in the States is required.
Please note that Korea has a disclosure requirement that requires a disclosure akin to what is found in the United States. The Korean government, often, requires the modification of Master Franchise Agreements, Master License Agreements and Franchise Agreements based on interpretations of the Franchise Act by the Fair Trade Commission of Korea. Thus, making it, often, necessary for more time to register a franchise than what is, typical, in the United States.
Plan ahead and, only, hire an attorney with foreign and domestic experience in franchising. Because of Korean-specific realities, have an experienced and still active retired judge as an active part of the team.
For more information on Korean Franchise Law, please search via the search box to the right or click on the Franchise Law label. We will be adding more Korean Franchise Law topics over the next few weeks.
- Privity of Contract in Franchise Agreements in Korea: Korean Franchise Law Updates
- Korean Franchisors’ Obligations in Korea to File Annual Report to Korean FTC
- Injunctions Against your Former Franchisee for Competing Against your New Franchisee: Korean Franchise Law/Injunction Basics
- A “Franchise” Defined under Korean Law: Franchise Law Basics
- Termination of a Franchise Agreement in Korea: Korean Franchise Law Basics
- Enforcement of Sales Promotions by Franchisors under Korean Franchise Law
- Registration of a Korean Franchise Disclosure Document under Korea’s Revised Franchise Law
- Changes to Korea’s Franchise Law May Lead to an Increased Potential for Criminal Sanctions: Franchise Law Basics
- A Franchisor may be Unable to Prosecute a Franchisee for Embezzlement in Korea
- Korean FTC Criminal Referral Guidelines: Monopoly & Franchise Korean Law Updates