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Franchising has become a popular business model that allows entrepreneurs to expand their brand reach and market presence without the substantial risks associated with traditional business expansion. However, the relationship between franchisors and franchisees is subject to various legal considerations, including antitrust laws. Antitrust laws are designed to promote fair competition and prevent monopolistic practices. In the context of franchising agreements, understanding and navigating antitrust issues is crucial for both parties involved.

Understanding Antitrust Laws:

Antitrust laws aim to foster competition and prevent anti-competitive practices. The two primary antitrust laws in the United States are the Sherman Antitrust Act and the Clayton Act. These laws prohibit activities such as price-fixing, bid-rigging, market allocation, and monopolistic behavior. Franchisors and franchisees must be aware of these laws and ensure that their agreements comply with them.

Franchising and Antitrust Concerns:

  1. Market Allocation:
    • Franchisors must be cautious about provisions in their agreements that might be construed as limiting the geographic areas where franchisees can operate. Restricting franchisees to specific territories may raise concerns about market allocation, potentially violating antitrust laws.
  2. Price-Fixing:
    • Antitrust issues may arise if franchisors dictate fixed prices for goods or services sold by franchisees. While establishing guidelines for pricing consistency is common, setting strict price controls could be interpreted as price-fixing, a violation of antitrust laws.
  3. Tying Arrangements:
    • Tying arrangements occur when a franchisor requires franchisees to purchase specific products or services exclusively from designated suppliers. This practice may be considered anti-competitive, especially if it restricts franchisees from sourcing goods or services from alternative providers.

Best Practices for Franchisors:

  1. Clear Territorial Restrictions:
    • Franchisors should carefully define and justify any territorial restrictions in their agreements. These restrictions should align with legitimate business interests, such as protecting the brand and avoiding cannibalization of sales within a specific market.
  2. Pricing Guidelines, not Controls:
    • Instead of dictating fixed prices, franchisors can provide pricing guidelines that allow franchisees some flexibility. This approach helps maintain a competitive environment while ensuring consistency in pricing across the franchise network.
  3. Supplier Relationships:
    • Franchisors should avoid exclusive arrangements with suppliers that may limit franchisees’ ability to choose alternative vendors. Permitting some flexibility in supplier selection can mitigate antitrust concerns.

Best Practices for Franchisees:

  1. Evaluate Territorial Restrictions:
    • Franchisees should carefully review territorial restrictions and ensure they align with the overall business strategy. Negotiating clear terms on market exclusivity can help avoid potential antitrust issues.
  2. Understand Pricing Guidelines:
    • Franchisees should be aware of any pricing guidelines provided by the franchisor and ensure that they have the flexibility to set prices within a reasonable range. This allows for healthy competition within the franchise network.


Navigating antitrust issues in franchising agreements is crucial for both franchisors and franchisees to maintain a legal and fair business environment. By understanding the implications of antitrust laws and implementing best practices, parties involved in franchising can foster a competitive marketplace while enjoying the benefits of this widely successful business model. Legal counsel with expertise in both franchising and antitrust laws can provide valuable guidance, ensuring that agreements comply with regulations and stand up to legal scrutiny.