Stellantis' dealer and repair agreements are not franchise agreements
15 June 2023
On 24 May 2023, the Amsterdam District Court handed down an important judgment in a case brought by the dealer associations of the brands Opel, Peugeot, Citroën and DS. The dealer associations had asked the court to declare that their dealer and repair agreements with Stellantis Netherlands were franchise agreements.
A positive decision on the claim would have meant that the Franchise Act (Wet franchise), which came into force on 1 January 2021, applied to Stellantis Netherlands' distribution agreements (and probably also to those of other car importers in the Netherlands). This Act lays down information obligations for franchisers, both before and during the relationship, as well as certain consent obligations.
The legal definition of franchise agreement comprises various elements. All these elements must be present for an agreement to qualify as a franchise agreement. The District Court focused specifically on the element of the statutory fee owed for the right to use the franchise format. It observed in that regard that the dealer associations had not demonstrated that such a fee had been agreed, not even if it were assumed (as the legislature had foreseen) that it might have been factored into the price of the contract goods. For that reason, the District Court found that Stellantis Netherlands was not a franchiser.
Houthoff represented Stellantis Netherlands in this case. The team headed by Walter van Overbeek included Ginger van Breukelen, Joris Verboon, Sebastian de Bruijn, Albert Knigge, Isabella Wijnberg and Nadir Koudsi.