The Great White North Franchisee Association’s U.S. branch is suing Restaurant Brands International, over a contract clause forcing all disputes between the two to be handled in a Florida court. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Tim Hortons franchisee association sues parent company over contract clause

TORONTO — An association representing at least half of Tim Hortons’ U.S. franchisees is suing the brand’s parent company, Restaurant Brands International, over a contract clause forcing all disputes between the two to be handled in a Florida court.

The Great White North Franchisee Association’s U.S. branch says restaurant owners should have their dispute handled in the state they are located.

GWNFA U.S.’s lawyer Robert Einhorn says the company is taking conflicting positions by trying to avoid U.S. taxes by saying it’s a Canadian company, but then arguing it’s a U.S. company to have lawsuits handled in its preferred area.

Einhorn hopes the lawsuit will help GWNFA U.S. win another it will file that accuses RBI of improperly using money from its advertising fund to defray overhead expenses. He says it will file the U.S. advertising fund lawsuit after a similar matter it is pursing in Canada wraps up.

The litigation follows months of public tension between GWNFA’s Canadian franchisees and the parent company over cost-cutting measures, cash register outages and a $700-million renovation plan to spruce up restaurants.

The tensions pushed Tim Hortons’ franchisee advisory board to write to GWNFA last month pleading with the group to stop airing their complaints publicly because they claimed it was damaging the brand and affecting owners’ livelihoods.

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