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AUSTRALIAN dealers now have a comprehensive guide to navigate the latest automotive-specific franchising code after its release this week by the Motor Trades Association of Australia (MTAA) and FCW Lawyers.

The guide, launched via webinar from Sydney, aims to help dealers and dealer councils through the latest franchise reforms with MTAA CEO Richard Dudley stating the aim would be for franchisees to get better agreements, fairer treatment and stronger relationships with OEMs and distributors.

These reforms have – and will continue to have as they and future updates become legislated – changed the way dealers can negotiate new agreements and manage existing and future relationships with OEMs, distributors and importers.

“The landscape has changed with a separate Schedule of Amendments to the Franchising Code specific for car dealers, mandating principles underpinning dealer agreements in that schedule, the inclusion of ‘Agent’ type agreements, overarching Franchising Code reforms, a Class Exemption for Collective Bargaining, and reforms to Unfair Contract Terms (UCT),” Mr Dudley said.

He told dealers and guests through the online launch that “we struggle when we deal with policy matters every day, to keep our heads around exactly what’s been going on.”

“So we didn’t think that it was unfair of our dealer constituents to also indicate to us that they’re struggling to actually see how parts of the jigsaw come together,” he said.

“There has been more regulatory reform in the past 12 months and in particular the last six months. That is very difficult and very challenging to get your head around.”

The MTAA and member associations and dealer groups constituents said they recognised “the quantum, interdependency and application of changes might be challenging”.

They called on one of Australia’s leading automotive franchising experts Robert Gardini, and the team at FCW Lawyers led by Sotheary Bryant, to produce a guide designed to assist dealers in navigating the reforms.

FCW Lawyers consultant Mr Gardini said the guide had been written specifically for dealers and dealer councils.

“In addition to being a comprehensive simple-English guide, importantly the guide provides a road map as to how dealers and dealer councils can use the various reforms to improve their commercial bargaining position in the most effective and efficient ways,” he said.

Mr Dudley said that after 10 years of putting the case before respective governments for a specific code for car dealers “the government has finally realised that it is an important part of the Australian economy.”

“We achieved last June a schedule of amendments to the franchising code, specific to car dealers,” he said.

“It’s important to note that car dealers are the only part of the Australian economy that has its own schedule in the franchising code, the regulations which govern the franchising agreements.”

The guide was launched last week and can be accessed through FCW Lawyers website https://fcwlawyers.com.au.

The MTAA will hold a Q&A panel event scheduled in Melbourne on Tuesday April 20 and then hold workshops around the country in following weeks. The MTAA is distributing Invitations to these events.

By Neil Dowling

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