Before You Sign the Franchise Agreement

The franchisor's disclosures may change between the time you receive the FDD and the time you sign the franchise agreement. For example, the franchisor may have updated its FDD each calendar quarter and must update the FDD after its fiscal year ends. You have the right to ask for a copy of any updated information before you sign the agreement. An updated FDD may reveal new lawsuits were filed by or against the franchisor, changes in their management or training teams, more current financial performance data or other useful information.

Additional Sources of Franchise Information

Accountants and Lawyers

In addition to reading the franchisor's FDD - including any updates - and speaking with current and former franchisees, consider talking to an accountant and a lawyer. An accountant can help you understand the franchisor's financial statements, develop a business plan, assess any earnings projections and the assumptions they're based on, and help you pick a franchise system that is best suited to your investment resources and your goals.

A lawyer can help you understand your obligations under the franchise contract. These contracts usually are long and complex. A problem that comes up after you have signed the contract may be very expensive to fix - if it can be fixed at all. Choose a lawyer who is experienced in franchise matters, and rely on your lawyer or accountant for a recommendation about whether to buy a particular franchise.

Banks and Other Financial Institutions

If you need financing to buy a franchise, a bank lender may be able to provide you with a Dun & Bradstreet report or similar financial profile of the franchisor. The bank also might obtain sales and profit information from the franchisor, even if the franchisor won't give you that information. However, some franchisors give banks unrealistic, overstated profit projections so the bank will provide financing to expand the franchise system. Remember that bank approval of a franchise loan doesn't necessarily mean the franchise is a safe or good investment.

Better Business Bureau

Check with the local BBB in the cities where the franchisor has its headquarters and the city where you're thinking of buying a franchise. Ask whether there are complaints on file about the franchisor's products, services or personnel.

Government

Several states have registration or disclosure laws that regulate the sale of franchises. Some states have laws meant to protect franchisees after they buy. The FDD should include information about any such laws in your state. If the information isn't in the FDD, check with your state Attorney General's office, office of consumer affairs or state securities division.

The FTC

The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair practices in the marketplace and to provide information to businesses to help them comply with the law. To file a complaint or to get free information on consumer issues, visit ftc .gov or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261. Watch a video, How to File a Complaint, at www.ftc .gov/video to learn more. 

The FTC enters consumer complaints into the Consumer Sentinel Network, a secure online database and investigative tool used by hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.