Tim Hortons franchisee association accused of leaking information

VANCOUVER _ The board members of a group representing frustrated Tim Hortons franchisees have been accused by the restaurant’s parent company of helping leak confidential information, says The Great White North Franchisee Association, and will seek legal action against the company next week.

It’s the latest development in an ongoing battle between Restaurant Brands International and the GWNFA as they disagree over the company’s direction and management since RBI acquired the coffee-and-doughnut chain in 2014.

TDL Group. Corp., an RBI subsidiary, served default notices to all of the GWNFA’s board members on Sept. 18, according to a letter to Jon Domanko, RBI’s head of legal, that was posted to the association’s website.

“There is a small group of restaurant owners who continue to breach their licence agreements by leaking confidential and competitively sensitive business information to the media,” wrote a Tim Hortons spokesperson in an email.

Their actions “unfairly and negatively” impact other franchisees and the company has “taken appropriate action,” the spokesperson said.

In the letter, GWNFA president David Hughes denies the allegations that board members helped leak confidential information acquired by the newspaper The Globe and Mail.

“We have no knowledge as to how The Globe and Mail came into possession of any confidential information, assuming that it did,” Hughes wrote.

Hughes accused the company of trying to intimidate franchisees, who formed the association in March amid complaints by members that the parent company was using its power to extract more profit from them.

The company is “interfering with franchisees’ right to associate and directly or indirectly penalizing or threatening franchisees who choose to associate,” he said, threatening legal action that includes a claim seeking damages.

Patricia Jameson, a spokeswoman for the GWNFA, confirmed the association’s legal team will file a claim next week.

The association declined to comment further, and GWNFA counsel Peter Proszanski of Toronto-based law firm Himelfarb Proszanski did not immediately return a request for comment.

RBI has resented the rogue franchisee group for airing its concerns publicly.

CEO Daniel Schwartz has previously said he’d prefer if the group relayed its views privately. Despite previously snubbing direct contact with the association in preference of the company’s elected franchisee advisory board, he met with some of the GWNFA’s members several months ago.

However, those talks failed to resolve the issues as one of the association’s members later moved to launch a class-action lawsuit alleging RBI is improperly using money from a national advertising fund. The allegations have not been proven in court.

RBI has said in a statement that it vehemently disagrees with and denies all of the allegations.