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Government Franchises

The consideration that is given by a person or corporation in order to receive a franchise from the government can be an agreement to pay money, to bear some burden, or to perform a public duty. The primary objective of all grants of franchises is to benefit the public; the rights or interests of the grantee, the franchisee, are secondary. A corporation is a franchise, and the various powers conferred on it are also franchises, such as the power of an insurance corporation to issue an insurance policy.Various types of business—such as water companies, gas and electric companies, bridge and tunnel authorities, taxi companies, along with all types of corporations—operate under franchises.

The charter of a corporation is also called its general franchise. A franchise tax is a tax imposed by the state on the right and privilege of conducting business as a corporation for the purposes for which it was created and in the conditions that surround it.

Power to Grant The power to grant franchises is vested in the legislative department of the government, subject to limitations imposed by the state constitution. A franchise can be derived indirectly from the state through the agency that has been duly designated for that purpose, such as the local transportation agency that can grant a franchise for bus routes. Franchises are usually conferred on corporations, but natural persons can also acquire them. The grant of a franchise frequently contains express conditions and stipulations that the grantee, or holder, of the franchise must perform.

Not every privilege granted by a governmental authority is a franchise. A franchise differs from a license, which is merely a personal privilege or temporary permission to do something; it can be revoked and can be derived from a source other than the legislature or state agencies. A franchise differs from a lease, which is a contract for the possession and profits of property in exchange for the payment of rent.

Regulation Once a franchise is granted, its exercise is usually subject to regulation by the state or some duly authorized body. In the exercise of police power—which is the authority of the state to legislate to protect the health, safety, welfare, and morals of its citizens—local authorities or the political subdivisions of the state can regulate the grant or exercise of franchises.

Right to Compete While a franchise can be exclusive, exclusiveness is not a necessary element of it. Nonexclusive franchises—including those to function or operate as a public utility—do not include the right to be free of competition. The grant of such a franchise does not prevent the grant of a similar franchise to another entity, or lawful competition on the part of public authorities. The holder of a nonexclusive franchise is entitled to be free from the competition of an entity that does not have a valid franchise to compete. The holder can institute a proceeding for an injunction—a court order that commands or prohibits a certain act—and monetary damages for the unlawful invasion of the franchise.

Duration The legislature can prescribe the duration of a franchise. The powers of local authorities or political subdivisions of the state depend upon the statute that confers the power to make grants and upon any constitutional limitation.

A franchise can be terminated by the mutual agreement of the state that is the franchisor, and the grantee or the franchisee. It can be lost by ABANDONMENT, such as when a corporation dissolves because of its fiscal problems. A mere change in the government organization of a political subdivision of a state does not divest franchise rights that have been previously acquired with the consent of local authorities. A franchise cannot be revoked arbitrarily unless that power has been reserved by the legislature or proper agency.

Forfeiture A franchise can be subject to FORFEITURE due to nonuse. Misuse or failure to provide adequate services under the franchise can also result in its loss. The remedy for nonuse

The 15th, 19th, and 24th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution guarantee the rights of franchise, or suffrage, to all citizens.

or misuse lies with the state. Persons other than the state or public authorities cannot challenge the validity of the exercise of a franchise unless they can demonstrate that they have a peculiar interest in the matter distinct from that of the general public.

Invasion of the Franchise A person or corporation holding a valid franchise can obtain an INJUNCTION to prevent the unlawful invasion of the franchise rights and can sue for monetary damages if there has been financial loss as a result of the infringement.

Transfer of Franchises Subject to applicable constitutional or statutory limitation, franchises can be sold or transferred. Where the franchises involve public service, they cannot be sold or transferred unless there is authorization by the state. The person or corporation purchasing the franchise in an authorized sale takes it subject to its restrictions.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationFree Legal Encyclopedia: Filiation Proceeding to Freedom from encumbranceFranchise - Government Franchises, Private Franchises