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The Florida Statutes

The 2017 Florida Statutes

Title XXIII
MOTOR VEHICLES
Chapter 320
MOTOR VEHICLE LICENSES
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F.S. 320.641
320.641 Discontinuations, cancellations, nonrenewals, modifications, and replacement of franchise agreements.
(1)(a) An applicant or licensee shall give written notice to the motor vehicle dealer and the department of the licensee’s intention to discontinue, cancel, or fail to renew a franchise agreement or of the licensee’s intention to modify a franchise or replace a franchise with a succeeding franchise, which modification or replacement will adversely alter the rights or obligations of a motor vehicle dealer under an existing franchise agreement or will substantially impair the sales, service obligations, or investment of the motor vehicle dealer, at least 90 days before the effective date thereof, together with the specific grounds for such action.
(b) The failure by the licensee to comply with the 90-day notice period and procedure prescribed herein shall render voidable, at the option of the motor vehicle dealer, any discontinuation, cancellation, nonrenewal, modification, or replacement of any franchise agreement. Designation of a franchise agreement at a specific location as a “nondesignated point” shall be deemed an evasion of this section and constitutes an unfair cancellation.
(2) Franchise agreements are deemed to be continuing unless the applicant or licensee has notified the department of the discontinuation of, cancellation of, failure to renew, modification of, or replacement of the agreement of any of its motor vehicle dealers; and annual renewal of the license provided for under ss. 320.60-320.70 is not necessary for any cause of action against the licensee.
(3) Any motor vehicle dealer who receives a notice of intent to discontinue, cancel, not renew, modify, or replace may, within the 90-day notice period, file a petition or complaint for a determination of whether such action is an unfair or prohibited discontinuation, cancellation, nonrenewal, modification, or replacement. Agreements and certificates of appointment shall continue in effect until final determination of the issues raised in such petition or complaint by the motor vehicle dealer. A discontinuation, cancellation, or nonrenewal of a franchise agreement is unfair if it is not clearly permitted by the franchise agreement; is not undertaken in good faith; is not undertaken for good cause; or is based on an alleged breach of the franchise agreement which is not in fact a material and substantial breach; or, if the grounds relied upon for termination, cancellation, or nonrenewal have not been applied in a uniform and consistent manner by the licensee. If the notice of discontinuation, cancellation, or nonrenewal relates to an alleged failure of the new motor vehicle dealer’s sales or service performance obligations under the franchise agreement, the new motor vehicle dealer must first be provided with at least 180 days to correct the alleged failure before a licensee may send the notice of discontinuation, cancellation, or nonrenewal. A modification or replacement is unfair if it is not clearly permitted by the franchise agreement; is not undertaken in good faith; or is not undertaken for good cause. The applicant or licensee shall have the burden of proof that such action is fair and not prohibited.
(4) Notwithstanding any other provision of this section, the failure of a motor vehicle dealer to be engaged in business with the public for 10 consecutive business days constitutes abandonment by the dealer of his or her franchise agreement. If any motor vehicle dealer abandons his or her franchise agreement, he or she has no cause of action under this section. For the purpose of this section, a dealer shall be considered to be engaged in business with the public if a sales and service facility is open and is performing such services 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, excluding holidays. However, it will not be considered abandonment if such failure to engage in business is due to an act of God, a work stoppage, or a delay due to a strike or labor difficulty, a freight embargo, or other cause over which the motor vehicle dealer has no control, including any violation of ss. 320.60-320.70.
(5) Notwithstanding any other provision of this section, if a motor vehicle dealer has abandoned his or her franchise agreement as provided in subsection (4), the licensee may give written notice to the dealer and the department of the licensee’s intention to discontinue, cancel, or fail to renew the franchise agreement with the dealer at least 15 days before the effective date thereof, specifying the grounds for such action. A motor vehicle dealer receiving such notice may file a petition or complaint for determination of whether in fact there has been an abandonment of the franchise.
(6) If the complainant motor vehicle dealer prevails, he or she shall have a cause of action against the licensee for reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs incurred by him or her in such proceeding, and he or she shall have a cause of action under s. 320.697.
(7) Except as provided in s. 320.643, no replacement motor vehicle dealer shall be named for this point or location to engage in business and the franchise agreement shall remain in effect until a final judgment is entered after all appeals are exhausted, provided that, when a motor vehicle dealer appeals a decision upholding a discontinuation, cancellation, or nonrenewal based upon abandonment or revocation of the dealer’s license pursuant to s. 320.27, as lawful reasons for such discontinuation, cancellation, or nonrenewal, the franchise agreement shall remain in effect pending exhaustion of all appeals only if the motor vehicle dealer establishes a likelihood of success on appeal and that the public interest will not be harmed by keeping the franchise agreement in effect pending entry of final judgment after such appeal.
(8) If a transfer is proposed pursuant to s. 320.643(1) or (2) after a notice of intent to discontinue, cancel, or not renew a franchise agreement is received but, prior to the final determination, including exhaustion of all appellate remedies of a motor vehicle dealer’s complaint or petition contesting such action, the termination proceedings shall be stayed, without bond, during the period that the transfer is being reviewed by the licensee pursuant to s. 320.643. During the period that the transfer is being reviewed by the licensee, pursuant to s. 320.643, the franchise agreement shall remain in full force and effect, and the motor vehicle dealer shall retain all rights and remedies pursuant to the terms and conditions of the franchise agreement and applicable law, including all rights of transfer until such time as the licensee has accepted or rejected the proposed transfer. If the proposed transfer is rejected, the motor vehicle dealer shall retain all of its rights pursuant to s. 320.643 to an administrative determination as to whether the licensee’s rejection is in compliance with the provisions of s. 320.643, and during the pendency of any such administrative proceeding, and any related appellate proceedings, the termination proceedings shall remain stayed without bond, the franchise agreement shall remain in full force and effect, and the motor vehicle dealer shall retain all rights and remedies pursuant to the terms and conditions of the franchise agreement and applicable law, including all rights of transfer. If a transfer is approved by the licensee or mandated by law, the termination proceedings shall be dismissed with prejudice as moot. This subsection applies only to the first two proposed transfers pursuant to s. 320.643(1) or (2) after notice of intent to discontinue, cancel, or not renew is received.
History.s. 9, ch. 70-424; s. 1, ch. 70-439; s. 3, ch. 76-168; s. 1, ch. 77-457; ss. 6, 16, 17, ch. 80-217; ss. 2, 3, ch. 81-318; s. 6, ch. 84-69; ss. 11, 20, 21, ch. 88-395; s. 4, ch. 91-429; s. 373, ch. 95-148; s. 22, ch. 2001-196; s. 2, ch. 2007-195; s. 3, ch. 2017-187.