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SIXTEEN franchisees have taken legal advice and quit a driveways franchise that they claim misrepresented its operation. All have lost their investment in The Driveway Doctor.
The company, based in Warrington, Cheshire, was set up in April 2002 and was known as The Drive Doctor until January. It is a provisional member of the British Franchise Association.
The franchisees run a mobile service cleaning and sealing driveways. One ex-franchisee is Chris Jarrett, 46, from Chester, who remortgaged his home to buy a franchise in April 2004 for £11,500, plus start-up costs of £13,000.
He says: 'It had very good marketing and was BFA registered. Without that I wouldn't have contemplated it.'
Chris and other ex-franchisees claim that while The Driveway Doctor's accounts of its pilot operation suggested profits of more than £1,000 a week could be made, the reality was very different. They claim the resin used on driveways was more expensive than anticipated and that franchisees had to buy large quantities or pay high management fees.
'On the pilot figures, materials were a third of costs, but it was nearer 50%,' says Chris. 'I was working 70 hours a week and turning over about £3,000 a month, but I still made a £5,000 loss in my first year.'
The weather was another factor. While franchisees accepted they could not work when it was wet, Chris claims that promised indoor contracts did not materialise. 'We were told there was a register for jobs such as cleaning factory floors, but there wasn't,' he says.
Chris and 15 other franchisees went to a solicitor in September last year. He helped them to get out of their contracts. 'It is going to take me another five years to pay off what I've lost,' says Chris, who is now running an independent driveways business.
The Driveway Doctor denies its resin was overpriced or that there was ever a target of a £1,000-a-week profit. It argues that it operates more than 20 successful franchises. The franchisor says of the commercial register that franchisees had to be operating for at least six months before being 'invited to apply' and none of the 16 asked to be involved in such work.. The BFA says it has not received any complaints about Driveway Doctor.
Chris Jarrett has set up his own driveways business after problems with his franchise