By Aimee Chanthadavong

Representatives of the Australian Retailers Association, COSBOA, The Pharmacy Guild of Australia and Victorian and NSW Small Business Commissioners were among a room of people that attended the Retail Leasing Issues forum, hosted by the Franchise Council of Australia (FCA) on Wednesday.

The main purpose of the gathering was to have an open discussion about the issues franchisors were faced with when it came to dealing with retail tenancy, including addressing FCA’s proposal to introduce a Retail Leasing Code of Conduct.

However, there was a no show from the Shopping Centre Council of Australia who on Monday sent out a ‘special report’ e-newsletter slamming the FCA for its proposed introduction of a code saying: “Most sensible people would support replacing the existing state and territory regulation of retail tenancies with a single national approach but this is not what the FCA has in mind. Instead the FCA is apparently proposing an additional national code of practice which would sit on top of the existing state and territory legislation.”

In defence to this, FCA executive director Steve Wright said: “We’re not about trying to create new rules but we’re trying to create a standard rule of conduct.” 

Wright also highlighted the conduct would prevent the ‘pot plants’ strategy from further occurring. This is where landlords, particularly larger shopping centres, are putting pressure on tenants to sign leases by convincing them that there are other potential tenants wanting the space.

Other issues raised included the needed for great transparency between tenants and landlords, which the code of conduct would address. Currently, tenants are required to supply landlords, mostly shopping centres, with their annual earnings, which according to the retail representatives at the forum are causing an unlevel playing field.