Business threatened by 'bullying' rival
A small-business owner from Invercargill believes she is being bullied by a national franchise which she claims is trying to push her out of business by threatening legal action.
Sally and Ross Tily set up their professional kitchen cleaning business, VAT2013, last month, saying they saw a gap in the market for commercial kitchen services in Southland.
Their business started trading last week but they said they were under pressure to cease trading from the large kitchen cleaning franchise Cookright Kitchen Services.
The national franchise had sent her letters threatening legal action, she said.
A letter sent by Sally Tily, through her lawyer, to Cookright lawyers says it was a case of David and Goliath.
Tily believed she was being used as a scapegoat during a legal wrangle between Cookright and its former Southland Cookright franchisee, which closed after a dispute with Cookright.
In a solicitor's letter to Tily, Cookright claims she was working in association with the former franchisee and therefore breaking the terms of settlement between Cookright and the former franchisee.
The terms of settlement say the High Court has made an order restraining the former franchisee from operating within Southland, Invercargill or Central Otago, or 100 kilometres from those regions until December 31, 2015.
The letter says Tily was using the same premises, employees and vehicle as the former franchisee, with a similar name which had been used by the former franchisee for another business. The name was Vat Tech.
Tily said she had since changed the name of her business from Vat2013 to Professional Kitchen Services Southland.
She agreed she had employed a staff member who was made redundant from the former franchisee, but said none of the other allegations were true.
The staff member was not the franchise owner and she employed him because he was experienced and well liked in the community.
Tily said she was a family friend of the former franchisee owners and had helped them with their books, but did not seek their assistance in any way when setting up her business.
Various legal letters sent to Tily say that unless she ceases operating court proceedings will be issued.
"Cookright have pulled me into their legal battle with the former franchisees and are trying to put me out of business by saying they helped me set up my business, which is not true, I did this completely independently."
Tily's solicitor sent a reply to say she had nothing to do with any Deed of Settlement between the franchisee and Cookright and had never been part of a dispute or settlement.
The letter also alleges that potential clients who had indicated an interest in using the VAT2013 service had since said they were no longer interested because she would be in a fight in court and did not want the hassle.
Tily is a marriage and funeral celebrant and believes her reputation is in jeopardy.
"I feel that my reputation is at stake with the bullying tactics taking place. I am a nervous wreck; I am scared. I have done nothing wrong to be shut down," she said.
Cookright Kitchen Services managing director Steven McMullen said the company would not address the issue in public and would not comment without legal advice.
Two Cookright Kitchen Services staff members working in the region refused to comment.
The Southland Times