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As a retail store owner, you may decide to conduct a bag check when a customer leaves your store. In addition to CCTV surveillance, this policy may be useful to deter customers from stealing your goods and prevent stolen items from leaving the premises. This article will set out how and when you can exercise the right to search the bags of your customers.

Bag Check Guidelines

First, as a shop or store owner, you must clearly display a sign at the store entrance to show customers it is a condition of entry into the store that you intend to search their bag. This sign must be clearly displayed at all times, especially at all entrances to your store. For supermarkets, it is also common to have the sign displayed at every checkout counter.

Your employees have the right to ask customers to open their bags to check the contents upon exiting the store. They can look into the bag to search it, but they cannot touch any contents. If the customer’s other items are blocking your employee’s view, the customer is expected to move items within the bag so your employee can see everything. As an employee, you can ask the customer to move the contents.

Bag Check Consequences

Your employees can ask a customer to leave the store and not return if they refuse to allow staff to search their bag. However, you should know that if your staff conduct the bag check without permission you could face an assault charge. This includes forcing a customer to open their bag or physically touching a customer.

Your employees can call the police or shopping centre security where they suspect the customer has stolen items from the store. However, it is essential to know that you could face action for false imprisonment if you find that the customer did not actually steal anything.

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Employee Bag Checks

Unfortunately, some retailers can experience theft by their retail staff too. As an employer, you can prevent this by exercising your right to check their bags as well. You can do this by including bag search policies within their Employment Agreement or company staff policy. It is vital to set out the circumstances when this will occur and what will happen if they do not comply with the request. Some workplaces also install CCTV surveillance to monitor staff. While this is legal in certain circumstances, your employees should also consent to such policies in their employment agreement or staff handbook.

Key Takeaways

Conducting bag checks is an excellent way to prevent theft and ensure that you are experiencing as little loss of stock as possible. However, you must make sure that you do these bag checks in the correct manner. Otherwise, you may face legal consequences that could potentially be very serious. For example, you may be charged with false imprisonment and face action from law enforcement. If you have further questions about conducting bag checks, get in touch with LegalVision’s employment lawyers on 1300 544 755 or fill out the form on this page.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why should I check customers’ bags?

 In addition to surveillance of stores through closed circuit television (CCTV), this policy may be a useful strategy to deter customers from stealing your goods and prevent stolen items from leaving the premises.

How do I notify customers about bag checks?

 You must clearly display a sign at the store entrance to say it is a condition of entry into the store that you intend to conduct bag checks.

Do we need to ask permission to check a customer’s bags?

 Yes, you do. Your employees are allowed to look into the bag, but they cannot touch any of the contents. You could be charged with assault if your staff have conducted the bag check without permission. This includes forcing a customer to open their bag or physically touching a customer.

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