As a retail shop owner, you may decide to conduct a bag check when a customer leaves your store. 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. This article will set out how and when you can exercise the right to search the bags of your customers when they enter your store.

Bag Check Guidelines

First, as a shop or store owner, 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. This sign must be clearly displayed at all times, especially at all entrances for 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 bag to check the contents upon exiting the store. They are allowed to look into the bag but they are not permitted to touch any of the contents. If their view is obstructed, the customer is expected to move items within the bag so your employee can see properly. As an employee, you can ask the customer to move the contents. Importantly, your employees are not allowed to check bags which are the size of a piece of A4 paper or smaller unless they are sure the bag contains stolen items.

Your employees can ask a customer to leave the store and not to return if the customer refuses to allow staff to check their bag. It is also important to know that you could be charged with assault if your staff conduct the bag check without permission. This includes forcing a customer to open their bag, or physically touching a customer.

Your employees are allowed to detain a customer and call the police or shopping centre security where they suspect the customer has stolen items from the store. It is important to know that you could face action for false imprisonment if the customer is found not to have stolen anything.

Employee Bag Checks

Unfortunately, some retailers can experience theft by their own staff too. As an employer, this can be prevented by exercising your right to check their bags too. This can be done by including this policy within their Employment Agreement or company staff policy. It is important to set out the circumstances when this will take place and what will happen if they do not comply with the request. Some workplaces also install surveillance CCTV 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.

At LegalVision, our employment lawyers can assist you with drafting an employment agreement or workplace policies including bag check guidelines. Get in touch with our lawyers to understand your rights as a store owner to search bags.

Lachlan McKnight

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