Do stores have the right to search your bag?

by The FindLaw Team

Have you ever wandered into a store and come under scrutiny by an all-too-vigilant shop assistant? No? Well, must be only this writer who comes under close observation when shopping. Moving right along… shoppers would be aware that most stores will have notices stating that they have the right to check a customer’s bag; and are they allowed to? Well, stores are entitled to set conditions upon entry and in a bid to curb shoplifting, can request to check a person’s bag; however, this right is subject to a few conditions.

Most consumers who visit a store would probably do so without giving the bag search policy a second thought, but customers should be alert to the fact that they do have legal rights and by being aware of them will prevent a retailer from potentially acting beyond the law. .

The law relating to bag searches

A customer enters a store under licence and retailers are able to search any bags, containers, parcels, or other items that may potentially be used to shoplift, however, retailers must display a prominent sign at the entrance stating that a condition upon entering the store, is the intention to check bags.

When a bag search is conducted no items are allowed to be touched with the retailer only able to look at the contents inside the bag. Customers do have the right to refuse to have their bag searched, but since a customer enters a store under licence, the retailer also has the right to ask a person to leave, therefore revoking the licence.

It’s important to note that not only can a customer refuse to undergo a bag check but in the event that the store forcibly conducts a search against the person’s wishes, a retailer may potentially find themselves in trouble for assault.

If a store has an absolute belief that a shop stealing offence has been committed, they can legally detain or search a customer but on the other hand if a customer has not stolen anything, the retailer may face an action of false imprisonment.


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