Example of a conditions of entry sign
There is currently no specific legislation dealing with business owners rights to check customer's bags or search a person. However, you can set conditions of entry. These conditions can include presenting bags, parcels, cartons, or containers for checking by staff.
One method of displaying conditions of entry is using prominently displayed notices that clearly set out conditions of entry. The notices must be as large as practicable and displayed at a point where they can be seen clearly prior to entry to the business.
Customers entering a business that has prominently displayed the conditions of entry imply they have accepted or consented to the conditions of entry.
Carrying out bag checks
The following should be considered when carrying out bag checks:
- All bags, parcels, cartons or containers of sufficient size to be able to conceal item/s may be checked.
- Any request to check bags should be polite and courteous.
- Any checks conducted should be made to minimise the degree of intrusion.
- Staff should request the customer personally open the bag.
- Staff should not physically touch the customer or bag at any time.
- If an object obstructs the view into the bag, staff may ask the customer to remove the obstruction. Staff should not touch the obstruction themselves.
What to do if a customer refuses to have their bag checked?
In a situation where a customer refuses to have their bag checked as specified in the conditions of entry:
- Request the customer speak to the manager about the conditions of entry.
- Explain the conditions and point out the signs outlining the condition of entry.
- Once you have explained the conditions, ask again to check the bag.
- Do not enter into arguments over checking any bags or suspected theft.
You cannot detain someone just because they have refused to let you check their bags. You must have reasonable grounds for detaining them.
Training your staff
Anyone involved in checking bags should be trained properly in the legal procedures and requirements relating to bag checking. This should include citizen's arrest, shopstealing prevention, shopstealing detection and the process for excluding a person from your business premises.
Refusing entry of customer bags
Some businesses don't allow bags to be taken into their premises. Instead, they have a nominated area (inside the business) where bags may be left.
If you do decide to nominate an area where bags are to be left prior to entering the business, ensure you can offer security of the bag and its contents. It is also wise to display a sign that states you will not be liable for any losses - however, be aware that displaying such a sign does not remove your liability in the event of any losses received by the customer (such as the customer's bag or its contents being stolen).