Bag search policies

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Consumers have accepted the conditions of entry into a store if a notice asking them to display the contents of their bag is:

  • clearly displayed
  • visible before they enter the store.

Consumers can say ‘no’ to a bag search. In this situation, a store employee may:

  • ask them to leave. A store is private property, not a public place, so if a store employee instructs a consumer to leave, they must go
  • refuse to sell the consumer any products
  • call the police, if they believe the consumer has committed an offence such as theft.

Bag search policies are not expressly regulated by the Australian Consumer Law or other Victorian legislation.

The Australian Retailers Association (ARA) advises its members that when it is a condition of entry to a store, shopkeepers may check bags, cartons, parcels and containers that could reasonably be expected to conceal goods. However, it recommends that shopkeepers only check small, personal bags (the size of A4 paper or smaller) when they are certain the bag conceals unpaid-for goods from the store.

The ARA's advice is subject to the consumer’s right to say ‘no’ to a bag search. If consumers want to dispute a store’s claim, they should seek independent legal advice.