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Demanding proof of purchase: Is it legal?

| Crime and security

Demanding that customers produce a purchase receipt when leaving a shop with items bought from the store is not illegal and is a security measure within a shop owner’s right, the National Consumer Commission has said.

The commission was responding to an incident where Durban metro police chief Eugene Nzama would not allow a guard to sign off a purchase receipt after buying two storage boxes from the shop in Springfield Park.

The shop owner told The Mercury this week how Nzama then abused his power by having two “illegal” foreign security guards arrested after the incident, which was caught on camera.

NCC spokesman Trevor Hattingh said having a doorman checking the items being taken out against the till slip was a security control measure to prevent theft.

“It is not unlawful. There is nothing in the Consumer Protection Act which says a guard cannot check this. It is clearly a security measure to verify whether the person has actually paid for the amount of items,” he said.

Hattingh said it made sense for any shop, especially in a busy environment, to have such a measure.

“If you go to a store in affluent areas, you will find that they do not do that, but if you go to the locations, they have security guards who will check the till slips when you come out. The owners have done risk assessment and, in terms of that assessment, they decided to come up with a store policy. It is not illegal, it is a security matter.

“You would never have that in Sandton, but go to Alexandra and you would find that they have a security guard doing it - and it is informed by risk assessments that we done,” he said.

Consumer attorney Janusz Luterek also said there was no problem with asking for proof of purchase when leaving a shop.

“They can check the proof of purchase against the contents of a trolley of goods, but cannot check your handbag or body search you unless there is a sign which states that by entering the premises you agree and your bags may be searched,” he said.

Luterek disputed the notion that the practice was prevalent in former black townships and non-existent in upmarket areas.

“I have heard this before, but I shop at Makro and at Game and they check your till slip on the way out, even in the most affluent areas - the checking in these stores is colour blind, so to speak,” he said.

Consumer rights writer Wendy Knowler said if there was no notice at the shop entrance, a consumer could object and would be committing no crime.

“Clearly, stores which employ this practice are obliged to warn customers about it at the entrance to their stores,” she said.

Knowler said the signing of receipts was “apparently” done mainly in an attempt to thwart corrupt cashiers from failing to scan certain products put through the tills by friends or family members.

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The Mercury

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