Tesco sorry for shoplifting accusation

Chris McGarry with his mother Margaret

Tesco has apologised to a shopper, who was taken aside in his local branch of the supermarket and accused of trying to steal a trolley full of groceries. Chris McGarry was with his mother Margaret in Bedlington, Northumberland, when he says he was humiliated by the actions of staff.

So what happened, and what can you do if you are falsely accused like this?


According to the Daily Mail, McGarry had paid for his shopping moments before the accusation. However, staff had been confused by his movements. When he initially tried to pay for his shopping, his card was refused, so he left the trolley behind and popped to the bank to withdraw money from a different account. He returned, and paid, then left with the shopping.

The toing and froing alerted staff that something unusual was going on, but they jumped to the wrong conclusion. They took him aside on the way out, and accused him of shoplifting. He produced the receipt and pointed out the assistant who had served him. The supervisor was also called over to confirm he had paid. He told the Mail that he had complained afterwards, and the store apologised and offered him a £5 voucher, but he said this has done nothing to make up for the humiliation he suffered.

Your rights

Shoplifting costs stores millions of pounds every year, so staff will be on the lookout for anything they deem suspicious. They will successfully stop thousands of people every year and discover they have been taking goods without paying. However, they will also stop thousands more innocent people by mistake. If this happens to you, it's worth knowing your rights.

The first step is likely to be a security guard approaching you and asking to check your bags for stolen property, or asking to see your receipt. You are within your rights to refuse, but they may well call the police to come and check instead, so if you are innocent you may prefer to let them prove it without a fuss.

Your receipt is your first line of defence, which goes to show how important it is to take it and keep it somewhere safe while you're out shopping.

If you have made a genuine mistake or something has fallen into your bag, ask the security staff to check the security camera footage, which should prove this was an error.

The best bet throughout all of this is to explain your innocence clearly and to stay calm. It's upsetting, but the best way to resolve a misunderstanding is by controlling your emotions rather than getting carried away

If you are unable to prove your innocence, the store will have a policy on how to deal with you. They may ban you from the shop without any police involvement. Alternatively they may call the police and you may be given a caution. If you have stolen something expensive, you may be prosecuted.

Once the police are involved, you should get advice immediately. Your local Citizen's Advice Bureau is a great place to start. They will be able to explain your position and put you in touch with lawyers who can help.

10 consumer rights you should know
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Tesco sorry for shoplifting accusation

The law states that any goods you buy from a UK retailer should be of satisfactory quality, as described, fit for purpose and last a reasonable amount of time.

This applies even if you buy items in a sale or with a discount voucher. You may have to insist on these rights being respected, though.

Useful phrases to use when you want to show you mean business include, "according to the Sale of Goods Act 1979" and, if it's a service, "according to the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982".

Some shops will allow you to exchange goods without a receipt, but they can refuse to should they wish.

If the goods are faulty, however, another proof of purchase such as a bank statement should work just as well.

If you attempt to return goods within four weeks of the purchase, your chances of getting a full refund are much higher as you can argue that you have not "accepted" them.

After this point, you can only really expect an exchange, repair or part-refund.

The updated Consumer Credit Act states that card companies are jointly and severally liable for credit card purchases of between £100 and £60,260 (whether or not you paid just a deposit or the whole amount on your card).

Anyone spending between these amounts on their credit card is therefore protected if the retailer or service provider goes bust, their online shopping never arrives or the items in question are faulty or not as described.

Start by writing to the agency asking it to either remove or change the entry that you think is wrong. It will investigate the matter and find out whether you have been the victim of ID theft or a bank's mistake.

Within 28 days from receipt of your letter the agency should tell you how the bank has responded. If the bank agrees to change the entry, they will authorise the agency to update their records. They should also send updates to any other credit reference agencies they use.

You can also contact your lender directly to query a mistake. If the lender agrees to the discrepancy, ask them to confirm this in writing on their letterhead and send a copy to the agency, asking them to update your file.

The FOS settles disputes between financial companies such as banks and consumers.

If a financial organisation rejects a complaint you make about its services, you can therefore escalate that complaint to the FOS - as long as you have given the company in question at least eight weeks to respond.

The FOS will then investigate the case, and could force the company to offer you compensation should it see fit.

Bailiffs are allowed to take some of your belongings to sell on to cover certain debts, including unpaid Council Tax and parking fines.

They can, for example, take so-called luxury items such as TVs or games consoles. However, they cannot take essentials such as fridges or clothes.

What's more, they can only generally enter your home to take your stuff if you leave a door or window open or invite them in.

You are therefore within your rights to refuse them access and to ask for related documents such as proof of their identity. If they try to force their way in, you can also call the police to stop them.

Private sector debt collectors do not have the same powers as bailiffs, whatever they tell you.

They cannot, for example, enter your home and take your possessions in lieu of payment.

In fact, they can only write, phone, or visit your home to talk to you about paying back the debt. As with bailiffs, you can also call the police if you feel physically threatened.

Thanks to the Distance Selling Regulations, you actually have more rights buying online or by phone than on the High Street.

You can, for example, send most goods back within a week, for a full refund (including outward delivery costs), even if there's no fault.

You will usually need to pay for the return delivery, though. The seller must then refund you within 30 days.

We enter into contracts all the time, whether it be to join a gym, switch energy supplier or take out a loan.

In most cases, once you've signed a contract, you are legally bound by it. In some situations, however, you have the right to cancel it within a certain timeframe.

Credit agreements, for example, can be cancelled within 14 days. And online retailers must tell you about your cancellation rights for any contract made up to stand up legally.


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