Shopper subjected to ‘preposterous’ words after IT system did not recognise her card payment.
A judge has ordered the Irish arm of retail giant Tesco to pay a west-Clare businesswoman €2,500 in damages after finding that the retailer defamed the woman at a Tesco checkout three years ago.
At Ennis Circuit Court, Judge Brian O’Callaghan stated that Marie Keane was subjected to “shocking” and “preposterous” words by a Tesco staff member at its Kilrush store on December 10, 2017 when the Tesco IT system didn’t recognise that Ms Keane had paid for her weekly shop by card.
Ms Keane of Cooraclare paid for her €69 worth of goods by card but was told by a Tesco staff member “your messages have not been paid for” and “there is no such thing as taking these messages unless you pay for them” when the IT system was unable to confirm that the sale had gone through.
Judge O’Callaghan stated: “There is no basis on which this court could even envisage how it could be reasonably believed that this lady could have stolen goods, so therefore the use of the words are quite shocking.”
Judge O’Callaghan stated Ms Keane “was entitled to go about her shopping without her reputation being attacked in this way”.
Ms Keane told the court she felt as if she had been put “in the dock” by the words and actions of Tesco staff.
Judge O’Callaghan stated he was satisfied that the actions of Tesco ”are injurious to Ms Keane’s reputation where she is a businesswoman in a small town”.
He said Ms Keane had been subjected to irate comments by a Tesco staff member at high pitch in full view of five or six people that were in the queue behind Ms Keane.
Judge O’Callaghan said that today, “one is almost afraid to into the a supermarket with cash”.
He said that once these large commercial entities decided to embrace IT rather than people, “it is not for the customer to prove to anyone that the money paid for items has left his or her account”.
“If there is any problem with that system, the onus rests on the shop to deal with the situation.”
Judge O’Callaghan said the IT system should have been updated or rectified and properly maintained.
It took over 30 minutes before Tesco could confirm that the sale had gone through.
In evidence, Ms Keane said that after Tesco was not able to confirm the sale had gone through, she was asked to re-insert her card
Ms Keane refused because she said a similar issue had occurred a number of weeks previously at the same outlet and she ended up paying for goods twice.
She said she was embarrassed and felt hard done by over what happened as there were three Tesco staff around her and five or six people in the queue.
Ms Keane didn’t have online banking and had to leave her goods at the store to go to her local bank to get a print-out to prove the goods had been purchased by her.
When she returned, Tesco staff were able to say the purchase had been made.
She said she was offered a voucher by the local manager, but she turned it down. After Judge O’Callaghan made the award, Ms Keane stated that she still shops at the Tesco outlet.