Toronto Star

Shoplifter demand letters often exorbitant


Re First-time shoplifter­s won’t face charges in pilot project, Nov. 26 Your article describes a practice of retailers, usually through the services of lawyers and paralegals, sending “demand letters” to alleged shoplifter­s, requesting that they pay a sum of money to avoid civil proceeding­s by way of a lawsuit against them.

As a lawyer, I have helped dozens of clients who have received these letters following an incident of shopliftin­g of a small-value item where police have not laid charges.

The letters are in very legalistic language and demand exorbitant amounts that bear absolutely no relationsh­ip to the value of the item taken (an often retrieved ) or the loss experience­d by the store in terms of security and other related costs.

In all my years of responding to such demand letters, I have never had a response to my request that the store or legal representa­tive provide an accounting of how they determined the sum of money they are demanding.

The basic first step in court is proving your losses. At most, the loss would be one hour of a loss-prevention officer’s wage and certainly not the amount claimed in these letters.

Many of us in the legal community view this practice as, at worst, extortion-like and moneygrabb­ing or, at best, bullying. Not a good reflection on our profession.

My suggestion: Do not pay until you are provided with an accounting. Gilda Berger, Toronto

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada