Tesco Ireland ordered to pay damages to woman defamed at check-out

“If there is any problem with [IT] system, the onus rests on the shop to deal with the situation," judge said.
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Gordon Deegan

A judge has ordered the Irish arm of retail giant, Tesco to pay a businesswoman €2,500 in damages, after finding the retailer defamed her at one of its checkout three years ago.

At Ennis Circuit Court, Judge Brian O’Callaghan said Marie Keane was subjected to “shocking” and “preposterous” words by a Tesco staff member at its Kilrush store on December 10th 2017, when the Tesco IT system didn’t recognise that Ms Keane had paid for her weekly shop by card.

Ms Keane of Cooraclare in west Clare, 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 Tesco IT system was unable to confirm that the sale had gone through.


Judge O’Callaghan said: “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.”

Ms Keane told the court that she felt as if she had been put “in the dock” by the words and actions of Tesco staff.

Judge O’Callaghan 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.

IT favoured

Judge O’Callaghan 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," he said.

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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. She refused, as a similar issue had occurred a number of weeks previous at the same outlet, where she ended up paying for goods twice.

Ms Keane said she had to leave her goods at the store to go to her local bank to get a print out to prove that the goods had been purchased by her. When she returned, Tesco staff were able to say that 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 said she still shops at the Tesco outlet.

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