Coles has come under fire once again for introducing a radical new security measure to its stores.
The supermarket giant is already no stranger to controversy. Amidst the current rising cost of living crisis, there have already been numerous accusations of price gouging levelled at them from the general public.
Their most recent announcement has only added more fuel to the fire and has left many shoppers outraged, with some calling for a complete boycott of Coles stores.
Coles will be trialling staff body cameras across 30 stores in Queensland, Victoria, South Australia, and Western Australia. The company did not name the stores that will be participating in the trials but it is understood that these stores have been identified as “high risk” for theft and abuse of staff from customers.
The cameras will be affixed to staff uniforms and beam live footage back to upper management.
Coles transformation general manager Sophie Wong said that the cameras enable “us to understand in real time what is happening to our team members and the community as well,” when speaking to 7 News.
She also said that the cameras comply with Australian privacy laws and that any footage recorded would not be held onto “for any longer than a few weeks”.
SA Police Assistant Commissioner Scott Duval supported the trial, stating that it would help the police force combat “organised retail theft”. There have been reported cases of high-value items such as baby formula and high-end cuts of meat being stolen by racketeers for sale on the black market.
However, reactions from the general public were less than welcoming. On social media, many were quick to note that the potential for invasion of privacy was dystopian in nature.
Some commenters raised that the recent rise in shoplifting may be due to Coles’ price increases on necessities rather than being the result of organised crime. Other commenters suggested that Coles should either reduce their prices or employ more staff to combat theft and abuse instead.
Coles has reported that financial loss due to theft has increased by 20% over the past financial year. In spite of this however, they also managed to achieve $1.1 billion in profits.
Dr Monique Mann, Senior Lecturer in Criminology at Deakin University and Vice-Chair of the Australian Privacy Foundation, was highly critical of Coles’ approach in light of this statistic.
Speaking to news.com.au, she stated “Coles and Woolworths are recording massive (in excess of a billion dollars) profits amidst a cost of living crisis. Maybe they should think about that and try to alleviate cost of living pressures that rather than just expand surveillance and their profits.”