Can I claim compensation if injured on Black Friday?
So called Black Friday - the day after Thanksgiving in the USA - when many Americans take the day off, has become the day when shops heavily discount certain goods and shoppers flock to seize the bargains. This year it falls on 27 November.
Consumers in the UK were first introduced to the idea of Black Friday in 2010, when Amazon began offering customers a range of special deals in order to boost sales, but the event really gained momentum when a number of retail outlets offered huge discounts "for one day only" in 2013.
This year retailers are heavily publicising the event to encourage customers to grab the bargain offers, but are they prepared for the chaos that they may create?
Last year as huge crowds tussled for cut-price, high value items, shoppers were knocked to the ground as they surged into stores, with one woman sustaining a broken wrist in the crush. Fights broke out - with people biting, pinching, punching and kicking each other - and threatening staff. Another woman was injured when she was hit by a falling television.
Police were called, some shoppers ejected from stores and some arrested.
What should be done to prevent injuries to shoppers and staff?
The Occupiers' Lliability Act 1957 states that an occupier of premises has a common duty of care to all his visitors to ensure that they are reasonably safe in using the premises for the purposes "for which he is invited or permitted by the occupier to be there".
This means that retail and shopping centre managers have a duty of care to ensure customers may shop safely and to identify any potential risks.
Within any store or shopping centre there are the usual health and safety risks such as slips, trips and falls on wet floors or spillages; falls on escalators or accidents with entrance doors. Injuries may be sustained from sharp edges or broken objects. These risks are heightened where there are large crowds jostling, plus managers also need to also consider that customers may be knocked over or crushed in the rush. They may also be more likely to be hit by objects falling from display.
Ensuring staff safety is also important. A "Freedom from Fear" survey by USDAW (the shop and retail workers union) found that more than half the workers interviewed had been verbally abused in 2014, and almost a third had been threatened by customers. Nearly 10% had been victims of physical violence, although only 72% had reported this to their employers. The number of incidents had increased in both frequency and severity where there were Black Friday events.
Last year's chaos prompted the then Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police, Sir Peter Fahy to criticise retailers for poor advance planning of their highly-marketed sales offers when police had to be deployed to deal with the fall-out of under-staffed stores.
Learning from last year's events, thorough risk assessments should be carried out, with systems to ensure public safety implemented. Crowd control and security measures are key to maximise safety and security for staff and customers.
Who is liable if a shopper sustains an injury?
If the injury can be demonstrated to have been caused by inadequate health and safety measures then it may be possible to bring a claim for compensation from the store or centre's management.
Injuries sustained through being assaulted are a criminal matter and not the responsibility of the store or shopping centre.
Will Black Friday continue?
With British shoppers spending £34m per hour last year, retailers seem keen to repeat Black Friday. Tesco insists that it has put security measures in place to ensure the event runs smoothly, however Asda - who was one of the original main promoters - has decided to abstain from the 'circus' this year.
We will see.