The company restraining order system has been in place in Sweden since March 2021 and, according to Svensk Handel, a sister organisation of the Finnish Commerce Federation, the system has been effective: three out of four individuals that have been issued an order have complied with it. The Finnish Commerce Federation and the Federation of Finnish Enterprises say that a similar system is also needed in Finland.
“Unfortunately, the threat of violence and disruptive behaviour are part of everyday life in commerce, where means to intervene in challenging situations are needed. It is also worth noting that the threat of violence is not always related to theft, but the threshold to use violence in the event of theft is very low,” says Chief Policy Adviser Terhi Kuljukka-Rabb from the Finnish Commerce Federation.
A company restraining order could be largely equivalent to a regular restraining order sought by a private person, but in this instance the one seeking the order would be a company. The requirements for issuing the order would be defined in legislation. The restraining order or “ban” would be issued by a district court or, if necessary, by a police officer for the duration of the judicial proceedings. An appropriate penalty would be issued for an infringement of the order.
In the drafting of the law in Sweden, a largely unanimous decision was made that stores needed additional security against crime. The bill was considered to be in line with restricting an individual’s freedom of movement. According to the federations, like in Sweden, the development of services and new technologies offer a variety of ways to access necessary services other than visiting a store in person. In Sweden, the regulation will be extended to public swimming pools and libraries. Extending the applicability of the legislation to other sectors should be considered in Finland as well.
Threat of violence and disruptive behaviour in stores is commonplace
According to a recent consumer survey by the Finnish Commerce Federation,1 Finns have witnessed disruptive behaviour from other customers in customer service situations more frequently than before. According to the 2017 survey, 36% of Finns had witnessed disruptive and inappropriate behaviour from other customers in various customer service situations, and the figure now is 44%. Disruptive behaviour has become more common in the commerce sector, in particular, where already 23% of customers have witnessed such behaviour, while the corresponding figure was 15% five years ago.
The most common instance of such behaviour is another customer criticising, name-calling or otherwise treating the employees inappropriately. One in three customers have also had to witness the unnerving or threatening behaviour of an intoxicated customer towards the employees.
“Shoplifting and petty theft causes expenses of hundreds of millions of euros in the commerce sector every year, which makes the conditions for entrepreneurs, growth and employment in the commerce sector challenging. In addition to large expenses, it is important for the well-being of customers and employees that there is a willingness in Finland to address disruptive behaviour and theft by strengthening the legislation,” says Head of Legal Affairs Tiina Toivonen from the Federation of Finnish Enterprises.
“This is not only about the losses suffered by the commerce sector, but, ultimately, the losses and security services are paid by honest customers in the form of higher prices,” says Toivonen.
Human suffering and financial losses
At worst, witnessing or being threatened with violence can lead to fear, exhaustion or even incapacity for work.
“Ensuring safety at work is a statutory obligation of the employer and, at the moment, employers do not have the resources to address all situations that arise. A location-specific restraining order would be more efficient and less burdensome to the judicial system, especially in cases where the harassment is targeted at more than one person,” says Terhi Kuljukka-Rabb.
Disruptive behaviour and property damage cause major direct costs to companies. Exact estimates on the financial losses the disturbances cause companies are not available. The survey conducted by Turun Sanomat for Turku-based retailers in April–May 2022 (TS: 3 April, 1 May, 3 May) provides an indication: the respondents reported the damage of a single food store to be EUR 500–30,000 last year. The size of the store does not directly affect the damage.
All in all, the price tag is considerable for the whole Finnish society. Naturally, especially small companies, who have limited resources for intervening in the disturbing situations, suffer from the current situation.
1The Finnish Commerce Federation and Kantar TNS survey was conducted during weeks 41–42 in October 2022. The sample included 1,500 web users aged 20–79. The reference material of the survey is from 2017, when Kantar TNS conducted a similar consumer survey in the same way.
Terhi Kuljukka-Rabb, Chief Policy Adviser, the Finnish Commerce Federation, tel. +358 (0)50 300 3263, terhi.kuljukka-rabb(at)kauppa.fi
Tiina Toivonen, Head of Legal Affairs, Federation of Finnish Enterprises, tel. +358 (0)41 528 5679, email@example.com