Can Businesses Force Customers To Wear a Face Mask?

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After the recent events at Bunning’s stores across the country, a question has been raised whether businesses can force their customers to wear facemasks. The short answer is, ‘yes’ and this is supported by the Australian Consumer Law and Contract Law.

Businesses who have notices outlining the conditions of entry in a visible place for customers to read, are essentially making a contract between the business and their customers. Australian Consumer Law outlines contract terms can be voided if they are unfair, one-sided, or cause financial loss to the clients. If a business can prove their customers have seen and had the opportunity to read the terms of the ‘contract’, the conditions of entry are enforceable. Therefore, it is important businesses display signage prominently, so customers cannot miss it.

An argument which has arisen from the ‘Bunning’s event’ is whether the ‘contract term’ is unenforceable on the grounds of discrimination. It has been concluded that it was appropriate for the business to enforce this condition, as the only grounds for discrimination is refusing entry for people with a serious disability, such as loss of mental or bodily function, disease and disfigurement. The discomfort customers are experiencing does not satisfy this, so there are no grounds for discrimination.

Businesses can find themselves in trouble for not maintaining a safe workplace for their staff, as well as not taking the appropriate precautions to prevent foreseeable harm to customers, which could result in negligence claims against the business.

Simply put, if a notice outside of a business informs its customers that they must wear masks, then the business can enforce this condition.

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