A Margaret River supermarket has come under fire for allegedly barring people under the age of 18 from entering the premises without adult supervision.
Margaret River students have reported being blocked from entering the Coles supermarket on Fearne Avenue, with at least one student experiencing an intimidating moment at the store.
Molly Quick, a student at Margaret River Senior High School, told the Mail she was with a friend on Thursday August 22 when she was denied entry.
"Straight after school at around 3:30pm, me and my friend went into Coles and put our backpacks down on the ground," said Ms Quick.
Store management requires students leave backpacks at the front of the store while shopping. The students removed money from their bags and proceeded to enter the shopping area, but were told they could not continue.
"A very large man acted like a security guard in the walkway near the Scoop and Weigh section, and told us 'no school kids are allowed entry'.
"At no stage did he tell us why we weren't allowed entry, although to be fair we didn't ask as we knew why based on school gossip, but I think he still could've told us.
"I showed him my bank card as if to prove I had the intention of buying and not stealing and asked, 'can I just get some cough lollies?' and he sternly said 'no'."
Although they complied with the request, the students said they felt the security presence was unnecessary.
He also used a fairly aggressive tone and had very staunch body language, which I think the aim was to act like a security guard and scare off the kids.Molly Quick, student
"The man was highly intimidating, which I think is important to include," Ms Quick said.
"This is mainly discrimination on age and by using an intimidating large man, I think most school kids were scared to ask questions as to why they aren't allowed entry, and to express their personal opinions on how wrong the act is.
"He also used a fairly aggressive tone and had very staunch body language, which I think the aim was to act like a security guard and scare off the kids."
Upon leaving, Ms Quick and her friend found more students gathered outside.
"There were multiple people shut down from entering that were standing outside unsure of what just happened, I'd say at least 30 people," Ms Quick said.
The Mail contacted the Coles Group for clarification on the ban, but did not receive a response in time for publication of this article.
Ms Quick contacted the Equal Opportunity Commission following the incident, believing she had been discriminated against due to her age. Another student, who did not wish to be named, expressed concern for young people who did not live in a parental home and needed to shop for themselves.
"I can't believe I have to have someone accompany me to buy sanitary items. Surely school kids are not the only ones responsible for shoplifting," the student said.
Margaret River Riverfresh IGA owner Debbie O'Connor said her store had not moved to bar young people from the premises.
"We have never banned teenagers or kids from entering or shopping at the store," she said.
"We do ask that schoolbags be left outside the store."
WA Equal Opportunity Commissioner John Byrne said stores could restrict access to people of a certain age where restricted items were being purchased.
If a store was selling goods and services that did not require a customer to be of a specific age to receive those goods and services and was placing unreasonable requirements on that customer to receive them because of their age, then the store's actions could be unlawful.John Byrne, WA Equal Opportunity Commissioner
"Under the Equal Opportunity Act 1984 it is unlawful to discriminate against someone because of their age in the areas of the provision of goods and services and/or access to places, however this is subject to exceptions including the requirement for a person to be of a certain age to receive those goods and services, such as purchasing alcohol," Dr Byrne said.
"If a store is selling goods and services which require a person to be of a certain age, by law, to receive the goods and services, then it would not be unlawful to refuse them service.
"If a store was selling goods and services that did not require a customer to be of a specific age to receive those goods and services and was placing unreasonable requirements on that customer to receive them because of their age, then the store's actions could be unlawful."
Dr Byrne encouraged people, or groups of people, who felt they had been discriminated against to put their complaint in writing. For information on how to make a complaint go to the Complaints section of the Commission's website at www.eoc.wa.gov.au.
Have your say
Do you think supermarkets should be allowed to ban a group of people based on their age? Do you think shoplifting is on the rise in the region?