Bob purchases an item from ACME stores Ltd but it was stolen from him before he left the store. Bob would like to request a replacement or refund. Whose loss is this? Whose property was stolen (presumably by another visitor to the shop), and if Bob’s, is ACME liable due to it taking place on their property?

  • 1. Unclear why you're asking whose property was stolen when you said Bob purchased the item subsequently stolen. 2. Whether ACME is liable must depend on the circumstances. If ACME promised to look after the property while Bob did some more shopping then ACME may be liable. If Bob just left the property on the shop floor and wandered away, whereupon it was stolen, then it seems unlikely ACME is liable.
    – Lag
    Jul 20 at 18:53
  • 2
    @Lag The question is at what point exactly does the item legally cease to be the company's property and legally becomes the purchaser's property. Obviously that may not be the time when a layman thinks it happens.
    – gnasher729
    Jul 21 at 7:43
  • The question is "whose property was stolen" - so obviously OP thinks that "buying an item" and "the item legally becoming my property" might not happen simultaneously.
    – gnasher729
    Jul 22 at 16:36

2 Answers 2


When Bob buys a thing, it becomes his, and it ceases to be the property of the seller. By "buy", we understand that to mean "pays for and receives physical control of". At that point, Bob is responsible to control of his new property. His ownership of the property is not contingent on him leaving the store.

You might assign blame to the shop if they were negligent in some way, for example if they hire a thief to do the exit-check and the door guard takes Bob's property. Obviously, the thief is ultimately liable, but the store might under special circumstances be liable if they indirectly caused his loss. A store does not have an obligation to guarantee that a customer immediately and securely exits the store after making a purchase, so they are not liable for failing to immediately eject him from the store after buying the goods.

  • In Germany, it becomes your property when you leave the store with the purchased item. A mate of mine bought an expensive used car, paid for it, and left it at the garage for final cleaning. When he returned to pick it up there had been a fire and "his" car had gone up in flames. Seller insisted it was my mate's car and he should claim on the insurance. My mate insisted it wasn't his car yet, they couldn't deliver the car that he had purchased, so the deal was off. He won and got his money back.
    – gnasher729
    Jul 22 at 16:40

Bob’s loss

Unless there is a term in the contract where the seller maintains risk in the item until it leaves the premises. Such terms are not uncommon in contracts where a product is to be shipped but generally wouldn’t apply in a brick and mortar establishment.

There is a case on point in where a bank was not liable for money stolen from customers during a robbery in which the fly-up screens were activated - anything outside the screens, including a just made withdrawal that the customer had not touched was held to be at the customer’s risk. From memory, the bank may have covered the losses as a PR gesture even though they were not liable.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .