Lawful Obligations for Business
What Are the Legal Responsibilities for Businesses Regarding Lost Property?
The .gov.uk website comments on lost property legal responsibilities. However, as with the law on lost property, it is only suggestive in some areas.
Staff are not to benefit in any manner from lost property. This is because there will always be staff somewhere who notice an item of property on a table for instance who allows the customer to leave without the property with the idea of keeping the item themselves after 28 days as the "finder".
Also there will be instances where staff will have lost property already in their possession but consciously make no efforts to trace the owner so that they can keep the item. Further to this staff are more likely to have items handed to them by customers, increasing their chances of influencing what then happens to the property. The same goes for security at concerts and police for instance. So to eradicate these issues, staff are not to keep the items at all, Only have "possession" of them.
Make Reasonable Attempts to Trace the Lawful Owner
So, the law states that a finder MUST make reasonable attempts to trace the lawful owner relevant to the property and circumstance of finding. For example, find £5 on the floor in cafe and asking the people sat next to the table where you found it is reasonable as the value is small and the chance of finding the owner is minimal. Find a £600 iphone 6 under a restaurant table and the term reasonable shoots up.
What is Theft by Finding?
The term ‘theft by finding’ is wide too, but for a staff member to find that iPhone and keep it would constitute as ‘theft by finding’. It's obvious due to the value and circumstances of finding that there's no way that the lawful owner would have abandoned that phone. This is where reasonable attempt to trace lawful owner and reasonable amount of time to keep the phone "safe" comes in to play.
Disposing of Property
It's also against the law under the data protection act to recklessly dispose of property which can hold personal data such as laptops, tablets, phones etc. These would all need to be sent to a registered electronics recycler who responsible removes the data from the hard drive. These recyclers run a check to see if there is a lost or stolen report linked to the item or an insurance claim made.