With Estonia set to decriminalize many offenses starting January 1, retailers say one of the changes - increasing the minimum threshold for criminal larceny - could encourage more extensive and better organized shoplifting.
Under the amendments, theft will only become a criminal offense at the 200 euro mark, up from 64 euros.
The spokeswoman for Rimi's Estonia subsidiary, Katrin Bats, told uudised.err.ee that property owners will face more bureaucracy to get justice in court, and that as a result the misdemeanor proceedings for petty larceny will be costlier.
"Misdemeanor proceedings will mean that the owner will have to take additional actions and incur more expenditure," said Bats, adding that most retailers will opt not to pursue action.
She said that shoplifters could well view the raising of the grand larceny minimum as an increase in their "deductible."
She said the optimum way for retailers to recover losses would be for the state to institute a system equivalent to a state fine, payable in 15 days, which could be collected by compulsory enforcement procedure, culminating in freezing of assets. Such a system could be used under the misdemeanor proceedings as well.
Kristi Lomp, director of another supermarket chain, Selver, said shoplifters were very much aware of where the legal limit lay.
She said it was unlikely that Selver would see an increase in theft beyond what is already priced in to the company's model, but said the logic of the change in the limit was wrong: more of a reflection of the current snapshot of the shoplifting situation and no guarantee that things could not become worse.
Under the Penal Code amendments, which affect 135 separate laws, many criminal sanctions will be phased out, but the basic monetary fine unit will triple. The number of punishable acts in what has been considered an overcriminalized system will drop from 1,300 to around 1,000.
Editor: K. Rikken