Budgens retailers are divided over the merits of face recognition and fingerprinting technologies currently being trialled by their peers.

A Budgens in north London is using a facial recognition system to keep a record of every person who tries to buy age-restricted products. The system, at three checkouts, records an image of the person's face.

When an age-restricted product purchase is attempted, the system searches for the face in its database and the cashier is informed via a red, green or yellow light whether the person is under age, over 18 or has not yet been added to the database.

Budgens stores in Parsons Green, south west London, and Woking in Surrey, are also using fingerprinting machines to track staff hours. Staff press their finger to a plate before starting their shift to record the time they started work.

Although a spokeswoman for Nivid Solutions, behind the fingerprinting software, said it was also being trialled in four other Budgens stores and could potentially be rolled out to as many as 20, Budgens retailers were not so sure.

"I think it's rather Big Brother and has unknown implications with human rights and civil liberties," said one retailer. "I won't use it." However, another retailer revealed he was already taking a photo of every age-related sale though his EPoS system.

Budgens owner Musgrave Retail Partners GB has distanced itself from the trials. "Retailers have their own initiatives," said a spokeswoman. "They are not endorsed by the company but we will look at implications and possibilities."