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A UK supermarket chain is offering shoppers the option of authorising payment for their groceries using their fingerprints. Three Co-op stores in the Oxford area are trialling "Pay by Touch" in what's said to be the first European use of the technology.

The scheme, which is free to use, means supermarket customers can avoid using either cash or credit cards when visiting the stores. Users can register at participating stores or at home (providing they have a fingerprint scanner handy, that is). Customers supply their bank details on registration. Fingerprint-authorised transactions are subsequently deducted from their accounts.

Older people or people who work with their hands and have worn fingerprints – such as builders – may not be able to use the technology. The kit is already widely used in the US, where an estimated 2.3m shoppers have registered to pay with their dabs at 2,000 participating retail outlets.

A Midcounties Co-operative supermarket spokesman told the BBC: "It offers us a slight edge over the competition". The technology's debut in the UK comes just three weeks after supermarkets were obliged to switch over to Chip and PIN as a more secure method of authorising credit and debit card transactions. Refitting point of sale terminals to accept Chip and PIN cards was a major undertaking so it seems doubtful whether fingerprint technology will enjoy widespread use in the UK anytime soon. ®

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