Shopkeeper backs out of using Internet Eyes system

A shop owner who installed a controversial CCTV system in three of his stores, including one in Cromer, in a bid to deter shoplifters says he has taken the decision to stop its use after complaints and worries from customers.

Jinx Hundal gave the go-ahead for Internet Eyes to install their equipment in three of his Budgens stores, at Cromer, Brundall and Prince of Wales Road, Norwich on Wednesday, March 2.

The equipment was linked to the Internet Eyes CCTV website, in which viewers from around Europe, Argentina and Canada, are challenged to watch footage from the stores and look out for criminals, with the promise of cash prizes of up to �1,000 for those who help to catch the most criminals.

Viewers collect points by watching the cameras, which show CCTV images in real-time, and click a button every time they see something suspicious taking place, which sends an alert to the store.

Mr Hundal signed up for a six-month trial, after he heard about the site from a friend and had decided to use it in a bid to deter shoplifters who were becoming more and more of a problem.

And he did receive 12 alerts, one of which turned out to be successful.

But just over a week after Internet Eyes went live in the store, he has shut down the hardware and says he is ending the trial after concerns were raised by customers at a customer forum meeting, which he regularly holds to get feedback and advice from shoppers.

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He said: 'The last thing I wanted to do was upset my customers. I have spoken to customer via our customer forum and there have been concerns raised, with customers saying they were uneasy about being views by members of the public. For me it is important that I listen to customers and I react to their needs.

'I made a mistake and I am genuinely sorry for that.'

He has also said he is now going to look at other avenues to detect shoplifting, and will be contacting Norfolk Police about what other methods he could put in place.

Mr Hundal has also posted a notice in the doors of all three shops which reads: 'I have taken the decision to the Internet Eyes trial at this store with immediate effect.

'I have taken this decision following a number of complaints from customers and the general public.

'I would like to apologise for any stress / concerns caused to any customers. It was not my intention to have caused this.

'I have clearly made an ill-judged decision to trial this at this store.

'I am human and have clearly made a mistake on this, to which I am sorry.

'I would be happy to discuss this or any other issues with anyone who wishes to do so. Please simply call in and ask for me,'

Plans for the Internet Eyes site were first touted in 2009, but the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) watchdog delayed the launch of the service until October last year while they carried out an investigation amid complaints about people's privacy rights being breached.

But the site is now up and running after the ICO said the company could continue with the launch, but asked for certain restrictions to be included, namely that subscribers had to be over 18 and that they should pay a fee to join – from �1.99 a month to �12.99 for a year.

So far, 34 businesses across the UK and Canada have signed up and the Budgens stores were the first in Norfolk to go live.

When the website launched, civil rights campaigners condemned it, saying there was no control over what could happen to the images.

Tony Morgan, who set-up the Internet Eyes site, said: 'The intention behind the Internet Eyes service has always been to protect the retailer and their patrons.

'We are disappointed that the trial has met with opposition and fully support the retailer's decision to end the scheme.'

Mr Hundal holds regular customer forums at his shops, which anyone is welcome to attend to raise any issues.

The next meetings are at the Cromer store on Thursday, April 7 at 6pm and the Brundall store on Friday, April 8 at 1pm.

People can also write to him at J & P Retail Group, Head Office, 10-11 High Street Cromer, NR27 9HG.