kindle 300x168 Now you can go compare prices of Kindle books and iBooks. Sort of.

photo by kodomut on flickr.

A UK online bookstore is being hailed as the ‘Go Compare’* of the digital publishing world, after becoming the first e-tailer to stock all three main formats of ebook, Kindle, ePub and iBooks.

UK sales of digital books increased last year by 20 per cent to £180m, according to the latest figures from The Publishers Association and the demand for eBooks in the UK continues to rise, fuelled by the growing popularity of digital readers such as Amazon’s Kindle and titles by bestselling authors including Stieg Larsson.

Peter Crawshaw, Director and Co-Founder of Lovereading.co.uk , says “having the world’s first one-stop shop will greatly benefit consumers, making comparing and buying eBooks as simple and straightforward as possible.”

Not that we are cynical you understand, but we thought we’d have a go. We started with current trendy book The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest which costs £5.24 in paperback, £6.89 on ePub and £2.44 on Kindle. But there was no price comparison for iBooks. We then tried Harry Potter, and couldn’t find an iBook comparison price on any of them.

In fact, it took us a while, but we did eventually find a comparable book. Bloody Valentine by James Patterson, could be purchased in Kindle format for £1.56, which would save you 23p on the ePub price of£1.79 and a massive 43p on the iBooks price £1.99. All of which, incidentally, were more than the paperback price of £1.49. Or if Jeffrey Archer is more your thing, his latest novel The Fourth Estate sells for £7.99 on iBooks, £5.70 on Kindle or £5.24 in paperback.

Much of the problem is that Apple’s iBookstore is less well-stocked than your local Big Society funded library, so finding an e-book that you are interested in reading is the first challenge. And when you do find one, it is likely to be cheaper on Kindle, in paperback or both. So why bother? Even better, why not just read the millions of free eBooks that are out there- either because they are out of copyright or because we handily located these sources of free reading material for you last Christmas. We just keep on giving.

Anyway, nice try lovereading, but we ain’t buying it.

* other price comparison websites are available.

It’s that time of year again, when women across the country start thinking about finding swimwear for the summer. And as a responsible retailer of the people, Debenhams recently surveyed 14,000 of their own customers to find out what women were aiming for on the beach stakes.

The results revealed Raquel Welch and Kim Kardashian to be top of the beach bods. Sasha Nagalingam, Swimwear Buyer at Debenhams, said “Despite a forty year age gap between Raquel and Kim, the voluptuous shape they have in common is clearly coveted by women across the country.”

British TV newcomer, Amy Childs from The Only Way is Essex also made the list, further confirming the trend for ample bosoms and curvy hips. Sasha continued, “Looking great in a bikini is not about being a stick-thin teenager. Our results show women appreciate womanly bodies of all ages.”

Which makes it all the more surprising that their swimwear body shape guide is, well, less about about curves and more about stick-thin teenagers.

body4 Voluptuous Debenhams come up with new spot the body shape gameTake this lovely lady. Is she the quintessential pear shape- narrow of shoulder and coy of breast yet ample of buttock? Actually no, this lady is classic hourglass, boobs, bum and tiny waist. Apparently.

body3 Voluptuous Debenhams come up with new spot the body shape game

Or how about this one? She surely can’t be apple shaped- reasonable boobs, smaller bum but big fat tum with that tiny waist, so she must be athletic (slim built, in need of boob padding), right? Er, no. Clearly, with that  unnoteworthy chest and humungous arse she is pear shaped. Sigh.

In fact, if you look at all four Debenhams swimwear models side by side, you’d be hard pushed to know which was supposed to be any particular body shape, with the titles cunningly removed. And none of these girls could really be described as voluptuous or ample.

Come on Debenhams- at least pretend you mean what you say…

body52 499x159 Voluptuous Debenhams come up with new spot the body shape game

Screen shot 2010 10 25 at 08.25.00 How the supermarkets are disrupting our digital livesYesterday, Tesco announced it had taken a majority stake in Blinkbox, an online on-demand service for films and television shows. Today, tech site gdgt is carrying a commentary about Amazon‘s likely move into tablets. It’s an opinion that seems widely supported; the online retailer is apparently developing a tablet device, likely to be manufactured by Samsung, and likely to be marketed as a mainstream, low-cost alternative to the iPad.

Why is Amazon doing this? Because the retailer can make more money by aiding consumption. If Amazon creates a device for facilitating content, customers are likely to buy more from them. The same is exactly true of Apple; the sale of an iPod or an iPhone generates a one-off profit, but once in the hands of a user they’re a money-making conduit, selling music, apps and video to the owner for the lifetime of the devices. Hardware is profitable, but it’s far easier to make money by skimming revenue from the sale of content.

Amazon and Tesco are uniquely placed to disrupt; they’re established hubs of commerce – whether virtual or online – and they already have mainstream traction. They can add new product lines and delivery channels whenever they like – and they do; Amazon has obviously far outstripped its humble bookshop personae, while the Tesco brand has been stretched across new platforms and dozens of products and services to become synonymous with value.

The step into hardware didn’t prove too difficult for Amazon; they realised they could own and control a far greater share of the e-book market by creating the device that facilitated consumption. It took four years and three generations of product, but the Kindle is now very much a mainstream consumer product that will only grow in popularity.

Tesco may follow a very similar path with their acquisition of Blinkbox. They already have a consumer base that is purchasing third party content from them, but while DVD sales are hardly Tesco’s focus, the company can create a new delivery platform and instantly take a stake in on-demand media and establish themselves in what is still an embryonic market. And like Amazon, Tesco are perfectly placed to go beyond simply delivering the content, and create the hardware too; low-cost set-top boxes that aggregate many other on-demand services. Hardware, on-demand entertainment, monthly subscriptions, brand broadband servies and a mainstream consumer base – Tesco genuinely could deal a blow to current players like Sky and Virgin.

Nobody really saw it coming five years ago, but there’s now the very real prospect of an online bookstore and a supermarket disrupting the digital future and determining how we consume entertainment. But it’s not because they are global corporations with infrastructure and wealth, although that undeniably helps. It’s not about whether they are proficient in technology or recognised as entertainment brands. It’s because these businesses are inextricably rooted in community – they’re already an integral part of our routines and livelihoods. You don’t have to knock on a door to make a sale if you’re already in the house.

Fat tax – could you stomach it?

April 18th, 2011 15 Comments By Thewlis

DonnaSimpsonUnclothed 186x300 Fat tax   could you stomach it?Some things that come out of the good old US of A are good. Like Angelina Jolie. Or hamburgers. Other things are not so good.

Now, the state of Arizona has come up with Fat Tax, a levy of $50 (£30.60) a year for Medicaid patients who, let’s say, have let themselves go a bit. An Arizonian offical said “We want to be able to provide health care to people, and we want to stretch our dollars as far as we can. Part of that is engaging people to take better care of themselves.” People like 44 year old Donna M Simpson (pictured) whose weight is currently a mere stone short of her age, and who is well on the way to reaching her target weight of 72 stone, which would make her the heaviest woman alive. Or dead.

But putting this American oneup(wo)manship aside, those crafty US sorts may have come up with an alternative solution to the prospect of NHS cuts in this country. If we charged every fatty an annual fee for utilising NHS services, or maybe even only those affected by weight, we could make up some of the shortfall. We could even have a sliding scale starting at BMI of 26 (the ‘official’ definition of overweight).

Sounds plausible, in theory, but there are some issues that would need ironing out. For example, my own BMI might perhaps, possibly be a teeny smidge higher than 25, but I *do* have very heavy bones. And I have long hair. That’s got to weigh a couple of stone at least right?

So what do you think? A fat tax for porkers? A fag tax for smokers? A fun tax for wan…

[The Sunday Times]

If you’re a consumer-facing company, whether or not you bother with Twitter should be a no-brainer. Customers are able to discuss your brands and your products in public – they’re may be praising them, but you can be sure they’ll criticise them given the slightest provocation. So as a business, you have a choice; ignore the criticism and let it spread, or be part of the conversation to provide balance, support customers and correct mistruths.

Thorpe Park are on Twitter but their etiquette leaves a lot to be desired – to the point where they’ve been threatening teenage girls.

Avid Bitterwallet reader Kip got in touch with us about an incident that occurred yesterday. A Twitter user mentioned there had been a fatality on a ride at the theme park; the original tweet appears to have disappeared, but from the reaction of those involved, it doesn’t appear to have been sent with any malice. They were simply repeating a rumour that turned out to be untrue, but not before several other Twitter users responded and forwarded on the message.

It’s this repetition that caught the attention of Thorpe Park PR, who responded in typical knee-jerk reaction by sending a denial and veiled threat to anyone who mentioned it:

Picture 15 500x303 Its only their PR skills that died at Thorpe Park yesterday

Aside from Thorpe Park not being able to spell, the Twitter users they repeatedly menace for libelling them are teenagers; specifically fans of X Factor finalists One Direction. They’re kids – presumably Thorpe Park’s target market. That doesn’t stop the theme park’s PR team going on to harass another two teenage girls:

Picture 21 500x200 Its only their PR skills that died at Thorpe Park yesterday

You may think anyone claiming to be a fan of One Direction deserves the heavy-handed approach, but the fact is there were plenty of different ways Thorpe Park could have handled themselves instead of threatening teenagers. The PR people are right – it’s not a rumour you want circulating unchallenged – but Twitter users usually prove to be their own checks and balances. A lighter approach reassuring people that no deaths had occurred would have easily quelled the rumours – senselessly shouting about libel over and over again is only going to cause further attention.

So back to where we came in. Engaging customers – and potential customers – on Twitter is easy enough to do. Doing it well, without menacing overtones of douchebaggery, is considerably harder.

spotify logo Pirates are jumping the shark over Spotifys new serviceTo read the output from tech blogs this morning, you’d think Spotify had strangled a bagful of kittens in public. Maybe they well have, or indeed are planning to do so, but that isn’t what’s caused a meltdown in today’s coverage of the service.

In case you don’t know, Spotify is a music player that lets you create and stream playlists from millions of tracks. There’s a free service which limits usage and plays commercials; there’s an Unlimited subscription for £5 per month that has no restrictions; and there’s Spotify Premium for £10 per month that allows you to save playlists offline and sync your collection with your mobile.

Spotify has today announced that it’s changing the restrictions on the free service; instead of being able to stream 20 hours of music a month, new users will only be able to do so for the first six months, after which they’ll only be able to stream 10 hours a month. Also, new users signing up from May will only be able to stream an individual track five times.

To reiterate; Spotify isn’t axing its free service. It still exists and will continue to do so. Spotify are restricting their free service, because it’d be a idiotic business plan that sees a company give away free music to everyone forever. Spotify pays music labels for every track streamed, and since the service is likely to launch in the US shortly, there’s a good chance that the current model of usage won’t scale as well.

Regardless, the point of the free service is to encourage subscriptions – you trial it, you discover the various feature sets, you like it and you subscribe. It’s a business, after all, not some global initiative to ensure every man woman and child can listen to La Roux.

And yet, the first to comment on Spotify’s blog dismissed any suggestion of change out-of-hand, and did so in the most ridiculous way:

Picture 14 499x76 Pirates are jumping the shark over Spotifys new servicePicture 2 500x120 Pirates are jumping the shark over Spotifys new service

Those are perhaps two of the most selfish, self-absorbed comments I’ve ever read on a blog. Justifying piracy as a valid alternative to paying £5 a month for an all-you-can-eat music service is nonsensical. People who want to pirate music will no doubt continue to do so, but the fact remains that the justification for doing so made sense when the music industry held a monopoly on pricing and platform. That simply doesn’t exist now; there are dozens of digital start-ups are finding innovative ways to fund music distribution at minimal cost.

The sentiment has toppled the wrong way; pirates can’t claim to be sticking it to The Music Man anymore when third party services now provide access to music for pennies. It isn’t about liberating music or pleading poverty; it’s lazy and spoilt, and you can’t claim to value a product you are prepared to pay nothing whatsoever for, no matter how low the price goes.

As the founder of Instapaper, Marco Arment said: “People will pay for something they like because they want to ensure its future.” And as another commenter posted on the subject: “Saying piracy is free isn’t a good answer.”

postman pat special delivery service swimbag Postman Pat, Postman Pat, Postman Pat is another FatCat

I *think* it's his letters that you can have "anything anytime anywhere". But it could be his package.

Remember Postman Pat? There’s a knock, ring, letters through your doooor. Well, a few years ago Pat got a revamp for the 21st Century- in addition to now having a wife and son (called Julian – the son not the wife), Greendale now has some politically correct ethnic minority characters (Ajay the train driver and Sarah the vet) although somehow he has the same cat. Perhaps its stuffed.

Anyhow, while the vagaries of children’s television may or may not interest you, Greendale’s new ‘Special Delivery Service’ got me thinking- given that Pat delivers one parcel a day, and the SDS run a motorbike, truck and helicopter service (as well as his old van), how much must it cost to send one parcel Special Delivery in Greendale? £34,147?

And then it came to me. This must be one of those schemes where everyone pays over-the-odds for postage so that some rural village can get their postie to fly a parcel 2 and a half miles. A quick check of Royal Mail revealed that yes, we are.

Yesterday’s  record 5p rise in the cost of sending standard letters weighing up to 100g by first-class post, bringing the cost up to a massive 46p means we are a long, long way from the penny black. The cost of a second-class stamp has gone up 4p to 36p. A first-class, large letter stamp has risen by 9p to 75p, and by 7p to 58p for second-class mail. Even with inflation running higher than planned these days, these increases are excessive.

But it’s OK, there is a quango overseeing postal prices to make sure we’re not all shafted. Um. Regulator Postcomm gave its blessing permission for the increase in November, and the plans were announced by Royal Mail a month later. Quel surprise.

Moya Greene, CEO of Royal Mail Group, said that the decision had not been taken lightly.

“We have thought carefully about these increases as we are conscious of the difficult economic circumstances our customers are facing,” she said. Thought carefully, but still decided to go ahead and sting us all anyway.

“With the sharp declines in mail volume, our revenues are falling. That means if we do not generate more income, we will simply not be able to keep funding our six-days-a-week collection, sorting, transport and delivery operation to the UK’s 28 million homes and businesses.”

Well, they say that, but surely every other business in the UK is facing similar issues? Why should Royal Mail consider themselves immune and put prices up by record levels? Oh yes, it’s because they have a monopoly.

After all, Royal Mail letters more than doubled its profit in 2010 to a not inconsiderable £121m.  Could they not shave a bit off their profit? Or perhaps we could ask their top paid executive, Adam Crozier, who (including share options) was paid over £2.4m in 2010-  or the three executive directors who together took home over £5.5m

I’m not buying the sob story. But I will be paying through the nose to post a letter. And I bet it won’t even be Pat delivering it.

Barclays Wealth 300x257 Which is the crappest bank? Drumroll please...

...and they're keeping it

The FSA, responsible for the protection and enhancement of the stability of the UK financial system (and we all know what a good job they’ve been doing recently) has today published a league table of the worst offenders for the number of customer complaints in the last half of 2010.

The far and away winner of the dubious prize is Barclays banking division, with a massive 205,151 complaints, which is over 25% more than the number two on the list, Santander at 165,052, and more than third and fourth place combined (Lloyds TSB and NatWest banks, with 89,811 and 87,271 complaints respectively). Lloyds TSB’s general insurance and protection division made up the last of the top five.

So why are Barclays so bad that they are generating over 1100 official complaints a day, and that’s just on their banking operation- Barclays’ general insurance and protection division came in further down the top ten.

A Barclays spokesman was at pains to point out that they were only the worst in the banking section, and that there were four other sections they could have been worse in. Furthermore, Barclays consider they are moving in the right direction as these figures actually showed a 4% improvement on the previous figures. Whoop de doo.

Barclays’ general insurance division was also worst at closing complaints, with only 65 per cent of cases dealt with in eight weeks- NatWest managed to close 98 per cent of its complaints in the same timeframe.

Antony Jenkins, chief executive of Barclays Global Retail Banking, said: “Barclays is committed to reducing the number of complaints it receives and making substantial improvements to the overall service we provide customers. Our customers can be reassured we are making progress and are taking action to address the reasons our customers complain. Customers can expect to see improvements in our service in 2011.”

While it is good to know that Barclays do not think this is good enough, and that they are, apparently taking steps to “address the root cause” of the problem, we at BitterWallet do not think that a 4% reduction in complaints, which “reflects the work they have put in to customer relations” is, quite frankly, good enough.

With the latest accounts showing a profit before tax on the UK retail banking operations alone of £989m, we think they can afford to be a bit nicer to their customers…

Ryanair New Plane Logo 214x300 Screw mum over this Mothers Day with Ryanair vouchersFrom the department of stating the bleeding obvious, it’s Ryanair and their molecule-thin attempt to part you and your cash:

Ryanair confirmed that while Mother’s Day may be just around the corner 90% of mothers prefer going on holiday without their kids, while almost 30% would prefer a holiday without their partner and the kids.

The survey of 5,000 mothers across Europe, by Ryanair Mother’s Day Gift Vouchers, also found that 95% of mothers prefer to avoid other peoples’ children when travelling.

Ryanair’s Stephen McNamara said: “All mothers have to do is drop the kids off at the grandparents’ house on the way to the airport.”

Why, that’s delightful! All she has to is drop the kids off and turn up at the airport! That’s all!

Except for the bit where she books her flights and get stung by a £5 administration fee for using the vouchers, despite the vouchers being delivered by email and only being redeemable with Ryanair.

Oh, and the bit where she loses any balance between the cost of her flights and the value of the vouchers, which are only available in £25 or £50 denominations.

And the frustration of not being able to use the vouchers to take a partner with her if she wants to, because the vouchers are only valid for the named individual.

And the irritation of having to stump up a credit fee if the total cost of her flights exceed the value of the vouchers, regardless of how little the amount is.

Hopefully Mum will be savvy enough to clear the cookies on her browser to avoid getting completely screwed over by Ryanair’s thoughtfulness.

sink 300x225 Are we spending less, or just spending smarter?

In the olden days, people used to wash dishes in one of these... photo by SheCat

In advance of tomorrow’s Budget, few people are expecting good news from the Chancellor, and new figures from eBay suggesting that 68% of people think the Budget will hamper future spending. If you are planning on spending your money on beer, fags and petrol, you may have a point there.

The eBay survey interviewed 2,000 UK adults and of these, 49% said that January’s VAT increase has had a noticeable impact on their cost of living and 41% have intentionally reduced their spending since the rise. So you could say that most people do not think the VAT rise has impacted their cost of living and have not reduced their spending then.

But it’s OK. We have more stats to try and force the point. According to eBay (the first place most people go to buy useless crap big ticket household appliances), sales of dishwashers dropped by 7% and fridges and freezers by 12% in January 2011, when traditionally sales increase by 7% and 9% in January.

Shock horror. However, sales of dishwashers were up 40% in December and fridges and freezers 37%, when normally the month on month increase is 12% and 9%.

Of course what this means is that rather than the population being on the breadline, and not even being able to afford a dishwasher for God’s sake, more of us are just using our noggin and bought big things in December to beat the VAT rise. Which is kind of a no-brainer, a bit like this survey.

Still, it’s OK – we have someone to blame. 57% of survey respondents hold the previous Labour Government responsible, and 40% find the current Coalition Government at fault.

banking referee 200x252 Hold on to your outrage  it’s World Consumer Rights DayNo, it really is. On 15 March 1963, President John F Kennedy first outlined the concept of consumer rights, and the date has been celebrated as a call to action ever since. Well, since 1983 anyway.

The World Consumer Rights Day group was set up to “promote the basic rights of all consumers, for demanding that those rights are respected and protected, and for protesting the market abuses and social injustices which undermine them.” Kind of exactly the same as what we do here at BitterWallet. But probably with fewer nob jokes.

As if the concept of a whole day dedicated to consumer rights weren’t exciting enough, since 2003, each year has had a different theme, and today’s is “Fairness in Financial Transactions”. No bandwagon jumping going on here, I am sure.

So have you seen or heard of any WCRD events going on near you? No? Well that’s because YOU haven’t done anything about it. You must

“Take action

Of course, tomorrow, all these well-meaning people (in America) will go back to their hum drum lives, just waiting for WCRD 2012 (untitled) to bring some excitement back into their lives. We at BitterWallet do not have that luxury. We cannot go back to our lives and ignore the consumer injustice that threatens our very existence.

We will fight on, tomorrow, Thursday and maybe even Friday as well…

Do you want to pay more for your DVDs?

March 1st, 2011 13 Comments By Thewlis
cow 224x300 Do you want to pay more for your DVDs?

this could be a Jersey cow. Either way, it's a friendly one.

Have you ever wondered why internet entertainment giants like Play.com, Amazon (via Indigo Starfish) and HMV have massive offshore distribution centres in the Channel Islands? Of course, you may have had more pressing things on your mind, but if the status quo changes, you may end up shelling out more for your DVDs.

As you may have guessed, tax avoidance is at the heart of this little plan, specifically Low Consignment Value Relief (LCVR) from VAT. LCVR was initially introduced in 1983 to help Channel Island flower growers gain easy access to the UK market, but it is now being exploited/legitimately used* by companies selling everything from DVDs to deodorants.

The idea is simple, for low consignment value orders, under £18, mail order companies based in the Channel Islands can sell items to the UK free of VAT and free from time consuming customs checks on arrival in the UK.

The scheme has been around for many years, but has become more and more noticeable owing to the number of companies trading in the UK who suddenly and coincidentally decided to open massive warehouses in Jersey or Guernsey.

The success of this plan of action means it is quite popular and, due to the favourable tax conditions, companies that have moved to Jersey or Guernsey have typically experienced rapid growth, as demonstrated by the explosion in the size of Play.com, the highly successful transfer of HMV’s online operation from the UK to Guernsey in 2005, and the continued success of TheHutgroup.com who also run sites in Guernsey for Tesco, Asda, Dixons, Argos and others.

But is it fair?

Certainly the big retailers would argue that they are merely taking advantage of the tax laws as drafted, and that a failure to do so could render them uncompetitive. Naturally, ever- savvier consumers searching for the best online deal are appreciative of the cost-savings transferred to them as well.

But what about smaller UK businesses? Can they really compete with the big boys who are legitimately shaving 1/6th off the retail price in non-payable VAT?

And it is the January rise in VAT to 20% making the saving the whopping sixth of the VAT inclusive price that has made this issue a hot topic once again, but Jersey Senator Alan Maclean, Economic Development Minister does not think the industry is not under threat.

He said “Jersey welcomes companies that want to move to the island and employ staff and contribute to the economy, but not people who just want to avoid paying UK tax.” He stated that an agreement had been reached with the UK authorities to stop UK companies coming over to just take advantage of the VAT-free prices, and that 17 (nameless) UK companies were asked to leave Jersey in 2006.

However, given the increasing pressure on the Government to cut spending and raise Revenue, this would be a relatively painless way of collecting loads more lovely VAT.

Conservative backbencher Lord Lucas is now questioning just how much this loophole costs the UK government and how much it costs smaller UK firms, in terms of lost business on price comparison.

Lord Lucas said: “The islands can sell at a price lower than we can buy and that is becoming the case now in areas of cosmetics and of contact lenses and of computer memory of various sorts and in gifts and other areas it seems too.

“I think what started out as a very reasonable concession, whereby we didn’t have to employ a lot of customs officers and [the islands] got a benefit for native industries. However, it has become something which is just to painful”.

Whether you are concerned about the pain threshold of a Tory peer or not, if this concession is a casualty of this month’s Budget on the 23rd, it is likely to be consumers who face the injury of paying higher prices for previously VAT free purchases. Arse.

*depending on your perspective

[BBC]

twenty 300x225 Are you giving £13.5 billion to the taxman when you don’t need to?You would think that, in the middle of a recession, people would be loathe to pay the taxman what they owe, let alone pay tax unnecessarily, but according to a report issued today by  www.unbiased.co.uk that is exactly what the UK populace is doing, to the tune of £13.5 billion a year.

Unsurprisingly, £8.5 billion, or 63% of that total comes from tax credits, successful and accurate completion of such claims requiring an IQ of 150+ and several wet towels and darkened rooms. No, not for that, for applying to your head. Presumably of course, with the restrictions to these credits taking effect from April 2011 (removal of entitlement for those earning over £40k. Supposedly. Details are not yet known) the number of people affected will drop, and so will the losses owing to incorrect claim.

The report also claims that those in the South East are the worst offenders, with £1.8 billion unnecessary tax payments arising from this region. Clearly they have more money than sense.

Karen Barrett, chief executive of unbiased.co.uk, said: ‘Significant amounts [of tax] are being wasted which could so easily be avoided by people taking action…while consumers are increasingly aware of saving money by switching utilities provider or using online money-saving websites, they could actually be saving themselves even more by being tax efficient and not giving away more than they should to the taxman.”

The £13.5 billion can be further broken down into ‘error’ waste and ‘avoidable’ waste, the former being reclaimable if the error is spotted within the time limits for claim. The avoidable proportion though, almost £3.7billion, could be legitimately avoided by a change in behaviour, such as making use of tax favoured savings schemes (eg ISAs). The highest tax offender in the avoidable category was inheritance tax, where forward planning can do wonders, but where there is little room for manoevure after the event. The event in question being death. Mind you, don’t suppose you will care too much at that point…

So why is the taxman laughing all the way to the bank? 88% of people surveyed in connection with the report had done nothing in the last 12 months to become more tax efficient, and  45% stated that this was because they believed they are already being as tax efficient as possible; over a quarter (28%) of people didn’t know how to go about being more tax efficient and more than one in ten (12%) simply didn’t know why they hadn’t taken steps to reduce their tax liability. Idiots.

Nielsen and UKOM have produced a list of the country’s top 50 online brands. There we are. What does this means, exactly?

Nobody’s quite sure, especially the Daily Telegraph. According to its coverage of the story, it’s a listing of the most popular online brands in 2011, and it proves conclusively, somehow, that it’s traditional offline brands that are most popular into today’s digital world.

Picture 12 500x165 The UKs top 50 online brands, but what does it all mean?

Except it doesn’t prove any such thing. Read the story, then look at the results of the research. It’s like the Telegraph journalist read the press release on her BlackBerry just before she fell asleep after a little too much Asti Spumante, and proceeded to wrote the story from memory this morning.

Here are the top 10 online brands:

1. Google
2. MSN/Windows Live/Bing
3. Facebook
4. Yahoo!
5. BBC
6. Microsoft
7. Amazon
8. YouTube
9. eBay
10. Wikipedia

An impressively strong turnout for what would be considered primarily online brands. Tesco is 17th place, the same position the supermarket chain was in in 2004 – despite the Telegraph’s headline claiming Tesco has ‘ousted’ other online brands in the poll. The story’s byline states:

“Companies which have a presence in the real world, such as Tesco and BT, have become the UK’s most popular brands online.”

Yet the actual results don’t show anything of the sort; the Telegraph’s definition of “most popular” seems to defy English language. And BT Openworld, which was 12th in 2004, is nowhere to be seen in today’s top 20. Baffling. In fact the Telegraph’s coverage is stuffed with very odd claims that don’t fit any of the facts:

“The rest of the top 10 is mostly made up of brands which have a real-world presence, such as Amazon and eBay, whose respective businesses rely upon people buying and sending goods offline.”

Well yes, there are physical elements to the service – products, deliveries – but nobody would ever describe Amazon or eBay as anything other than an online brand. A “real-world presence”? Are you sure about that? As opposed to Google, which the paper describes as a “web-only” company? If the fact that Amazon are offline brands because there is a physical product bought or sold, what about the Nexus One and Android OS? Nonsense.

Hoodwinked, or the world’s biggest bank job?

February 22nd, 2011 9 Comments By Thewlis

alistair darling 788031549 Hoodwinked, or the worlds biggest bank job?This is the motto of the latest tax campaign, the Robin Hood Tax. Shamelessly stolen from the Daily Mirror who came up with this gem of a picture back in 2008 when then Chancellor Alistair Darling came up with the idea of a 45% tax, which miraculously became 50% a few months later, this new campaign also wants to steal from the rich and give to the poor, but with a few character changes.

The rich targets of this new campaign are the villains of the hour, the banks, specifically those with investment divisions – HSBC, Barclays and RBS.

The campaign, a coalition of 115 UK organisations including Actionaid, Oxfam, Friends of the Earth, Save the Children and the TUC, want to levy a 0.05% charge on certain financial transations and then redistribute that wealth.

Although it is at this point the message gets a little vague. Max Lawson, spokesperson for the Robin Hood Tax Campaign, says: “If banks paid their fair share we could avoid the worst of the cuts and help those hit hardest by the financial crisis they did nothing to cause”. The campaign calls for justice, “justice for ordinary families and businesses. For the one in five British families faced with a choice between buying food or paying the heating bill. For the 200 million people around the world forced into poverty by a financial crisis they did absolutely nothing to bring about.”

We also have some lovely stats about bankers bonuses,

  • “The total bonus pot for the UK’s largest three banks, Barclays, HSBC and RBS, is expected to be approximately £5 billion, enough money to reverse real term cuts to the NHS budget this year.
  • This year’s bonus pot for Barclays Capital alone (£2.6 billion) could reverse cuts to the Education Maintenance Allowance, Disability Living Allowance and Housing Benefit combined.
  • Lloyds and RBS, who are majority owned by the government, will reward their CEOs a total of £3.5 million (Eric Daniels £1.45 million, Stephen Hester £2.04 million) in bonuses, enough to pay for 160 teachers”

But we aren’t talking about taxing bankers’ bonuses here (been there, done that), so, while lovely and emotive, I am not sure they are relevant?

What emerges is that this campaign appears to actually be a “financial transactions tax for climate funding”, and that the ‘poor’ in this robin hood play is actually not the poor British family, but some trees:

“There is strong justification for the revenue from financial transaction taxes to be directed towards global issues, like climate change and international development. The justification is that although revenue generated from a FTT would be highly concentrated in a few countries, namely those with major financial centres, investors the world over would pay the tax when using central market places.”

Not sure about you, but I think I could use my share of the bank bail out (£31,250) slightly better than a tree.