To 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:
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.”
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.
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…
From 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.
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.
No, 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
- Stage a media stunt to Show banks the yellow card.
- Let consumers speak for themselves by recording Vox Pops.
- Publicise World Consumer Rights Day on your own website or on printed material with the WCRD 2011 logos in Media Resources.”
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…
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
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.
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:
2. MSN/Windows Live/Bing
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.
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.
If there was an award for the most dickish and underhanded use of spam in company marketing, Bitterwallet would today be handing out that award to Eaton Properties. Seriously, they’d clean up. Their magnificence in pouring irrelevant and unwanted emails into my inbox, like a diarrhetic cow shitting into a shoe, truly knows no bounds.
For reasons best left to the property industry, I’ve received spam about buying a new house for the past five years. This, I suspect, is all because I once enquired about buying a property overseas. Since then, I’ve received emails from several dozen other property brokers, and each time I unsubscribe from their unwanted spam. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t; if it doesn’t, it’s consigned to the spam filter.
Eaton Properties is a South London-based estate agent, with just the one office in Forest Hill. I can confidently say I have never asked for any sort of information from them. Ever. Regardless, this morning they sent some anyway:
That’s nice, I thought, but since I’m not looking to buy property in Merseyside, I unsubscribed from their emails. The unsubscribe link appeared to work, and I even received an email to tell me I’d unsubscribed. Well, sort of:
Which was then, rather oddly, followed by:
I’d somehow re-subscribed to a mailing list I’d never subscribed to in the first place, and I’d done so by unsubscribing. And since I was a new subscriber, Eaton Properties wasted no time in immediately emailing me:
Unsubscribing for a second time seems to have ended the onslaught from Ryan and his friends. It’s probably the worst example of spam we’ve seen, but we’re all ears for your tales of zombie newsletters that simply won’t die.
So. It’s here. The new Welfare Reform Bill, otherwise known as the biggest shake up in social welfare of recent years. Clearly, the Government’s primary aim is to make the benefits system work more efficiently, but the £18 billion cost savings probably have something to with it as well. Your first thought might be that the middle of a recession teetering on the edge of a double dip is probably the worst time to tug people’s security blankets, but don’t worry, these changes aren’t actually scheduled to take effect until 2013. And we’ll all be OK by then.
Let’s be honest though, your first thought probably wasn’t querying the economic impact of the Government’s timing, it was probably how far the new system would affect you. At the moment, the provisions are still at the draft stage, details of earnings or savings caps not clear, and the details in relation to child care are decidedly fuzzy. However, what we do know is that a ‘universal credit’ is due to replace working tax credit, child tax credit, housing benefit, council tax benefit, Income Support, income-based Job Seekers Allowance and income-related Employment Support Allowance.
Contribution-based JSA and ESA (you know, the ‘insurance policy’ you have been paying into your whole working life through your National Insurance contributions) will now come with conditions and penalties attached, for example, if you do not take a job you were offered, and benefits will stop after a year. The new rules will also mean that no family can get more than £26,000 per annum in benefits. Being as this is more than the average wage, this doesn’t sound too bad. Unless you currently ‘earn’ more than that from benefits, in which case you’re probably really pissed.
But what does this mean for ‘normal’ people like you and me? (Or, like me anyway?)
The ‘universal credit’ will mean that 2.7 million UK households will be actually be better off, although 1.7m will lose out, and over 425,000 of those to the tune of £25 or more per week. The Government accept that this will increase homelessness, which will mean them having to stump up for (more expensive) temporary accommodation. No I am not making this up.
People like Sally Single Mum or Dave Single Dad will be forced to work once their youngest child reaches five, or their benefits will be cut. However, Hatty Housewife, who does a bit of minimum wage work while the little darlings are at school, might be one of the £2 million households who would lose more of the money they earn from working an extra hour (the so-called benefit ‘trap’ trying to balance encouraging people to work more when they lose benefits if they do, so they may as well sit on the sofa watching Trisha instead).
Finally, 330,000 ‘second’ earners will lose more for each pound they earn under the proposals than they would now, and more than half of these will be people working more than 30 hours a week, those receiving tax credits or anyone not claiming housing benefit or council tax relief. Basically ‘normal’ people trying to get by…
Just as long as we’re all in it together. Again.
MPs eh? It’s not enough that they get a fat wedge £65,738, rising to £134,565 for cabinet ministers, but they also get an expense allowance of £20 grand, providing, of course they claim for legitimate expenses (not duck castles, or porn) as well as the whole summer off and that bulging public sector pension to look forward to.
But it’s not that I’m bitter (well, not much) it’s just that MPs seem to have one rule and every other British subject (with the possible exception of the Royal Family) have another.
You see, MPs claim expenses for a variety of things that ordinary mortals cannot. If you tried to claim your lunch as an expense, the tax man would laugh at you while sticking a big fat tax bill on your plate. But David Cameron has…
You see, the thing with lunch is that it cannot be said to be wholly and exclusively for business purposes. If you work full time, you are always out of the house at lunchtime, and have to feed yourself every day. You can therefore bring food from home and there is no ‘additional’ cost caused by your employment. If you choose to go out to lunch- even if it is with a client- that is your choice, and it’s your dollar. Your employer may choose to refund you, but that is up to them- YOU cannot claim it back as an expense of your employment.
For most employees, an expense will also be incurred only where every employee would have to incur that cost- that’s why childcare is not allowable, as not every employee needs childcare. However, for MPs, the requirement is one that “each and every MP or Minister would have to meet”. This is helpfully not defined anywhere, and even in the secretive MPs, Ministers and Tax booklet available only upon request in writing (which the BBC have helpfully scanned here), there are details of all the other allowances they can claim but no specific guidance as to whether these ‘parliamentary expenses’ are considered allowable for tax. I am sure all MPs would naturally consider their (hefty) mortgage interest charges to be allowable. If only we were allowed to do the same…
But perhaps the most fun could be had if we could instead claim for business clothing- or not as the case may be. Last year, newsreader Sian Williams (presenter of BBC Breakfast) took the taxman to court claiming that she should be allowed to deduct several thousands of pounds in hair, clothing and make up costs, being as she was on the telly. Previous cases had failed on the grounds that clothes were not exclusively used for a job, as they also provided warmth and decency. Ms Williams argued that the studio was warm and she was quite prepared to present Breakfast naked.
We think they should have held her to it. They didn’t and she lost her case. Perhaps another TV presenter should take up the gauntlet and offer to remain naked all the time in support of a claim? Cheryl Cole perhaps?
UPDATE: as has been pointed out in the comments, the Moonpig images were removed by the commenter, rather than MSE – we mistook the deletion as moderator activity. Our apologies to MSE with regards to that aspect of the story.
We don’t really want to knock the Money Saving Expert forums, largely because they’re an astounding force for good in terms of what they achieve for consumers. That said, we’re becoming increasingly baffled by the editorial decisions of the site’s moderators.
Yesterday, we received an email from avid Bitterwallet reader Rishi about a Valentine’s Day ‘blunder’ by Moonpig.com, as described by a member of the MSE forums. We clicked through the link provided to find a very innocent post from a MSE forum member, but the images of the blunder in question had been removed by the moderators at the request of Moonpig.
From all the follow-up comments, it doesn’t seem like a particularly outrageous gaffe by Moonpig.com, but the images were removed regardless. And that’s a little odd, simply because if content is acceptable in context, there’s no reason for it to be removed. It’s an issue we bump into on a regular basis and, despite appearing to be some ramshackle attempt at a consumer website, we never acquiesce.
We only ask because it’s not the first case of excessive moderation on the forums that’s been brought to to our attention. For example, as part of our investigation into the scam retail website Splatt.co, we had cause to click through to Bloomin Direct. The type of complaints we’d received about both Splatt.co and Focus Clothing conning customers at Christmas, had also been directed at Bloomin Direct in previous years. MSE promised to investigate the issue, but then they’ve been doing so for nearly two years:
Plenty of forum members have asked since about why the thread is still blocked, and MSE has refused to comment. There may be a genuine reason for not investigating, but it hasn’t been communicated to forum members.
Earlier in the week we reported on the government’s plans to request ISPs block all websites considered pornographic in nature, and force the adults that pay for online access to request permission to view specific sites. Why was this being considered? Because, according to minister Ed Vaizey, the government wanted to relinquish the ISP’s customers of parental responsibility and ensure children couldn’t view inappropriate material.
So what forces may be behind this improbablyeattempt to censor the intamaweb and relieve those lazy parents who use it as a pacifier?
The website Liberal Conspiracy picked up on the BBC’s reporting of the story, and noted that a woman called Miranda Suit was quoted extensively in their coverage, a woman with very strong Christian values:
We must not forget the influence of the media: it needs much stronger regulation so that our young people are not constantly conditioned by violent films, video games and lyrics; pornography must be outlawed so that it cannot undermine marriage and the dignity of women and encourage sex crime. All schools should teach Christian values.
The BBC doesn’t mention Suit’s views are religiously motivated, or provide any background on the watchdog Suit co-founded, Safer Media. In fact there’s next to nothing about Safer Media online, except for on the website of an organisation called Media March:
Safermedia is a Charity seeking to reduce the harmful effects of the media on our children, families and society.
We engage in raising awareness, educating and supporting the public, monitoring the media, highlighting relevant academic research, and lobbying.
At least Media March comes forward in revealing it is a religiously motivated pressure group. But what of the link between violence and pornography in media, and the ‘harmful effects’ on society? Go no further than the Media March website, where ‘proof’ is delivered in the form of a quote from The Guardian:
The debate over the effect of violent films looks set to be revived after reports emerged that Derrick Bird watched the grisly Steven Seagal film On Deadly Ground hours before embarking on a shooting rampage last Wednesday in which he killed 12 other people and injured 11.
The 1994 film, which Seagal directed and starred in, centres on an environmentalist oil rig worker who, aggrieved after he learns faulty equipment is damaging Alaskan wildlife, goes on a murderous rampage against his co-workers and employees.
It’s all Steven Seagal’s fault, then.We suspected as much.
Out of interest, who founded the high profile Media March, which holds annual conferences at the Houses of Parliament, and has MPs not only speaking but sponsoring the events? Miranda Suit, that’s who.
Given their current flair for the idiotic, it’s possible the Government dreamt up their scheme to ban internet pornography themselves. However, it now seems that agenda dovetails perfectly with a religious campaign group already engaging MPs and recruiting them to their cause.