A Christmas wonderland has been closed after one day due to hundreds of complaints. The Magical Journey was a trip designed by designer ponce and Dave Grohl lookalike Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen.
The attraction opened on Saturday at the Belfry, near Sutton Coldfield, and had been bugled up as a ‘snow-covered winter wonderland’. However, customers demanded refunds after dismissing the site as a rip off.
Event director Paul Dolan has apologised and said preparation had been “severely hampered” by recent torrential rain.
“It’s clear to us now that we should have postponed the opening, but we didn’t want to disappoint those families already booked. That was the wrong decision and we apologise.”
Lots of disappointed visitors posted messages on the attraction’s social media pages. Visitor Matt Freeman said on Facebook: “You have used Christmas as an excuse to exploit people and part with hard earned money for what turned out to be a joke. “I shall take this further and as for Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen he should be ashamed of this because quite honestly I could have cobbled something together better than this in my own back garden for half the cost.”
Ben Harvey also chipped in with the comment of the week: “There is nothing for kids to do, the elf who is meant to be Simon Cowell is completely pointless.”
Plus it wasn’t cheap: the top price for a child is £22.50. While most customers threw shade, some users encouraged others to give the Magical Journey “a chance” and to reserve judgement until it re-opened.
In a post on its website, organisers announced the attraction would close for three days for improvements and changes to be made. They’ve also offered refunds to anyone who has already visited the site.
The restaurants will be serving up a meal planned by chef Jean-Christophe Novelli.
The events will happen in selected hotels such as Blythswood Square Hotel and Home House between November 21st and December 10th.
You can try your luck to win a reservation by tweeting @AldiUK using #AldiFestiveFeast as your hastag.
Naturally all the food served will be sourced from Aldi’s Specially Selected range, including such fare as caviar, crab, turkey wellingtons and Christmas pudding.
(Actually their Christmas pudding is well nice).
Joint managing director of corporate buying, Tony Baines said: “Jean-Christophe Novelli has put together a luxury menu that shows off our festive range to the full and offers better value than other supermarkets. We hope that our consumers will enjoy it.”
A Russian website is being shut down for streaming images stolen from the likes of baby monitors, bedroom cameras and CCTV.
The site has been featuring live feeds from basically anywhere that’s broadcasting on cam, including a gym in Manchester, a bedroom in Birmingham and an office in Leicester. The site’s database shows listings for 4,591 cameras in the US, 2,059 in France and 1,576 in the Netherlands.
The UK’s information commissioner Christopher Graham urged the Russian authorities to take immediate action to take down the site, but Russia being Russia at the moment, there’ll probably try and make an international incident out of it.
Graham also said he also would be working with the Federal Trade Commission in the US to try to force the site to close if the Russian authorities failed to cooperate.
Interviewed on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Graham said: “I’m very concerned about what this [website] shows and I want the Russians to take this down straight away … We now want to take very prompt action working with the Federal Trade Commission in the States to get this thing closed down. But the more important thing is to get the message out to consumers to take those security measures. If you don’t need remote access to a webcam then switch off that function altogether.”
Graham also said consumers were too laid back about security: “We have got to grow up about this sort of thing,”
“These devices are very handy if you want to have remote access to make sure your child is OK, or the shop is alright, but everyone else can access that too unless you set a strong password. This isn’t just the boring old information commissioner saying ‘set a password’. This story today is an illustration of what happens if you don’t do that. If you value your privacy put in the basic security arrangements. It’s not difficult.”
The Russian site has been online for a month, and has already been the cause of some alert around the world. The UK have known about it for just over 24 hours.
So, watch out next time you do a broadcast. Your audience may be more global than you thought.
We wrote about RBS getting fined by the Financial Conduct Authority, speculating that they’d be hit with a £50 million fine.
Well, we weren’t far off as regulators have slapped the bank with a fine of £56m after their software malfunction saw millions of customers unable to access their own money in their bank accounts in June 2012.
The fine is actually a twofer, with a £42m penalty coming from our pals at the Financial Conduct Authority and another fine of £14m being served by the folks at the Prudential Regulation Authority.
RBS chairman Sir Philip Hampton said the problems “revealed unacceptable weaknesses in our systems” and that it ”caused significant stress for many of our customers,” adding: “As I did back then, I again want to apologise to all customers in the UK and Ireland that we let down two and a half years ago.”
“Modern banking depends on effective, reliable and resilient IT systems,” said Tracey McDermott, director of enforcement and financial crime at the FCA.
“The banks’ failures meant millions of customers were unable to carry out the banking transactions which keep businesses and people’s everyday lives moving. The problems arose due to failures at many levels within the RBS Group to identify and manage the risks which can flow from disruptive IT incidents and the result was that RBS customers were left exposed to these risks.”
The FCA said the fine was down to the problem which saw customers unable to use online banking facilities to get at their accounts. obtain accurate balances from ATMs, make mortgage payments, access money abroad and, on top of all that, RBS Group’s banks applied incorrect credit and debit interest to accounts. As well as the aforementioned, some businesses weren’t able to pay their staff as a result of this cock-up.
Mobile user bills should be cheaper, now that the telecoms regulator has ruled that frequencies currently reserved for digital TV transmissions and wireless microphones should switch over to mobile broadband.
This freeing up of the spectrum should kick in around – oh – between 2020 and 2022. Ofcom reckon that network providers will be cutting their bills as a result of this increase in capacity.
A spokesperson parpled: “Millions of consumers could benefit from lower mobile tariffs than would otherwise be offered, because we expect a significant proportion of the network cost savings to be passed through to them,”
“Specifically, these include network cost savings from deploying fewer base stations and improvements in mobile performance in hard-to-serve locations.”
Ofcom also went on to say that TV viewers wouldn’t have another one of those nightmares of switchover, that happened when analogue signals were decommissioned.
It will, however, be a problem for some of the communications equipment used by theatres, sports venues and music event organisers, who will now have to update their systems.
Premier League football is a big deal. Unfortunately the scrabble to get to show the matches on UK television is also a Big Deal, with the latest rights sold to both BSkyB and BT Sport for a record £5.5bn over three years. Now, a challenge by Virgin Media on consumer grounds could see a shake up of broadcast footie, with even the sacred Saturday afternoon spot filled with the glorious game.
Live football has been banned from live TV since the 1950s to protect attendance at lower league games- after all, who’d want to watch jumpers-for-goalposts on a cold, wet Saturday afternoon if there was something better to do instead?
However, Virgin has challenged Ofcom to investigate the fact that a lower proportion of matches (41%) are shown on television in England than in other major European markets and that as a result consumers paid higher prices.
But don’t be fooled. This is not Virgin trying to make sour grapes into a fine wine at all. It’s not that they just want a piece of the football screening action without shelling out several billion at all. It’s a consumer issue. Obvs.
Virgin is arguing that by effectively limiting the supply of matches, the Premier League has inflated the price that broadcasters have to pay, which means that cost is then passed on to consumers. The Premier League disagree, claiming that its (only recently implemented) approach of dividing the live matches on offer into packages and ensuring that they are sold to at least two broadcasters is consistent with competition law.
Ofcom has now launched an official investigation into the points raised by Virgin, with particular focus on whether there are grounds for an objection under the Competition Act. Ofcom said it would consult supporters’ groups as well as consumers, media companies and the football authorities over the case. However, the Premier League are likely to argue that they simply can’t offer more matches if the Saturday afternoon blackout is maintained, as there wouldn’t be the time or resources to meet the demand.
Tom Mockridge, the Virgin Media chief executive complained: “The fact remains that fans in the UK pay the highest prices in Europe to watch the least amount of football on TV. Now is the right time to look again at the way live rights are sold to make football even more accessible.”
“We look forward to working constructively with the Premier League, the wider industry and Ofcom to ensure a better deal for football fans.”
He neglects to mention that he was formerly a senior sort at News International and sat on Sky’s board, but while this is really more of a fight over football matches by the broadcasters, rather than a genuine consumer issue as Virgin would have us believe, if it results in more matches for consumers/fans at a lower cost, who are we to complain? We’ll all just stand round in a circle chanting “fight, fight…”
Unfortunately, however, any intervention by Ofcom is unlikely to have any effect on the tender documents for its next round of broadcasting contracts, covering the three seasons from 2016-17, which are due to go out early next year. Still. 2020 might be a good year for watching football…
A couple went to a hotel in Blackpool and they didn’t have a nice time. So, like many disgruntled customers, they complained about it on the internet. After leaving a critical TripAdvisor review, they found themselves being fined £100.
Tony and Jan Jenkinson left some negative comments on the review site after being thoroughly unimpressed with their stay at the Broadway Hotel. Later, when checking their credit card bill, they found an erroneous £100 charge. The hotel, it turns out, has a policy where they take money from you for bad review.
Of course, the Trading Standards are now investigating as it looks like The Broadway Hotel has breached unfair trading practice regulations.
If you look at the hotel’s policy, which is contained in the booking document, it says: “Despite the fact that repeat customers and couples love our hotel, your friends and family may not. For every bad review left on any website, the group organiser will be charged a maximum £100 per review.”
You can almost admire the cheek.
If it is in the t&cs, then what is the excuse of the Jenkinsons? Well, when Mrs Jenkinson signed the papers, she didn’t have her glasses on so she couldn’t read the small print. Mr Jenkinson isn’t having any of that though. He is vowing to fight the fee, and told the BBC: “Annoyed isn’t strong enough for how I feel about this, what happened to freedom of speech? Everybody we have spoken to says they (the hotel) are not allowed to do this.”
Councillor John McCreesh, cabinet member for trading standards, said: “Customers need to be free to be honest about the service they’re getting. Other customers depend upon it. Hotel owners should focus on getting their service right rather than shutting down aggrieved customers with threats and fines.”
“People should have the right to vent their disappointment if a hotel stay did not meet their expectations and should not be prevented from having their say.”
In what can only be described as quite good news for the consumer, the average price of a basket of things such as bread, milk and veg now costs 0.4% less than a year ago, as the latest figures from Kantar Worldpanel show.
However the price wars have had a knock-on effect on the fortunes of the UK’s biggest supermarkets, with the overall market contracting by 0.2% in the 12 weeks to November 9.
Kantar also claim that it is the first time they’ve recorded a decline since it started in 1994.
Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar Worldpanel said: “The major supermarkets have all had a difficult period, hit by both the flow of shoppers toward the discounters and reduced revenues as they competitively cut prices.”
Tesco did the worst with their sales sliding by 3.7%, yet Morrisons’ slumped faster down from 1.3% to 3.3% a month ago.
The only growers and showers included Waitrose who increased to 5.6%. Aldi slowed down a fraction from 29.1% to 25.5% and Lidl went down from 17.7% to 16.8%.
Market share in the 12 weeks to 9 November:
• Tesco: 28.7%
• Asda: 17.2%
• Sainsbury’s: 16.4%
• Morrisons: 11.1%
• The Co-operative: 6.2%
• Waitrose: 5.1%
• Aldi: 4.9%
• Lidl: 3.5%
Which!!! asked 7,855 members various questions, and discovered that around a quarter of them have difficulty telling the brands from the own-brands, and have sometimes ended up buying the own brand goods by mistake! (the clots).
One of the main examples used was the similarity between McVitie’s Ginger Nuts and Lidl’s Tower Gate Ginger Nuts (pictured). Once the brand names had been blocked off, 39% of respondents confused Lidl with McVitie’s.
Other own-brands that the research suggested bore an uncanny resemblance to branded labels included Aldi’s Snackrite Thick Ridged Crisps (similar to McCoy’s), and Lidl’s Newgate Cream of Tomato Soup (similar to Heinz).
According to legal professional Lee Curtis, partner and trademark attorney at law firm HGF, says the basic test for a design right infringement is if the non-brand gives of the air of the real brand, but even if that’s the case, Curtis says: “Most of the main offenders for copying are big supermarkets. Brand owners will be scared of their commercial power and of being delisted – for many, supermarkets are their biggest customers, and they don’t want the hassle.”
Some companies have tried to legalise elements of their branding, but for some to no avail. Such is the case for Cadbury, which last year lost a legal battle to secure exclusive rights to Pantone 3685c purple in chocolate packaging.
How much is your gas bill? Nope. Your annual Council Tax charge? Wrong again. Chances are, you’ll be way off on practically all of your main household bills to the tune of £770 a year according to new research by Santander.
Council tax was actually the least accurately estimated bill, which may be because there’s pretty much naff all you can do about the cost. Still, most people are WAY off-according to the survey, bill payers underestimated their council tax bill by a whopping £721 per year. Gas (£279) and electricity (£91) bills were also underestimated, which is no surprise, but the cost of TV/phone/broadband bills was actually £386 over-estimated.
What’s even less impressive is that we are actually getting worse at knowing how much things cost. The same survey compiled last year also saw us underestimating our bills, but we were much closer- only guessing £467 too little for the major bills, a whole £303 closer than we were this year. While costs have largely increased this year, it is unlikely this accounts for the whole difference. Perhaps things are looking up for people such that they don’t have to pay such close attention to bills anymore?
Santander head of banking Matt Hall said, helpfully: “Increases in household bills have added to the cost of living in recent years and it’s more important than ever that people check their bills thoroughly. Some can be tricky to understand, so it’s important that households keep an eye on statements and call their supplier if anything is unclear.”
However, thoroughly checking statements is not something we are necessarily great at. More than a quarter of people (26%) admit to never checking their statements, and 4% don’t even bother opening the envelope. That’s a million people not even opening their bills.
David Mann, head of money at uSwitch.com, says: “Consumers are in a lose-lose situation with everything shooting up except for their income. It’s time to start paying serious attention to managing household bills. By cutting the amount you spend on the essentials, you’ll have more money to spend on the non-essentials, which is welcome news at this time of year.”
The Fairtrade Foundation has been geeing up consumers to harass the two supermarkets this month, which is when buyers negotiate supplier contracts for the next 12 months.
The UK public spends over £700m eating 5 billion of them a year – yet instead of making a decent living, many banana farmers that supply the UK are struggling to get by.
Fairtrade Foundation claims that Tesco and Asda are the two largest UK sellers of the yellow-skinned treat, yet still stocked ranges of non-Fairtrade bananas.
According to a poll of 2,000 banana lovers, more than eight in 10 customers – which itself included 85% of Asda shoppers and 84% of Tesco types – would happily coin up a bit extra if they knew that the banana grower was getting their slice.
“UK consumers care about the conditions faced by the people who grow our food,” said the Foundation.
Globally, Fairtrade works with close to 25,000 banana plantation workers and small farmers across Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Peru, the Windward Islands, Panama, Costa Rica, Ghana and Cameroon.
If you want to join the chanting, head here and enter details to email Asda and Tesco directly.
There’s a lot of rules and regulations around pubs that many see as damaging to our noble boozers. One of them is the ‘beer-tie’, which means that tied leaseholders are legally obliged to buy their beer at whatever price their landlords choose.
The OFT said that ‘beer-ties’ were ‘working well’ for customers, despite the fact a lot of pubs have closed down because of it, which isn’t great for those who like a snifter down their local at all. This ruling has mainly hit pubs in less affluent areas the hardest, where they’ve been priced out of the market by landlords and of course, supermarkets.
Tied-landlords are shutting down pubs and the people that own them are flogging them as little more than property. It is enough to drive you to drink, if you had somewhere to drink that is.
However, MPs are pushing for an amendment to the proposed Pubs Code, where they hope to axe the ‘beer-tie’.
Greg Mulholland, LibDem MP for Leeds North West and chair of Parliament’s Save the Pub Group, is pushing an amendment to the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill which proposes that landlords should be offered a ‘market rent only’ option, which in plain English, means that they’ll have no obligation to buy beer from the group that owns their pub. That means a better variety of booze and, with more competition, better prices on the pumps.
If you’ve ever wondered why, for example, your local hasn’t ever served Doom Bar or Timothy Taylors, even though everyone wants to sup it, chances are, the person who runs your pub isn’t allowed.
Federation of Small Businesses chairman John Allan said: “Pub company tenants aren’t getting a fair deal and this will continue unless they have the option to go free of tie.”
There’s some opposition to this proposal, but these people are clearly not concerned about communities having proper boozers, rather than priced-up gastrononsense.
Will this be the end of the ‘beer-tie’ or are the breweries too powerful to budge?