car in flood Admiral insurance could charge you £145 more just for paying monthlyCar insurance is compulsory, so once a year you have to find the spare cash to insure your car for another year (making sure you shop around at that time to find the best deal). In recent times, of course, it has been possible to pay for your insurance monthly, convenient for people paid monthly, but it seems that some insurers are trying to cream extra profits out of poor instalments payers- by charging extra on top of additional interest charges.

In an ideal world, insurance companies would allow you to spread the cost of your annual insurance over the months you use it free of charge. Unfortunately these are insurance companies we are talking about, so there is generally an interest charge for spreading the payments- although it’s always worth checking what this is, as the rates can vary wildly between providers. However, a new Which!!! investigation has discovered that, in addition to interest charges, some insurers are charging monthly customers more just because they can.

The offending insurers are the Admiral group of companies, which includes the Elephant and Diamond brands, who are using this double-dip approach to effectively charge monthly customers twice for paying monthly. By comparing the annualised monthly and the one-off annual insurance cost on a number of vehicles, Which!!! found that the difference could be as much as £145.

The examples found by Which!!! include a quote with Elephant.co.uk for a 25-year-old Toyota driver, where the annual premium was £594.66. Without including a charge for interest, however, when selecting a pay monthly premium, the cost rose to £642.36. Interest was then added on top of the inflated premium, bringing the full cost over a year to £702.35. That’s £108 more for paying monthly.

Of course, the insurer would never admit to charging people more for anything. Instead what they are actually doing is offering single-payment customers a ‘discount’ from the standard price. Of course they are. Which!!! found that these ‘discounts’ varied considerably depending on the scenario and insurer. For the Toyota driver above they ranged from £44.52 to £47.70, while for a 30-year-old Audi owner they were as little as £2.12 with Diamond and Elephant, and £8.48 with Admiral. In the worst case, Which!!! found a difference between one-off and monthly premiums of £145.22 on a quote for a Ford Focus Zetec, insured with Admiral.

Which!!! say they “don’t think [insurers] should be attempting to make a second profit on customers” who don’t have the funds, or who simply choose to pay their premiums monthly. We agree, although capitalist society can’t blame the insurance companies for trying. What’s clear is that if you do check quotes at renewal, you are likely to find a cheaper monthly premium by selecting an insurer who doesn’t bump up the prices.

Admiral declined to comment owing to “commercial sensitivity.”

Vapes: the latest thing to be malwared!

November 24th, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

e cigarette Vapes: the latest thing to be malwared!Electronic cigarettes have now become targets for malware transmission.

Yes, despite being a healthier alternative to the actual fags themselves, e-cigarettes that are charged over night – or plugged directly into a USB port – can be moody affairs that could gain access to your computer’s innards.

According to a report on Reddit, it suggests that at least one “vaper” had been done over by their electronic cigarette.

“One particular executive had a malware infection on his computer from which the source could not be determined,” the user writes. “After all traditional means of infection were covered, IT started looking into other possibilities.”

“The made in China e-cigarette had malware hardcoded into the charger, and when plugged into a computer’s USB port the malware phoned home and infected the system.”

It’s not completely mad. Things have been used as trojan horses to bung some infection into computers since time began, but in this case it’s the possibility of BadUSB, which can reprogram USB devices at the hardware level.

The proper brands that users should stick to are the likes of Aspire, KangerTech and Innokin, and by checking for scratch checkers on the box, which mark out authentic goods from counterfeits.

According to figures from the Press Association, e-cigarettes and related equipment, have been involved in more than 100 fires in less than two years.

The fags eh?

the sun newspaper 300x168 Supermarkets bend to demand to cover up newspapersSlightly over the top parents are celebrating today after two supermarkets announced that they will cover up front pages of newspapers on their displays.

Yes, because it is quite a big thing. No end of impressionable children are lead into darkness by seeing a display of newspapers.

Waitrose and Tesco have agreed to work on new display methods as so not to upset the precious ones.

This move comes following months of pressure from campaign groups No More Page 3 and Child Eyes, who have heralded the decision a victory.

Newspaper front pages can sometimes be unsavoury, yes, but you get the impression that much of the way modern life has been lived, is going to upset somebody. Both parties had expressed concern at sexualised images of women being one of the key things that they didn’t like seeing. Exactly how ‘in your face’ and massive are these newspaper stands anyway?

A spokesman for Tesco, said they’d had made the decision after consulting with customers and campaigners, and so now that the papers will be displayed with just mastheads showing.

He confirmed that all large outlets, known as Extra and Superstore shops, will receive the new display units by the end of November 2014.

Tesco’s Customer Experience & Insight Director, Tracey Clements, said: “We are first and foremost a family retailer and it’s important we do everything we can to promote the right environment in store.”

“We’ve asked our customers what they think about the issue and we have spoken to campaigners. The change we’re making will strike the right balance for everyone.”

The Child Eyes campaign was formed after a rash of little darlings were seen to go on a sex and drug fuelled rampage after seeing a cover of the Daily Mirror.

Founded in 2012, it campaigns to stop sexualised, sexist and damaging images being displayed at child height in shops and public spaces. Child Eyes claims that newspapers are frequently displayed at children’s eye level, often right next to the comics that children are drawn to, and use easy-to-read words which catch their attention.

“This is a real victory for all the supporters of the Child Eyes Campaign, who have been trying to make their voices heard on this issue for so long. We’re feeling really positive and excited that the other supermarkets, and then also smaller shops will follow on to make the UK more family friendly.”

‘Make the UK more family friendly’. Jeez.

A spokesman for the kids said “yeah, whevs” before bypassing their parental controls on the computer and surfing for porn. They’ll be asking people to no longer stick baby’s heads on spikes next. This country.

Magical journey: not so magical

November 24th, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

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.

Magical Journey Map 500x419 Magical journey: not so magical

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.

snapchat 300x300 Amazon to send deals through Snapchat that last for secondsAmazon have decided to adopt a novel approach to getting people to spend money with them. They’ll be using Snapchat to send exclusive deals to customers which will last a matter of seconds.

This partnership will allow you to also send gift ideas and recommendations as well as receiving deals that’ll be gone in 10 seconds. It looks like they’ll be using this on Black Friday and really getting going with it in the build-up to Christmas.

Amazon’s director of social John Yurcisin said: “Instagram and Snapchat are the two of the fastest growing mobile social networks where people are engaging and interacting with each other in entirely new ways.”

The Amazon Instagram page is growing in popularity and if you click on an image posted by them, it’ll send you straight to the product page. There might be a few people who get the hump with that, if they initially intended to double-tap to like the image, and end up on Amazon’s website instead.

The retailer is really gunning for social shopping. Last summer, they created a Twitter hashtag which allows you to place an item in your Amazon shopping cart simply by replying to a tweet.

Aldi to launch pop-up restaurants

November 21st, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

aldi logo 252x300 Aldi to launch pop up restaurantsAldi are entering the restaurant business… sort of. The discount supermarket have announced that they’re opening a few pop-up restaurants around the country ahead of Christmas.

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.”

Tesco launch Secret Scan-ta app

November 21st, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

Tesco Clubcard are hoping to help you find the perfect gift via Twitter! They’ve teamed up with We Are Social to create a campaign that endeavours the find the ideal gift for people via Twitter.

The Secret Scan-ta (OH GOD YOU SEE WHAT THEY DID THERE) app will focus on the cheaper end of goods they offer, rather than stuff like tellies and fridges.

secret scanta 500x363 Tesco launch Secret Scan ta app

Both Clubcard customers and non-customers can input the Twitter handle of a person they are buying the gift for, and then Secret Scan-ta will sift through that particular Twitter account sourcing info on what sort of people and organisation the user follows.

Then using this data – which they’ll probably store away and cite you as a stalker or something in the future – the Scan-ta will offer up gift solutions which they have in stock.

Clubcard members who input their Clubcard vouchers at the start of the search will find their voucher value doubled and deducted from the gift’s price if they go ahead with the purchase.

And that’s not all, each week five winners will be selected at random from those who have used the app to receive 5,000 Clubcard points, and one ultimate winner will be in with a chance to win a Samsung Galaxy S5.

Katie Aust digital marketing manager from Tesco Clubcard, said: “Christmas, although a happy season, can often bring with it panic and stress of buying gifts. This campaign gives the buyer get a bit of genuine insight into what the recipient is really interested in, resulting in a personal, and thoughtful gift. It also promotes the huge offerings of the Tesco gifting range and the benefits of joining Clubcard and boosting vouchers.”

So, ‘gifting’ – we’re saying that now, are we?

Your webcam is probably being hacked by Russians

November 20th, 2014 4 Comments By Ian Wade

hackers Your webcam is probably being hacked by RussiansToday’s ‘not at all creepy. Oh no’ news now, and basically don’t get your bits out in front of a webcam ever again.

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.”

WEBCAM HACK 500x351 Your webcam is probably being hacked by Russians

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.

RBS fined £50 million

November 20th, 2014 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

RBS 300x272 RBS fined £50 millionWe 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.

4G data bills will be cheaper eventually

November 20th, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

Ofcom logo w500 300x220 4G data bills will be cheaper eventually4G data bills should be lower, claims Ofcom.

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.

football Cheaper (and more) top flight footie coming to your TV?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…

Couple fined £100 for bad TripAdvisor review

November 19th, 2014 1 Comment By Mof Gimmers

TripAdvisorscreencrop Couple fined £100 for bad TripAdvisor reviewA 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.

What?

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.”

UK grocery sales down for first time in 20 years

November 19th, 2014 1 Comment By Ian Wade

trolley UK grocery sales down for first time in 20 yearsUK grocery sales have fallen for the first time in 20 years.

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%

Easyjet see increase in profits and customers

November 18th, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

easyjet 300x170 Easyjet see increase in profits and customersEasyjet have announced a 21.5% rise in their annual pre-tax profits.

The company’s profits rose to £581m for the 12 months up to September 2014, which is up from £478m the previous year.

This is said to be down to increased passenger numbers, with a 7% rise on them reported, taking the total to 64.8 million people ferried about.

According to chief executive Carolyn McCall, EasyJet had “opened up clear blue sky” between the airline and its competitors. When chief execs say things like that, you just want to kick them up the arse forever, don’t you?

The budget no frills airline has a fleet of 226 planes, and said that acquiring some slots at Gatwick from their arch rival Flybe had helped them considerably.

Also, the amount of available seats on Easyjet flights grew by 5.1% to 71.5 million, of which almost 91% were filled.

Easyjet are also seeing customers returning to them, not put off by being cheap and cheery, and 57% of customers are rebooking each year. ”When people sample us, when they try us for the first time, they tend not to go back to legacy airlines,” McCall told the BBC.

A new loyalty card scheme – which had be trialled on 15,000 passengers – had proven quite popular, as it cut out some of the additional faff and made it easier for regular fliers to come back and forth. It’s all reasonably rosy, although they have warned that costs-per-seat may increase due to rising airport, navigation and maintenance charges.

On the other hand, the airline also said an expected fall in fuel prices could drive costs down by as much as £22m over the next six months.

biscuits Some consumers cant tell the difference between brandsA lot of people can’t tell the difference between own-branded and branded goods, according to a survey by Which!!!

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.