Buy more stuff when you recycle

September 1st, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

Recycling Mixed Containers Buy more stuff when you recycleYou can receive shopping vouchers each time you recycle!

A new scheme, based on loyalty rewards and vouchers, is going to reward greener households. those who actually separate stuff and that.

A £5 million fund has been set up to reward the greenest, in a bid to increase recycling rates in England.

Councils that offer weekly bin emptying services, instead of fortnightly, can bid for a share of the cash to increase their recycling rates by providing the incentives to those who recycle.

The scheme was originally piloted back in 2010, and was found to be quite the success with recycling rates increasing by 35%.

Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles, that one off the telly, said: “Rewards for recycling show how working with families can deliver environmental benefits without the draconian approach of punishing people and leaving out smelly rubbish.”

“Councils with fortnightly collections will not receive government funding and are short-changing their residents with an inferior service.”

The closing date for bids is November 7th, and those who’ve been the most successful will be unveiled in January.

Vodafone 4G comes to PAYG

September 1st, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

vodafone 300x216 Vodafone 4G comes to PAYGVodafone have extended their 4G network to Pay As You Go patrons!

This comes 12 months after Vodafone first offered the service.

They have been satisfied enough by the uptake in 4G, as it showed that the pay monthly customers were using three times more data than the past-it 3G customers.

The company have also had a shift around of its PAYG tariffs, bundling them with Sky Sports Mobile TV and Spotify, although Netflix is still only for the pay-monthly set.

It’s also raised data allowances across its Freedom Freebees, with the cheapest now at £20 and including 2GB of data, 500 UK minutes and unlimited UK texts, which must be used within 30 days of purchase.

And the first time a customer buys a 4G Freedom Freebee, they’ll get unlimited data for the first 30 days.

Fancy that!

Save money by buying a new car?

August 29th, 2014 6 Comments By Thewlis

Obviously it costs more to buy a new car than an old one of the same variety. However, if you are thinking of upgrading to a newer model, it could pay to go for the latest model, with new research suggesting that a new car saves 25% on running costs in the first year when compared with the same model five years older.

Moneysupermarket.com looked at five popular vehicles, Nissan Qashqai, Volkswagen Golf, BMW 3 Series, Ford Fiesta and Vauxhall Astra, and compared total running costs- petrol cost, road tax cost, car insurance cost, MOT, servicing and breakdown cover of a brand new model with the costs for a five year old model.

The biggest saving of the five cars was the Volkswagen Golf, where a new car saved £422 on running costs, a 25% saving on the £1689 cost for a five year model. A brand new Ford Fiesta had annual running costs calculated at £1,237 per year, £351 cheaper than a five year old version. Similarly, a five year old Nissan Qashqai costs £1,804 to run per year, £243 more than the new car. In all five cases the cost of insuring the newer car was lower than the older equivalent models.

tablecar 1 Save money by buying a new car?

tablecar 2 Save money by buying a new car?

Dan Plant, consumer finance expert at MoneySuperMarket, said: “For some, buying a brand new car might seem prohibitively costly. However, with the drive from manufacturers to create more fuel efficient and safer models, as well as some ‘free road tax for the first year’ schemes, the cost of running and insuring a new car is often far cheaper than older versions of the same vehicle.”

Ryanair mean business

August 28th, 2014 2 Comments By Ian Wade

Picture 1 Ryanair mean businessRyanair. You know them, the rascals. Well they’re launching a business service.

Stop laughing.

In a bid to try and elevate their image and come across as a bit nicer, they’ve launched the business service in a bid to please the customer’s need for better treatment.

Their “business plus” fares offer customers flexible tickets, more check-in baggage, priority boarding and “premium” seats – in the first five rows for quick boarding, or on exit rows with extra leg-room.

They reckon that business passengers already make up more than a quarter of its customers and that the new fares, starting at £59.99, were designed to get more of them. The rest of you can whistle while you get herded up.

Ryanair have admitted that they’ve been a bit slack, and generally annoying humanity in general and have since been getting their act together.

They’ve introduced allocated seating, relaxed cabin bag restrictions, reduced charges, and loosened booking conditions.

Chief marketing officer, Kenny Jacobs, says that the new tickets would not see larger seats or extra facilities, bar perhaps USB chargers on new planes: ”We won’t be introducing a blue curtain. Customers haven’t asked us for the high business fares and facilities, they just want a bit of flexibility and a better schedule. The schedule is very oriented around business travellers: places like Madrid, Milan and Barcelona have three times daily returns, so they can travel there that morning and come back the same day.”

The company has announced that it will be going to more city-centre airports too, including new routes from Stansted to Cologne, Edinburgh and Glasgow.

[insert joke about new routes from places NEAR Cologne, Glasgow etc]

Supermarket sales at 10 year low

August 28th, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

basket 300x300 Supermarket sales at 10 year lowSupermarkets are still having a topsy turvy time of it, as sales have been hitting a 10-year low.

According to some research by the Kantar Worldpanel (sounds like a support act for Kraftwerk or Can), low inflation in the price of groceries, has seen sales grow by only 0.8% in the last 12 weeks, against figures from a year earlier.

The ongoing price wars and what have you, has driven inflation down to a record low of 0.2%. And guess what?

The main winners in market share again were Aldi and Lidl.

Aldi’s market share rose to 4.8% from 3.7% a year earlier, while Lidl’s share climbed to 3.6% from 3.1%. And it’s not all budget end, as sales at Waitrose were up 3.6% from a year earlier, and its market share edged up to 4.9% from 4.8%.

But it’s grim news for Tesco, as its sales were down 4% from last year’s period, and the market share dropping from 30.2% to 28.8%

According to Kantar Worldpanel director Edward Garner: “Competitive pricing among the big grocers and deflation in the price of staple items such as vegetables, milk and bread has driven inflation down yet again,”

“This naturally impacts on the overall growth of the grocery market, which has fallen to a 10 year record-low of 0.8%,” he added.

HP recall power cords

August 28th, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

hp logo 300x225 HP recall power cordsHewlett Packard, or HP to you and me, have ordered a worldwide recall of some power cords that have been sold with its laptops.

This callback affects products sold between September 2010 and June 2012.

Apparently six million of the affected cables had been sold in the US and Canada, and lord knows how many elsewhere.

The cords have been burning users due to overheating. They just got so angry they rose up and punished their captors, so to speak.

Any cords with LS-15 on the side, sold alongside HP and Compaq notebooks, PC and other bits and bobs, are the ones to look out for.

Their site bugles: “HP customers affected by this program will be eligible to receive a replacement AC power cord for each verified, recalled AC power cord at no cost.”

There’s only been a handful of events so far, but y’know, worth getting a new one just in case the one you have now decides to melt into your carpet.

Click here to get your new power cord from HP

Kitemarks for money apps

August 27th, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

bsi.png Kitemarks for money appsA new kitemark has been launched to help people trust certain apps with their personal data.

The new BSI (British Standards Institution) kitemark has been applied to Barclay’s new Pingit mobile payment service and Barclays Mobile Banking, after they were independently assessed.

Although the kitemark is initially being piloted within the banking industry, the BSI envisages that its use will be adopted by a wider range of firms – for example within the entertainment industry.

Anyone wanting to get a kitemark for their product will have to go through hardcore testing so that their security meets the required standards for dealing with confidential data.

Those that meet the standards will be able to give customers confidence by displaying the kitemark on their products and in their marketing materials.

This is quite the thing as three quarters of Brits now use the internet for shopping and just over half now bank online.

Maureen Sumner Smith who is the UK managing director at BSI, used her mouth and said: “More and more of us are now sharing confidential information through online shopping, mobile banking, booking flights, gaming, university applications or interacting with local government. These behavioural changes from the physical to the digital demand the need for even more rigorous security measures.”

“Many organisations have good information security processes already established, but by having their systems independently tested on a regular basis as part of the BSI kitemark process, they can clearly demonstrate to customers their commitment to safeguarding information.”

Should Tesco break itself up?

August 26th, 2014 4 Comments By Mof Gimmers

tesco bag 300x187 Should Tesco break itself up?The incoming chief exec at Tesco is being shouted at by a top industry analyst who reckons the supermarket needs to break itself into pieces so they can fend off the competition.

The marvellously named Bruno Monteyne, who is an analyst at Bernstein Research, says that Dave Lewis should split the supermarket into three separate categories: a high-end ‘Finest’ store (which will go toe-to-toe with M&S, Waitrose and the like), the regular, trad. arr. Tesco shops, and a discount chain to take on Aldi and Lidl.

Monteyne thinks that this is the only way Tesco can stay relevant in the current climate. Tesco need to do something, that’s for sure.

Monteyne is himself, a former Tesco executive, and he said: “Splitting themselves into different channels allows them to use different strategies with different customers.”

“Rip out 20 per cent of the range, have cheaper shelving and cheaper products in the more deprived areas and give customers a better deal. In London, where people want someone behind the counter who knows the difference between a parma ham and a serrano ham, that requires more investment.”

“By Tesco promising to have the same prices in the most affluent areas as the poorest areas, it’s basically tied its hands behind its back by committing to an uneconomical model. Tesco could probably be cheaper than Aldi in some areas, but national pricing would force them to do the same in Chelsea as well and Chelsea wouldn’t be successful.”

What do you make of that? Eccentric ramblings of a lunatic? Sensible thinking from leftfield? Sod Tesco, and here’s to them dying on their arse?

Bank Holiday rail nightmare with East Coast

August 26th, 2014 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

Just as train fares were announced that they were going up, a Bank Holiday travel tale of woe occurs to remind us how infuriating our train services can be.

Yesterday,  a train was delayed by a whopping 5 hours. That’s not ‘delayed while everyone was at the station so they could go and have a brew or whatever’, but rather, ‘passengers sat on the train for 10 hours with the driver buggering off somewhere, the passengers left with no water, a lack of air in the carriage and people fainting all over the place and left stranded with nowhere to go’.

Not good. Of course, customers tried to get things sorted on Twitter because East Coast weren’t feeling too responsive (initially).

2014 08 25 23.29.30 376x500 Bank Holiday rail nightmare with East Coast

East Coast, of course, seemingly did so little that, instead of identifying and correcting a problem, they just allowed more passengers to get on the Bank Holiday Doom Train.

2014 08 25 23.30.47 432x500 Bank Holiday rail nightmare with East Coast

After a while, someone jumped on East Coast’s Twitter account and started saying sorry to everyone, but of course, the passengers had all gone a bit mental by this point and had more pressing concerns – like what where they supposed to do if they’d missed their connecting trains and were stranded.

2014 08 25 23.31.41 367x500 Bank Holiday rail nightmare with East Coast

The only person to come out of the whole thing with any praise is Gary The Train Guard who got his own #garythetrainguard hashtag last night. A man who single-handedly tried to stop the passengers from going Lord of the Flies on each other.

Someone give Gary a raise!

gary the train guard Bank Holiday rail nightmare with East Coast

And the problem that held up these passengers is still here this morning. If you’re travelling into London’s King Cross through Peterborough and Stevenage, be warned that there’s an extensive disruption to services on the East Coast main line.

Today, there’ll be severe delays and cancellations .

An East Coast spokesman said: “Network Rail engineers have been working through the night to restore the overhead power lines… as a consequence, East Coast trains are expected to be severely restricted, and cancellations are likely throughout the day.”

“Customers are advised to defer travel until later in the day, or alternatively, to travel tomorrow if possible. Tickets dated for travel on Monday or Tuesday will be valid for travel on Wednesday and customers are advised to try to travel as close as possible to their original booked time.”

“East Coast is very sorry for the inevitable disruption this will cause to your travel plans, and is working hard with its infrastructure provider Network Rail to resume a good service.”

Customers delayed by more than 30 minutes are eligible for compensation under East Coast’s delay repay scheme. Click here and get your money back.

We’re spending less on food

August 22nd, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade
lidl shopper 300x199 Were spending less on food

“Mmmm Earlobe risotto! Yum!”

Food shop spending dropped in July for the first time in a quarter of a century.

According to figures from the Office for National Statistics, a year-on-year fall of 1.3% was the first seen since records began back in January 1989.

The price wars have had some effect, as the report says that prolonged discounting was affecting overall sales.

It goes on to suggest that the big supermarkets have been upping their game against having their market share arses kicked by the likes of Aldi and Lidl.

The headline figure for retail sales showed a weaker than expected 0.1% growth month-on-month.

However, a three-month on three-month increase of 0.3% was the seventh consecutive improvement, the longest period of sustained growth by this measure since November 2007.

It’s also quite good news for online shopping, as spending increased 11.2% in July on a year earlier but fell 1.9% compared to June.

Speaking some sense, and illuminating the caution, Ian Geddes, UK head of retail at Deloitte said: “Many consumers are yet to feel the benefits of the economic recovery and are reluctant to let go of their recessionary behaviours, particularly when shopping for food.

“Consumers continue to show a willingness to spend on non-food items, but are doing so selectively.”

prvacuumcl5 sk xl 300x300 Quick. Go buy a vacuum before the EU bans all the good ones.What are you thinking of buying in the next ten days? Some new clothes? A few beers? No, what you need to be putting on your shopping list is a new vacuum cleaner before the EU ban the best vacuum cleaners on 1 September.

Although this sounds like a dirty protest, no aspersions are being cast on the greasy nature of our near neighbours. Instead this is an environmental protest that is simply the latest instalment after the evil non-energy-saving lightbulb saga.

The new rules will apply to vacuum cleaners with a motor more powerful than 1600w, and from this date companies will be prohibited from manufacturing or importing super-powered vacuums. While stores can still sell their remaining stock, once everyone hears about it, we’ll all be stockpiling vacuums in the same way that we all have a cupboard full of old lightbulbs

Of course, the European Commission is claiming that this will cut down energy use dramatically, and, in much the similar way to how car emissions dropped rapidly once the Government brought in penalty rules for high-emitting cars, consumers will actually “get better vacuum cleaners than ever before”.

However, our friends at Which! claim that many of the models that its reviewers rate as the best on the market will fall foul of the rules. Out of seven “best buy” ratings awarded by its vacuum cleaner reviewers since January 2013, five have motors of more than 1,600 watts.

Which! are also sceptical over the massive energy savings expected by the new rules: “A Best Buy 2,200w vac costs around £27 a year to run in electricity – only around £8 more than the best-scoring 1,600w we’ve tested.” But never ones to miss out on a selling opportunity, the full list of endangered “best buy” vacuums is only available to paying subscribers.

In a blog last year, European Commission spokesman Marlene Holzner ranted about how this was actually A Good Thing, and not at all a Really Stupid Thing  claiming that “the amount of watt does not automatically indicate how well a vacuum cleaner will clean.” She also claimed that the new completely made-up self-regulated labelling system will ensure that  “vacuum cleaners that use a lot of energy, that pick up dust poorly, emit too much dust at the exhaust of the vacuum cleaner, are noisy or break down pre-maturely will not be allowed on the market anymore. This means a better cleaning experience and less time and money spent on vacuum cleaning.”

And it gets worse. The average power of a vacuum on the market in Europe last year was 1,800 watts which will have to be halved within the next three years, as the limit of 1,600 watts will be reduced to just 900 watts from September 2017.

We think the new rules suck. Just not very well.

ryanair 300x225 Marriage made in hell? Ryanair will now take PaypalRyanair is the airline we all love to hate, mostly because they never shy away from an opportunity to slap an extra charge on passengers, even mooting a charge to use the toilet on flights a little while ago. It seems obvious, therefore, that Ryanair’s latest partnership is with eBay payment service PayPal, who are also known for charging massive fees.

Although sketchy on the details, Ryanair have announced today that they are instigating a new ‘payment partnership’ with PayPal, to allow their 86m customers to book “even faster” on Europe’s biggest travel website.

Personally, we think the thing that would make the booking system fastest of all would be to remove all the add-ons, like insurance, cabin bags, car hire that all need refusing before you can make your booking, but perhaps that’s just us.

Now, anything that makes the consumer experience run more smoothly is clearly A Good Thing but past experience suggests that Ryanair in particular think additional charges are a good thing. No details of what charges, if any, will be levied in order to enjoy the convenience of paying by Paypal have yet been disclosed.

Of course, there may be no charges, Ryanair having tried on the “customer friendly” approach of late, which has seen a number of improvements and fee reductions, including allocated seating, a second free cabin bag, and a new website and app. Ryanair are even threatening to ‘unveil’ a new business offering in the near future.

Ryanair’s Chief Marketing Officer, Kenny Jacobs said: ”Our partnership with PayPal is the latest element of our Always Getting Better programme and our commitment to the continued improvement of our customer experience, and follows the introduction of allocated seating, a free second carry-on bag, reduced fees, a new website, a new app and mobile boarding passes and our Ryanair Family Extra service. We will next unveil our tailored business product, as we continue to offer so much more than just the lowest fares.”

Not to be outdone, PayPal’s Vice President for Global Operations Europe, Middle East and Africa, Louise Phelan said:

“Ryanair revolutionised low fare air travel in Europe. As the pioneer of faster, safer online payments, PayPal is delighted to help Ryanair develop its customer experience by making it even easier and quicker for travellers to book and pay for their flights online. With our 152 million active accounts across the world, we’re also making it easier for businesses such as Ryanair to expand their international sales.”

However, the one word missing from all of this is ‘free’, so it is likely that one or other of the partners will be turning a fast buck to save you the bother of getting your debit card out of your wallet…

HSBC and First Direct simplify charges

August 18th, 2014 1 Comment By Ian Wade

HSBC HSBC and First Direct simplify chargesRejoice, dear HSBC and First Direct customers, for unauthorised charges are going to be simplified!

At the moment, the banks charge £25 set-up fee for people going over their agreed limit.

However, from November this will change to a £5-a-day usage fee, capped at £80 for a monthly charging period, somewhat less appalling than the current £150.

The charges are also capped by the amount the account holder exceeds their authorised overdraft limit: so if the transgression is only of the order of £15, that is the maximum that they will be charged, even if they stay over this limit for more than three days.

Customers will also benefit from a £10 unauthorised overdraft ‘buffer’ before any charges start to kick in.

Also, which is quite handy, the banks will alert customers who go over their limit by text. They won’t be charged anything if their balance is within their limit before 11.45pm the same day.

This move follows Barclays’ recent re-jigging of their charges system.

A man named Andy Mielczarek, head of retail products at HSBC UK, said: ”We have spent time listening to our customers on how we can improve our overdraft offering.”

“These changes have been designed to provide a simpler way for customers to understand the cost of any borrowing not agreed in advance.”

The bank helpfully point out that there will be no charges if you DO stick in your limit. Well, duh. Next time though, how about getting rid of pointless charges altogether?

EE will let you jump the queue for cash

August 15th, 2014 6 Comments By Mof Gimmers

EE 4G cities 229x300 EE will let you jump the queue for cashEE has introduced a queue-jumping service, which allows people phoning them up to join a “priority” queue for 50p.

As you can imagine, there’s a lot of people moaning about it.

When you phone EE’s customer service line, an automated message offers callers the chance to jump the queue into a “priority” queue. Customers already have to pay to call the provider at certain times of the day, so some think it’s a bit rich they should be asked for more.

Most of the outrage is on social media, with one disgruntled customer spouting off: “As an already paying @EE customer, why should I have to wait longer for help because someone else with no patience can pay [to] jump the queue?”

Another spat: “I have been a customer of [T-Mobile and] @EE for 10 years now. The call jump system they want to introduce is disgusting. I’ll be off to O2 then.”

Talking to the Inquirer, an EE spokesperson said: “EE’s goal is to set the highest standard for customer service in the telecoms sector. To support that ambition we’re investing significantly in our retail stores, contact centres and account management websites and apps.”

“We’ve already committed to returning over 1,000 roles to the UK from overseas call centres, and have already opened two new UK centres. To contribute to this and other investments in service we have introduced some small charges for certain customer services.”

What do you think? Should EE up their game so they don’t need a priority queue, or is this quite handy as it’s only 50p?

Npower lose both customers and cash

August 15th, 2014 2 Comments By Ian Wade

npower logo Npower lose both customers and cashNpower has shed 62,000 of household customers in the last year.

That’s a bit careless.

The troubled energy supplier also reported a 38% drop in profit for the first six months of the year.

Profit before tax and interest payments on debt fell to £109m, or about £14 per customer, from £176m last year, npower said.

Understandably, the firm is spending more on improving its customer service, while costs of the government’s energy efficiency scheme have risen.

There’s also a worry that coal and gas stations may be shut down as low wholesale prices are making them run at a loss.

Npower also blamed the mild weather and one-off factors for the drop in profits to 2.27bn euros (£1.8bn), which is a little bit daft seeing as it is actually Summer and it is supposed to be the time people tend to lay off the radiator action.

They have until the end of the month to sort out its billing problems or it will be forced to stop all telephone sales to new customers. Apparently, their challenge for its customer services is to ‘become a more human interface while remaining compliant’.

Well, using language like ‘interface’ and ‘compliant’ is really going to help there, pal.