Driving licence fees to be slashed

October 25th, 2014 No Comments By Ben Telford

Screen Shot 2014 10 25 at 09.54.07 Driving licence fees to be slashedFrom the 31st October, driving licence fees will be slashed up to 32%, the government has announced.

Under these new rules the cost of a provisional licence will now be £34 from £50 and the reduced cost for an online application for a 10 year licence will be £14 from £20.

We’ll also be seeing the cost of a tachograph reduced to £32 from £38. These are used by businesses to stalk record how far their staff are driving.

Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander said the move was designed to “give savings back to the taxpayer”.

Personal thanks from me, Danny. Just another 9 years and 3 months until I can look forward to that £6 “saving”.

Deathwatch: High street banks

October 24th, 2014 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

bank sign Deathwatch: High street banksThe biggest banks on the British high street are vanishing with lenders closing hundreds of them in a bid to cut costs and shunt everyone toward online services.

Earlier this week, Lloyds decided that they could downsize by getting rid of 9,000 jobs, which is a tenth of their entire staff. They also plan to get rid of a number of branches, which is becoming a common attitude in the finance world as customers rely less on having to actually stand in a branch and talk to humans.

Other banks in the UK have closed in excess of 350 branches in 2014, which leaves just over 9,000 in total according to figures from the Campaign for Community Banking Services. Barclays are hoping to close around 1,600 branches and cut 19,000 jobs while Royal Bank of Scotland is also ditching tens of thousands of jobs.

According to the British Bankers Association, footfall has fallen 10% year-on-year, while at the same time, the number of transactions being completed online has doubled.

Of course, banks need to start saving money somewhere after many of them have been slapped silly with fines for misselling and the like.

“If we don’t change the fundamentals and improve for our customers then our business will be eaten away,” said RBS chief exec Ross McEwan. “That might be through greater competition, increased scrutiny from regulators, or through intensifying innovation, or a combination of all of these.”

There’s growth in new banks that adopt a digital method, such as Atom Bank and Metro Bank, which are branchless. The banking world is weighing up the threat of new currencies too, such as Bitcoin. These new companies have much lower overheads than trad. arr. banks. And of course, Apple have just launched their own payment service, which is yet another challenge to the banks dominance in finance.

In addition to all this, the UK competition regulator is launching a full inquiry into the banking sector in a bid to create more competition for the old guard.

It goes without saying that some branches are needed, especially for older customers, but consultancy reports have predicted that, in 10 years time, the UK could easily be served by as little as 500 physical branches as everyone migrates to online services. Bad news for bank robbers who will have to ditch the notion of putting tights on their heads and pointing guns at people – they’re going to have to start getting computer savvy, and fast.

Will the NHS now pay you to lose weight?

October 24th, 2014 1 Comment By Thewlis

fat and happy Will the NHS now pay you to lose weight?Bloaters are always being told about the downsides of being a bit porky – heart disease, diabetes etc- but there’s never been any good news.

Until now. Now, it actually pays to be overweight. A new report by NHS England Chief Exec Simon Stevens outlines a massive £8bn deficit in NHS funding over the next five years and outlines a number of ways in which the gap in finance can be filled. One idea is to reduce NHS spending on all the fat people, by paying them to be less fat.

The report outlines how employers are a key partner in forcing people to lose weight, and how they could reward employees, in cash, shopping vouchers or with prizes, who successfully lose weight. The idea, of course, is that the money the NHS pays out in reimbursing employers will be more than outweighed (arf arf) by the savings for not having to buy more super-sized beds, for example.

But is this really a good plan? While people carrying a few extra pounds who are thinking of slimming down are going to be chuffed at gaining a few quid for their troubles, isn’t this a bit unfair on those who don’t need to lose weight? What about all those people who have spent a fortune on slimming clubs so they aren’t overweight any more? That could be a bit hard to swallow. Should slim people start eating all the pies now so they can get heavy enough to lose some weight and pocket the cash?

And would such a scheme create a different kind of environment at work? Would people who don’t lose weight feel ostracised or even overlooked for promotion? Do you really want your employer knowing how much you weigh and giving you cash on the basis of your poundage? And what about the poor old self-employed- do they just have to stay fat?

Of course, this is not policy, merely a recommendation as to one way to plug a funding gap. But people used to say they’d never be able to ban smoking either. Perhaps overweight people will one day be a distant memory too…

Half of Britain victimised by cyber crooks

October 24th, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

cyber crime 300x223 Half of Britain victimised by cyber crooksHalf of the UK have been victims of cyber crime! According to a new report.

Well, they say ‘half’, but based on a survey of 2000 web users, 51% said they’d been affected by online scams, phishing, ID theft or some pesky virus.

The report by the Get Safe Online organisation, also said that many victims are left emotionally scarred by the experience.

Which is about right. You DO feel a bit vulnerable and freaked out that some arse has buggered your online-scene up.

Half of the victims said they felt violated by their ordeal and rued clicking on that link for free glans/baps (delete as appropriate). Only 14% of the affected felt they’d achieved any kind of redress after the matter either.

Also, a report by the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau, released to coincide with Get Safe Online Week, claimed that online scams raked in £670m between 1 September 2013 and 31 August 2014.

However an upshot of all this, has meant that those who have been violated then got heavy with web protection and not being so free and easy with their online behaviour.

Tony Neate, chief executive of Get Safe Online reckons this, by saying “Get Safe Online Week this year is all about ‘Don’t be a victim’, and we can all take simple steps to protect ourselves, including putting a password on your computer or mobile device, never clicking on a link sent by a stranger, using strong passwords and always logging off from an account or website when you’re finished.”

“The more the public do this, and together with better conviction rates, the more criminals won’t be able to hide behind a cloak of anonymity.”

Meanwhile Minister for the Cabinet Office Francis Maude threw his weight in and said the figures underlined the importance of doing everything possible to shore up the UK’s cyber defences, saying: “The UK cyber market is worth over £80bn a year and rising. The internet is undoubtedly a force for good, but we cannot stand still in the face of these threats, which already cost our economy billions every year.”

“We have an £860m Cyber Security Programme which supports law enforcement’s response to cybercrime, and we are working with the private sector to help all businesses protect vital information assets.”

loom bands Dad gets slapped with £1,792 phone bill over daughters loom band videosLoom-bands – elastic bands masquerading as craft – as really captured the imagination of the young people of the world.

One young lady called Trinity Groves was such a fan, that she watched tutorial videos so she could improve her looming. However, in the process, she ran up an enormous phone bill over a fortnight after her home’s WiFi stopped working.

Her dad, Philip, was blissfully unaware she’d been using Vodafone’s premium rates to get online, and after 28 hours of videos, dad got the unpleasant surprise of a £1,792 phone bill.

Philip is not happy at all. He said: “She was only learning how to make loom bands so she could trade them with her pals. We thought we were using the WiFi for a good fortnight and there was nothing to suggest it had disconnected.”

“We didn’t know we were using up all these charges for the internet at a premium rate. As far as I was aware, the WiFi was connected. I wasn’t informed otherwise. If a phone company sees a discrepancy in your bill or a huge surge in usage surely they have an obligation to let you know?”

“Suddenly I had this bill through from them on my doorstep, demanding all this money. I was absolutely gobsmacked. Now they are threatening to take me to court – it’s frightening that they can bully you this way. I might have to sell my van just to afford it, but I rely on that for my livelihood. I don’t know where to turn.”

After disputing the bill, Philip got another kick in the groin when Vodafone informed him that he was now blacklisted. They still want paying too.

Philip added: “They cut me off within five minutes. I told them I was going to go to an ombudsman but they have done nothing. They have just demanded I pay £1,410 by next week but I have been out of work recently because of an operation, I can’t afford it. How many of their clients pay this much for their internet? It’s disgusting. I have always had good a credit rating but since this, I have not been able to get a loan or anything.”

Trinity isn’t happy either, saying: “When I come home from school I usually get my phone and all my loom bands… I used to love watching the tutorial videos but now I know it cost my dad £1,792 I have had to stop watching them – it’s made me very sad.”

A spokeswoman for Vodafone said: “We can only confirm at this stage that we will launch a thorough investigation into the matter. We will then get back in touch with the customer once our inquires are concluded.”

Asda recall explosive prosecco

October 23rd, 2014 6 Comments By Ian Wade

Hold up boozers, Asda are recalling Prosecco because it keeps exploding, going off like a stag do’s trousers.

The supermarket’s Prosecco Spumante Extra Dry has been withdrawn from sale following complaints that the bottles keeping shattering.

The quite snipular £5.48 Italian wine, which is exclusive to Asda in the UK, is actually described as “a delicious sparkler exploding with zesty lemon”. Not literally, arf!

Basically if you have any of these:  L1402606, L1403271, L1403503, L1403655, L1404044, then get thee back to Asda sharpish.

asda pro 300x245 Asda recall explosive prosecco

An anonymous spokesman for Asda said anonymously “We have had a handful of complaints about our Prosecco Spumante Extra Dry bottles shattering,”

“We take this incredibly seriously as our customer and colleague safety is paramount to us, which is why we’ve recalled certain lot numbers of this product as a precaution.”

If you think you may affected, then take your bottle back to Asda and they’ll sort you with a refund or something.

Apple admit that iCloud has been compromised

October 23rd, 2014 2 Comments By Ian Wade

apple icloud 300x260 Apple admit that iCloud has been compromisedApple have ‘fessed up about iCloud accounts being compromised by fake log-in pages. This follows an incident wherein Chinese users’ account names and passwords were requested by suspect looking web pages.

After all that celebrity nude action a couple of weeks ago, Apple came up with a two-password verification system to try and increase security.

Alas, reports of organised password phishing syndicates harvesting user information via fake iCloud pages emerged, and Apple had to come clean and say it’s a thing.

A statement released on Apple’s support page has confirmed that these phishers were stealing accounts and passwords, but that remained the dimensions of it. There was no further information as to when these happenings occurred or the severity of them.

Apple have helpfully told users to only use sites if there’s a padlock handy. On the site’s address bar, not around your neck.

They said: “We’re aware of intermittent organised network attacks using insecure certificates to obtain user information, and we take this very seriously. These attacks don’t compromise iCloud servers, and they don’t impact iCloud sign in on iOS devices or Macs running OS X Yosemite using the Safari browser.”

“The iCloud website is protected with a digital certificate. Users should never enter their Apple ID or password into a website that presents a certificate warning.”

Last month, Apple chief executive Tim Cook admitted that Apple could do more to inform users how to make their iCloud accounts more secure, but was too pre-occupied with flogging new tat than being helpful.

The Sun+ membership – still taking your money?

October 22nd, 2014 2 Comments By Mof Gimmers

The sun logo 300x300 The Sun+ membership   still taking your money?Did you sign up to The Sun’s Dream Team last summer when the football season started? Well, while you were dreaming about topping your work’s fantasy league and gloating in the office, you may have missed something.

You may recall that, as part of the sign-up, you were obliged to take a trial for The Sun+ membership, which was free for two months.

Chances are, you forgot all about it, but The Sun didn’t. And now they want money.

According to one avid Bitterwallet reader: “I cancelled back in August and I’ve been charged today. Having looked over Twitter… there is plenty of people being charged after cancellation. So, if you cancelled your Sun+ membership either in the last few weeks or right back in August, check your bank statements either now or in the next few days.”

They also signed off with “Robbin’ b******s!”

And indeed, there’s a number of complaints on social media, with one Twitter user saying: “how do i cancel my sun Plus membership? I wasn’t even expecting the money to come out… Won’t be playing dreamteam again!!” and another adding “Thankyou to @TheSunNewspaper for luring me into a Sun Plus membership just for signing up for Dream team. No food for me next week. #sad”

If you signed-up to play Dream Team, you’d be advised to check your bank account, because there’s a good chance there’s going to be £7.99 missing from your account.

We’ll look into the best ways of cancelling your Sun+ account, but in the meantime, contact your bank and make sure the payments stop and, if you’re in the mood, call The Sun and give them what for at 020 7782 4000. Or, you can find their complaints page here to email them.

2485100596 5310e1de97 300x199 Aldi goes all Waitrose  get your organic veg and caviar on the cheapThe current supermarket price war is leaving consumers a little bemused. While the supermarkets scrap about it amongst themselves, customers slip quietly in behind their backs and buy our jammie dodgers and toilet duck for 4p less than we did last week. But now it seems the supermarkets are morphing into each other, with Aldi the latest, and perhaps most surprising supermarket to announce that it’s gone all Waitrose.

That’s right, to reflect their changing customer base, Aldi bosses have decided that Aldi is going to be the new go-to place for trendies and hipsters to get their organic food, with shoppers looking at a 25% saving on current supermarket organic prices.

The new vegetable range will include potatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots and onions and the supermarket will also introduce new fresh meat ranges, convenience foods and drinks, expanding their total product ranges by 11%.

Aldi Corporate Buying MD Tony Baines said “We know our shoppers want to buy more organic products, but price is often the reason why it’s not a regular purchase. This is why we’ve launched a 100% British organic range at an affordable everyday low price.”

And that’s not all. This year you can also get a totes posh Christmas at Aldi, with a range of ‘aspirational’ products going on sale, including lobster, goose and, at £9.99 for 20g, caviar. That’s proper snooty that.

So if Aldi is turning into Waitrose, and Sainsbury’s is turning into Asda (although why they would give the good news of lower prices before the bad news of decimating the Nectar card is anyone’s guess), have the German discounters completed a successful coup in the aisles? After all, if you’ve been lured in, why would you ever think to leave and shop somewhere else now…?

online shopping Shops still play part in online shopping solutionsShoppers still prefer to have a gander at goods in real shops before purchasing them online, a new survey has said.

According to findings, 65% of shoppers prefer to check out a thing in a shop before pressing ‘buy’ online.

The report by Geometry Global, called The Connected Shopper study, interviewed 9,486 people across 12 countries, and found there is a continued reliance on physical stores with 88% of shoppers who visit a physical store first citing seeing the product in real life as the primary reason for visiting.

Of the 12 countries studied, China topped the list in number of online purchases (5.88) with European countries trailing significantly; the countries making the least purchases online were France (2.40) and Spain (2.17).

Checking prices (65%) is the second reason why shoppers visit physical stores.

Actual online shopping only grew by 5% in 2011 to 7% in 2014. Which isn’t all that really.

The elegantly named Cesar Montes, EMEA CSO of Geometry Global, said: “Our findings confirm that we haven’t yet witnessed the complete online shopping revolution some had predicted. There are a number of reasons for this: the high street still occupies a central and vital function in the consumer’s journey to purchase.

“In addition, there remain a number of obstacles to consumers fully accepting online shopping, such as security concerns, payment methods and unwillingness to engage with brands via social media.”

The study also noticed that 63% of users really are not going to ‘friend’ brands online. So stop trying to engage, you big bad corporates. However 70% liked ads tailored to them. Little wonder when some companies deliveries are so poor.

Frozen food is uncool say the young

October 21st, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

Frosty Freezer 300x225 Frozen food is uncool say the youngYoung people don’t dig frozen food.

Or so that’s what a new survey claims, as it discovered that 18-34 year olds were twice as likely to dislike food stored in the freezer than those codgers over 35.

These fascinating findings come from IGD ShoperVista, who surveyed over 4,000 UK adults about their food storage solutions.

It transpires that many of the younger age group only used the freezer to store meat with a close use-by date and “unwanted food gifts”. Many considered food in their freezer an “insurance policy” for when no better options are available, and keep fun stuff like poppers and six-box of Magnums in their freezer instead.

Despite not being fans of frozen food, a quarter of 18-34-year-olds feel they have insufficient room in the freezer. Only 14% of over-35s also felt this to be an issue. Over half of those questioned in both age groups, said that they used their freezer for frozen food rather than freezing home cooked leftovers.

Yet it seems for the younger group, which represented only those who live away from home and do not have children, whatever is in their freezer is gash. Also: defrosting is a bit of a drag.

It all may sound a bit bleedin’ pointless, but this information comes as part of the IGD’s ‘Working On Waste’ campaign, which is trying to tackle these issues and change modern attitudes to leftovers and leaving something in the freezer for the best part of five years.

IGD chief executive, Joanne Denney-Finch says: “In its first year, Working on Waste will reach around 650,000 employees in one month through meal planning advice, top tips, what to do with leftovers and much more,”

“As an industry, we employ 3.6 million people and it is these employees that will form the bedrock of our campaign, taking learnings from their company into their households. A lot of progress has been made already by companies across the industry to help consumers reduce household food waste. However, seven million tonnes of food and drink is still being thrown away by UK homes every year.”

KimJongIlTeapot 225x300 Sometimes cheapest is best. Top teas tested by Which!!!Most people don’t get paid to have afternoon tea, but for four lucky Which!!! experts, that’s exactly what happened*. Which!!!’s latest service to the UK consumer population is a test on the best teabags- with price not necessarily equalling quality in the tea stakes, as some of the cheapest teas proved most popular with the panel.

The panel of four experts blind tasted the teas in different orders, with and without milk. Each tea was scored on appearance, aroma, taste, body/strength and aftertaste. Standard bags were brewed for three minutes and all teas had exactly the same amount of milk and water added. They tested 19 English breakfast and 17 Earl Grey teas, so if you don’t drink either of those teas you are stuffed. Nevertheless Which!!! found that:

Top of the teas in the English Breakfast league were two supermarket own-brand ranges, with Morrisons M English Breakfast and Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference English Breakfast (Fairtrade) being awarded the joint highest score of 80%. Both teas were praised by the tea experts for their classic full-bodied flavour even despite their bottom-dollar cost of 2p and 3p a bag respectively. The cheapest teas all came in at around 2p per bag, but Morrisons was the runaway leader at this price point.

Posh cuppa Whittard English Breakfast Tag & Envelope came bottom of the English Breakfast standard tea bags, with a measly score of 50%, despite being joint most expensive  English breakfast tea (with Fortnum and Mason) at 15p per bag . One expert described the tea as tasting “like old cabbage”. Well we all could have done that.

ebtea 500x287 Sometimes cheapest is best. Top teas tested by Which!!!

For the snooty Earl Grey tea drinkers, they might be surprised to learn that Aldi Diplomat topped the taste test for Earl Grey standard tea bags with a score of 78%, for its well-balanced, warm, citrus flavour, another bargain at only 2p per bag. Duchy Originals from Waitrose had the lowest score of 38%, and costs 8p per bag. Aldi bags were the cheapest and Whittard and Fortnum and Mason were again the most expensive, scoring 63% and 58% respectively.egtea 500x298 Sometimes cheapest is best. Top teas tested by Which!!!

Separately, Which!!! also tested premium mesh pyramid tea bags for both English breakfast and Earl Grey. However, these bags are considerably more expensive at around 30p per bag and the best performing ones did only slightly better than the other teas we tested. So we haven’t bothered with those results.

Which!!! newcomer, the inscrutable Richard Headland, said: “Our taste test revealed a big difference in the quality of English Breakfast and Earl Grey teas.  With some of the best teas costing just a few pence per bag, and supermarket own-brands beating luxury brands, it shows you don’t need to spend a lot to get a great cup of tea.” Unless you are buying it from an over-priced coffee house, one assumes…

*we don’t actually know that they got paid. But we bet they did. How do you become a tea expert in a land of dedicated tea-drinkers anyway?

Tesco sales falling at fastest rate in groceries

October 21st, 2014 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

tesco 300x210 Tesco sales falling at fastest rate in groceriesThe trouble at Tesco simply won’t go away, with reports that the retailers sales are falling at the quickest rate in the grocery industry. As we all know, Aldi and Lidl’s successes are taking a huge toll on the supermarket.

Tesco sales fell by 3.6% in the 12 weeks to October 12th, reducing their market share from 30.1% a year ago to 28.8%, according to Kantar Worldpanel. It might not seem like a lot from the outside, but in the industry, this is bleak news. Or great news if you’re a rival.

 

In simple terms, to turn this around, analysts at HSBC reckon that it will cost Tesco £3bn to get things sorted in the UK. The good news for customers is that this should mean a drop in prices on goods by 5 or 6%. It would also mean 20% more staff and an improvement in the quality of their food.

Sainsbury’s are struggling too, with their sales down by 3.1% in 12 weeks, with Morrisons’ sales down by 1.8%. Asda, who have been quietly getting on with business as usual of late, have seen their sales increase by 1%. These figures are all knocked into a cocked-hat though, as Aldi’s sales have shot up by 27.3% and Lidl’s by 18.1%.

According to a detailed new survey of shoppers, Tesco’s brand in the UK is “severely compromised” thanks to a general and widespread disillusionment from customers with Tesco’s service. Research from the firm Lazarus shows that Tesco currently have the lowest overall customer satisfaction metrics in the grocery industry. As a brand, it has been labelled as “tarnished”.

Amazon and Royal Mail in job bonanza

October 21st, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

Royal Mail Amazon and Royal Mail in job bonanzaJobs ahoy, as Amazon and Royal Mail have announced they’re creating 32,000 of them for the festive season.

Amazon plan to get in an extra 13,000 people to help at their eight distribution centres, as well as looking to employ another 1,000 permanent staff.

The Royal Mail is scoping for 19,000 Christmas workers to help with the additional onslaught that this time of year brings, with contracts from November to January.

Amazon reckon that on their busiest day last Christmas, they had orders for over 4.1 million items – working out at roughly 47 things per second. So yes. Some extra staff might be quite helpful there.

John Tagawa, director of UK operations at the Amazon, said: “The thousands of seasonal associates who join us at this time of year play an integral role in helping us deliver an exceptional experience for our customers during this incredibly busy time.”

“We’re excited to be creating 13,000 seasonal jobs, hundreds of which will lead to permanent, full-time positions.”

“We have created more than 2,000 new permanent roles at our fulfilment centres in the last two years, taking our total permanent fulfilment and customer service centre workforce to over 6,000 employees.”

‘Seasonal associates’. Honestly.

People often like to have a bit of fun with their online orders. Someone asked for their shopping to be delivered by someone in a penguin suit (and they obliged) while others have given dinosaurs with orders.

Well, one hungry redditor ordered a couple of pizzas with some caveats.

B0djzzdCMAAdtmA Behold the silly pizza order about spiders and revenge!

As you can see, the customer asked for a crispier than normal pizza crust with the note of “if that’s not vague enough – make it like you’re taking revenge on a cheating boyfriend BUT you still want to reconcile in the not too distant future.” As for the delivery guy, he was told to keep an eye out for a spider called Frank.

There’s three potential responses to this:

1. Urgh! Arseholes! Why won’t they let people just do their jobs without being so bloody wacky and trying to get internet famous all the time! I hope they spat on their pizzas!
2. Aw! How funny! Adding a little humour to the mundane! How fantastic!
3. $20 for two pizzas? Sign me up!

You can decide which category you fall in for yourself.