Many consumers have had bother when receiving their online deliveries. Parcels can be late, go missing entirely, contain damaged goods or in some cases, thrown on a roof for you to fetch.
According to Which!!!, 60% of us prefer to shop online for the convenience, even though 26% of us have had trouble with the delivery process. Seems like a gamble we’re willing to take because we’re all fantastically bone idle.
The biggest problem is late deliveries and not being able to choose a delivery time.
However, not all companies are bad. Some are in fact, rather good. According to a Which!!! poll, the best in the business are WexPhotographic.com, JohnLewis.com, LizEarle.com and RicherSounds.com.
Which!!!’s Richard Lloyd, said: “One of the attractions of shopping online is the convenience of having your items delivered but we’ve found the experience can be anything but convenient. We want shops to do more to ensure that the service is first class, first time. Retailers need to respond to consumers’ demands and stamp out dodgy deliveries.”
So with that, let us look at the best and worst companies when it comes to delivering your purchases.
Ten Best Online Shops
The Worst Online Shops
90. Shop.BT.com (BT Shop )
99. DIY.com (B&Q)
In fantastically shocking news that absolutely no-one was more than well aware of, price comparison sites have been accused for hiding the best deals because they’d rather promote the ones that serve them better. It’s almost like this hasn’t been going on for years!
The Big Deal website have started throwing accusations around (so lawyers, if you’d like to go to them instead of us, that’d be lovely) saying that five of Britain’s biggest price comparison sites are being deceitful.
Well, they’ve said that uSwitch never showed the cheapest deal over the Big Deal’s 13 week investigation, as well as regularly hiding three of the top five cheapest deals.
The sites use mechanisms to “hide deals where they ask users if they want to see deals they can switch to ‘today’ or ‘now’”, according to a statement from The Big Deal. By clicking ’yes’ to this option, the websites remove deals which don’t earn the price comparison sites a commission from the energy companies. Those just happen to be the cheapest deals. The Big Deal says that Money Supermarket and Confused automatically tick the ‘yes’ option.
They also say that Compare the Market and Go Compare automatically show users these results without asking the user, adding that “you have to go through several screens to ‘filter your results’ to see the cheapest deals.”
The bad news for these sites is that hiding deals could well be in breach of EU and UK law.
“Price comparison sites are worth hundreds of millions of pounds, make huge profits and with over 5 million people switching a year are a major part of the energy market,” said The Big Deal co-founders Henry de Zoete and Will Hodson in an open letter to the major price comparison sites. ”Yet there is no transparency to how they make their money or how much they charge. Polling by Populus found that 43% of people did not even realise that the sites charge energy companies a commission.”
uSwitch aren’t having it though, saying: “We are fully accredited under the Ofgem Confidence Code, meaning that our results tables are always ordered by the savings a customer can make in a fair, independent and unbiased way.”
“We are fully supportive of Ofgem’s decision to strengthen the code to ensure that all price comparison websites operate to the same high standard.”
Either way, if this is news to you, make sure you tinker with the settings on any price comparison site of any sort in a bid to make sure it is working for you, rather than the middle man.
The frozen food giant is going to offering a cooked whole lobster for a fiver as part of the Christmas line-up.
Coming ‘atcha from November 5th, it’s the first time the prawn-ring and 89p pizza vendor has offered whole lobster.
Lobster has been on sale in the past at Waitrose (for a sinister £6.66), Tesco and Ocado, but this is the cheapest the high street has seen.
Iceland will also be offering what it reckons is the “best value turkey dinner in Britain”, whose chief component is a turkey crown for 12 priced at £14.
Iceland proudly claim a family of eight could buy a full turkey dinner, with starter and pudding, for £29.39, or £3.67 per head.
Iceland themselves aren’t doing too badly either, seeing as they’ve essentially been doing the cost-cutting thing for years, that Aldi and Lidl are now being praised for. Hurrah!
Winter isn’t too far away, which means we’re going to get some cold, bleak weather. Ignore what the Christmas cards say, showing people smiling with rosy cheeks – there’s nothing romantic about trembling in your living room wearing eight jumpers and chattering your teeth down to nubs.
Of course, it doesn’t have to be like that if you have central heating. All hail the magic of controlled temperatures!
Research shows that around 60% of people haven’t the foggiest when it comes to their heating, even when most think they do.
However, a lot of people are using their thermostats incorrectly, so we’ve got some tips to help you use them more wisely and save some money while you’re at it.
Choose the best temperature
This might seem like teaching nana how to suck eggs, but by turning your heating down by 1°C can save you around £55 per year. One good tip is to set your room thermostat to 18°C and then turn it up by one degree every day until you find the optimum warmth. For your thermostat to work well, they need a free flow of air to sense the temperature accurately, so make sure they’re not covered by curtains or hidden away behind furniture.
Turn the thermostat up
According to the Energy Savings Trust, over half of us whack the thermostat up when it is cold outside. They shouldn’t, because a thermostat is designed to maintain the desired temperature, whatever the weather. Greg Shreeve, energy expert at the Energy Saving Trust, says that, if you do turn up your thermostat, you’ll “find it’s a bit too hot” and you’ll have wasted energy and cash in the process.
Leaving the heat on low
Some leave the heat on constantly on a low setting, when they should be using a programmer which means your house is warmer when you’re in, rather than making rooms cosy when you’re at work. It might seem obvious, but according to statistics, around a third of Britons do this.
If you’re serious about saving money, you could install more than one thermostat, which means each room is controllable. So if you have a room you never go in, what’s the point in heating it? Setting lower temps for bits of the house you hardly go in, or at certain times of the day, will save you cash in the long run.
Thermostat to max
Do you turn the thermostat to max when you get in from work, in a bid to heat the house up more quickly? Noticed how you can’t get it back to a comfortable temperature in good time? 35% of Brits do this. ”People think it’s like pressing your foot down on the accelerator in a car, and the further you press your foot down, the faster you get to the speed you want,” Shreeve explains. ”But actually, a thermostat doesn’t control the speed at which your house heats up – it just controls the final temperatures.”
Keeping the water on all day
Are you one of the third of Brits who keeps the water on all-day so you don’t run out of water? Well, you shouldn’t. It’ll be costing you loads of money and it is unnecessary. If you have a well insulated hot water tank, then if you’ve heated it in the morning, it should still be warm by lunchtime. Set a timer so that the water comes on half an hour before you get up or come home from work and that should do you.
Keeping the electric storage heaters on
62% of you don’t know how storage heaters work. If you own one, know this – electric storage heaters are designed to work by using cheaper, off-peak electricity to rev up through the night and then release heat during the day. Leaving them on all the time will cost you money. The Energy Savings Trust have a guide, which says: “A standard electric storage heater has two controls, an Output setting and an Input setting. The Output setting will control how much heat the heater gives out (as long as there is stored heat available). The Input control determines how much electricity the heater will take from the grid during the coming night, and hence how much stored heat will be available the following day.”
“So you need to set the Output dial according to how much heat you want now, and the Input dial according to how much heat you think you will need tomorrow. If a heater runs out of heat in the evening while you still need it, or if the weather gets colder, you may need to turn the Input dial up. If the weather gets warmer, or the heater never runs out of heat in the evening, you can probably save money without getting cold by turning the Input dial down. Turn the Output dial to zero before you go to bed or go out, so you’re not wasting energy overheating empty rooms. You can probably do this quite early, maybe an hour before you go to bed, as it will take a while for the heater and the room to cool down.
“And when summer comes and you don’t need the heaters any more, turn them off at the wall, not just by turning the dials to zero. Remember you will need to turn them on again the day before you need the heating to come back on.”
Sounds good doesn’t it?
Pensions minister, Steve Webb said he wants to help those tied to poor-value annuities: ”I know many people who have locked into an annuity are feeling rather bitter that they came just the wrong side of the line.”
“It’s been gnawing away at me and I want to say to those affected: I know how you feel. If it were possible for people who would rather have a capital sum than a regular income, in principle I would like to be able to help, and this is something the next government should have a look at.”
The government have pledged that, as of next April, savers who are about to retire will be given full discretion as to how they use the funds from their pension. If you’re over 55, you will be allowed to treat your pension like a normal bank account. Don’t spend it all at once though eh?
However, there’s a problem with those who have already bought annuities because they’ll be excluded from this rule as it stands. Webb continued: “If we accept the annuity market was broken, we also must accept it was so 10 years ago.”
The thing here is that Webb’s views haven’t turned into proper policies yet, so if you’re a codger, don’t get out the celebratory vodka just yet.
There’s also talk of policing the pension sector to ensure that savers get a fair deal and that something needs to be done about the high charges that chip away at funds during retirement.
Ever get the feeling that the government might ‘fix’ all this by simply putting the retirement age up to 230, so no-one has to worry about it?
Sugar Puffs RIP. That’s right - Sugar Puffs have been modified to have less sugar and – oh God – are being renamed. Are Mumsnet behind this? This reeks of people complaining about the word ‘sugar’ on a children’s breakfast.
The legendary treat will now be called Honey Monster Puffs. Look at the state of them.
The new look puffs will feature a revised recipe with less sugar and 20% more honey, and also features traffic light nutritional labelling on front of pack, which no-one will read. And besides, isn’t honey the same thing as sugar?
The puffs’ owners, Halo, said it was taking a “responsible and transparent” approach to nutrition and wanted to help consumers make informed decisions. Honey Monster Puffs contain 8.6g of sugar in a 30g portion – down from the 9.3g of the previous recipe – which is less than Krave (9g), Coco Pops (11g) and Frosties (11g).
Halo said the sugar content of the brand had been reduced by almost 40% in the past decade. That’s no fun is it? Some things are great purely because they’re really, really bad for you. Anyway, this is all part of a relaunch for the cereal, which has gradually been crashing saleswise over the last few years.
“We feel the product relaunch, coupled with our move to bring the product name in line with the Honey Monster character, can help grow our share of the cereals category,” said Halo Foods marketing director Andy Valentine.
The Honey Monster will be back, as he’s the dude on the packaging, and as is always the way these days, they’re hoping to ‘tap into nostalgia of the brand’. Jeez.
A key element of the marketing will be encouraging children to get outside and be active, and allowing them to be au fait with a big yellow monster coming in to nick their breakfast, who has urine that smells exactly like the cereal he’s promoting.
It seems no-one is safe from scam debt collection agencies. Hot on the heels of banks, energy companies and payday lenders, the latest industry group to admit inventing ominous debt chasers is the water companies, with more than half the UK’s water suppliers copping to the practice..
Twelve of the UK’s largest water suppliers told BBC Radio 4 that they had taken part in the practice, while five said they are still doing it or might continue to do so in future.
As in similar cases in other industries- described as “unacceptable” by the energy regulator Ofgem during its investigation- typically, the name of the debt collection company appears in large print at the top. Sometimes the small print reveals it is linked to the water company, but at other times there is nothing on the stationery to show this is effectively just a scare tactic.
Yorkshire Water has been sending letters to some customers in arrears under the name Rockford Debt Collections Ltd, and prior to Ofwat’s intervention, there was no link shown between Rockford and Yorkshire Water. Small print at the bottom now confirms a link. Thames Water, the UK’s biggest domestic water supplier, was sending letters from County Wide Collections with no mention of any link. Their stationery now states in three places that it is part of Thames Water group. Northumbrian Water, Affinity Water and Welsh Water stopped sending such letters earlier this year.
But while consumer groups are getting shirty, and regulators are wading in, the water companies defended their actions, saying they have a duty to collect debts, and that this type of letter was a ‘last resort’. Yorkshire Water says it has only “temporarily changed” its approach, defending the practice by explaining that “any customer who receives a letter from Rockford would already have received three letters from Yorkshire Water urging them to get in touch, as well as a text.”
“We try hard to engage with our customers in arrears. This is a long process, but our open and transparent letters do increase in severity,” agreed a Thames Water spokesperson, with absolutely no trace of irony over the use of the word transparent. “When it gets to a final letter, we have found the use of an internally branded debt collection agency approach to be effective and cost-efficient,” he added, clearly viewing all customers in arrears as numbers that need adjusting.
And that is the problem that some campaigners against this type of behaviour have- the assumption that customers won’t pay, rather than they can’t. “We’re not saying don’t pursue debt,” said Gillian Guy, the chief executive of the charity Citizens Advice. “Clearly companies are entitled to do that, but we are saying that they really ought to do that honestly and with some sensitivity.”
“These letters are about increasing the level of aggression to get payment and they’re made on the assumption that people won’t pay rather than actually that many can’t” she finished. Ofwat itself says customers must not be misled or scared into making payments and told the BBC it still had concerns about the practices of two water companies, but declined to name them.
But while customers facing an energy bill of up to thousands are more likely to be simply unable to pay, does the same reasoning apply to water bills of a few hundred a year? The average UK bill in 2014 is £393 a year, which works out at under £40 per month, and therefore costs less than satellite TV, or many newer mobile phone contracts for as much water as you can drink, cook with, wash in and pour on your garden/car. Aren’t water companies, who are restricted in the action they can take (they can’t just cut you off like a phone provider can, for example) entitled to do whatever it takes to get the money they are legitimately owed? Answers on a postcard…
Google reckon that SSL 3.0 is an insecure, obsolete protocol that has since been superseded. But even when servers support the more secure TLS 1.0, TLS 1.1 or TLS 1.2, the downgrading that takes place between servers and clients can be exploited using a POODLE (Padding Oracle On Downgraded Legacy Encryption) attack.
Bodo Möller from Google’s security team points out that this move will “break some sites” and the advice is to support TLS_FALLBACK_SCSV instead, at least for the time being. OR THE POODLES WILL GET YOU.
Basically an attacker can force this protocol downgrade to take place by preventing the initial connection from taking place. The encryption used in SSL 3.0 is fairly easily cracked and a relatively simple attack can then be used to intercept and decrypt secure cookies.
What that means is that hackers could steal browser cookies and potentially end up controlling your email, bank details and social network accounts.
So yes. BEWARE POODLES! Not only that – these POODLES are similar to another vulnerability called Firesheep. It seems that the internet is under threat from animals that have fluffy fur.
These problems will only affect people who haven’t updated their browsers in a while, so if you’re using Internet Explorer 6, you may find your computer filling up with wool. So update your browser now, y’idiot.
Some of you may think this is blindingly obvious, but households are wasting around £80 per year because they don’t switch their televisions and consoles off at night. We are, to the hysterical, A Nation On Standby!
If everyone stopped leaving things on standby, then the country could make savings of £1.7 billion a year according to the Energy Saving Trust.
The survey, ahead of Big Energy Saving Week, found that three-quarters of people polled were worried about their energy bills, so one easy way to reduce them is to make sure that you’re actually turning off gadgets and such, when you’re not using them.
Philip Sellwood, chief executive of the Energy Saving Trust, said: “Whatever your age, gender or the size of your household: our research has found millions of us are unintentionally wasting electricity when we leave our gadgets on standby. It’s an easy mistake to make yet it costs us a fortune.”
“Televisions and games consoles are now among the primary sources of our everyday entertainment, yet when left on permanent standby they are costing £45-£80 a year.”
“I’m not suggesting we get rid. I’m urging people to take back control of their appliances next week and switch off when we aren’t using them.”
It isn’t just leaving stuff on all the time either. Older people are adding to their bills by having rubbish, old fridges. Decrepit appliances are more likely to have faults that make them inefficient. A faulty thermostat on a freezer could be adding £45 to your bills, annually. Getting rid of old-fashioned light bulbs and replacing them with energy efficient ones and halogen lights with LEDs could save you around £45 a year on bills.
And if that doesn’t work, then you should check your provider to make sure you’re getting the best deal from them.
Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey said: “Consumers can make a real difference to their electricity bills by improving energy efficiency at home and Citizens Advice and Energy Saving Trust are there to help. Shopping around for the best energy deal can also make a huge difference.”
“We’ve slashed the vast array of confusing tariffs, so it’s now easier to compare energy prices and switching times will be halved by the end of this year. Households could be saving a further £200 per year just by switching suppliers.”
So there you have it. Stop being daft and save yourself some money. It doesn’t matter if you care for the Earth or not – with the money you save, you could buy a substantial amount of booze, so you know it is worth doing.
They say: “From 11 April 2015, Sainsbury’s are changing the way you earn Nectar points, so you’ll earn 1 point for every £1* you spend in store and online at Sainsbury’s. You’ll also no longer receive 1 Nectar point for every bag you reuse in store.”
That little asterisk is their own addition, which means you can’t earn on fags and booze or ‘infant formula’.
So that means you’re going to earn less points when you shop with them.
They continue: “While this means you’ll earn fewer points on your shopping, you’ll still earn 1 point per litre of fuel as before. Plus, Sainsbury’s will be bringing you lots of new opportunities to boost your balance faster and more value when you spend your points. Look out for the Nectar ‘Thanks a million’ event in store from 17-19 October for starters.”
Sainsbury’s promise ‘Double Up’ promotions around Christmas, as well as promising vouchers which will be worth more than a quid per point, providing you want to go to the cinema or eat at a Pizza Express.
For the full run down of what this means for you and your Nectar card, click here.
That’s according to the findings of a study by Global Wireless Solutions, who tested the ten most popular commuter routes to discover that that one in three mobile internet tasks and one in seven voice calls on commuter trains fails.
The networks EE, O2 and Vodafone all rely heavily on their older 2G networks and ‘half-rate codecs’ for the commuters, but this means that call quality can be poor and many data packets are dropped.
The study found that 23% of 3G data packets and 37% of 4G data packets travelling across the networks of the four major UK operators do not make it to their intended destinations.
Basically, the best network on which to chat on is 3, while Vodafone’s subscribers get best 3G data service and EE subscribers get the best 4G data service.
In a statement that suggests he needed it written for him, Paul Carter, chief executive of GWS said: “Leaves on the track, the wrong kind of snow, having to stand up all the way to work and back – commuters have enough to contend with without the kind of mobile connectivity problems we’re revealing today,”
“It’d be great to see networks, rail operators and station-masters taking the lead on improving connectivity for commuters – rather than having to be dragged into the 21st Century kicking and screaming.”
Bless him. Shall we look at the Top Ten worst stations then?
Station / Average number of voice and data failures
1. St Pancras (99)
2. Radlett (53)
3. Kentish Town (43)
4. Upminster (42)
5. Elstree & Borehamwood (36)
6. Hendon (33.5)
7. St Alban’s City (33)
8. Cricklewood (27.5)
9. Kidbrooke (27)
10. Ockenden (26)
The latest in the long line of unending hackery was spotted after hackers were able to get at logins and passwords via a third party affair.
Hackers leaked 400 accounts onto site Pastebin, claiming to make the remaining 6.9 million hacked accounts available to users in return for Bitcoin donations, according to The Next Web.
The post threatened that 6.9 million Dropbox accounts had been hacked, including photos, videos and other files.
Obviously Dropbox don’t want to be seen as quite so vulnerable and so dismissed it, claiming: “These usernames and passwords were unfortunately stolen from other services and used in attempts to log in to Dropbox accounts.
“We’d previously detected these attacks and the vast majority of the passwords posted have been expired for some time now. All other remaining passwords have been expired as well.”
Dropbox reckon that the service consistently expiries passwords for accounts that are being attacked, but could not provide a number of accounts that expired recently.
The news comes as wasteman Edward Snowden claims individuals who care about their privacy should “get rid of Dropbox”, counting it among the services that are “hostile to privacy.”
Either way, Dropbox should change their company logo from ‘your stuff, anywhere’, to ‘your stuff, bloody everywhere’.
The Minister of State for Culture and the Digital Economy wants to make it easier to fine the perpetrators of these heinous crimes.
Mr Vaizey would like to get it all sorted by the next general election, which suggests he needs to get his skates on.
A vague attempt at doing this last year was stopped, after a legal ruling went against the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) after it fined Christopher Niebel, the co-owner of marketing company Tetrus Telecoms, £30,000 for bombarding people with hundreds of thousands of texts regarding PPI and accident claims.
Simon Entwistle of ICO reckons: “This will make it much more straightforward for us to take action,”
“At the moment, it takes a large amount of effort to prove substantial distress and this change will make it much more proportionate to the problems these calls and texts cause.”
“We understand firms can have legitimate reasons to make marketing calls, but we reckon that for every one concern lodged with us there are about 1,000 nuisance calls or texts.”
Well, about time frankly.