Mmm, don’t you just love a tasty burger? Well, maybe you won’t any more, if the latest warning from UK food inspectors turns into a reality. They’re concerned that more infected animals could enter the UK food chain thanks to a proposed change in abbatoir inspection processes.
In the last two years, inspectors have successfully thrown out the diseased and infected carcasses of animals with many delicious types of pestilence, including tapeworm, peritonitis, milkspot, tumours, and – everybody’s favourite – FAECES CONTAMINATION.
However, new rules from the EU are diluting inspectors powers and shifting responsibility onto the food companies involved. Unison are concerned that the industry is incapable of policing itself and needs inspectors to act as independent quality controllers. And you only have to look at the horsemeat scandal to see that they have a point.
Pig carcasses have already been affected by the European Commission rules – inspectors would cut into their heads to examine for diseases, but now they are only required to give a visual inspection.
Heather Wakefield from Unison was pretty graphic about the changes, saying:
‘The UK government’s agenda will result in food that repulses us being dished up on our plates. Most people do not know that there are a small group of meat inspectors and vets that keep them safe from harmful and repulsive additions to our sausages, Sunday roasts and beef pies. They work in some of the most awful conditions in blood and animal discharges every day. They are always the first to come under attack, not only from the food business operators, but also from our government.’
Who fancies a kale smoothie?
As seems to be the case with mobile providers, EE has joined in by increasing the monthly cost of phone bills by 2.7%. That’s what happens when everyone says you’re the best mobile network around.
Subscribers on EE, Orange and T-Mobile will be affected by the price hike, which comes into effect from May 28th.
Additional charges for usage beyond customers’ monthly allowance will also increase. GOOD TIMES.
And as the price rise is linked with inflation, customers will not be able to cancel their contract early, unless they joined or upgraded after January 23rd.
The network has warned that those who signed up or upgraded within the last 30 days may still receive a letter about the move, but will not be affected by the changes.
What are EE saying on their website? “We know price rises are never great news, but we work hard to keep costs down while offering our customers great value on the UK’s biggest and fastest network. As a result of rising business costs, we are increasing the price of EE, Orange and T-Mobile monthly plans.”
Looks like the mobile companies are pre-emptively trying to make some money back now that roaming charges are to get the chop.
Some say politicians live in ivory towers, divorced from the real life the rest of us have to face, and perhaps none more so than those unelected bods in the House of Lords. Not that that stops them meddling in the lives of the little people, and the latest tirade to emerge from the maroon benches is denigrating supermarket offers.
Specifically, the House of Lords European Union Committee is particularly dismayed by the ever-popular BOGOF offers, claiming that, rather than saving shoppers money, these bargains just lead to excess food waste.
Committee chair Baroness Scott of Needham Market described it as ‘morally repugnant’ that at least 90million tonnes of food were dumped each year in the EU, including 15million in Britain.
“We are calling on the new European Commission, which will be appointed in November this year, to publish a five-year strategy for reducing food waste across the EU, and to do so within six months of taking office,” she said.
“We are urging supermarkets to look again at offers such as ‘buy one get one free’, which can encourage excess consumption, which leads to food waste.”
She also suggests “tax incentives” might be employed in order to “encourage” supermarkets to ensure unsaleable food goes for actual human consumption, such as through food banks.
So is this the beginning of the end for BOGOFs? And how will it impact on your pocket? Or is the committee right, and it will just make your wheelie bin lighter?
Energy companies are just taking the piss now aren’t they? Complaints about the UK’s energy firms have rocketed to the highest level on record in the first three months of 2014, going up by 224% according to the energy sector’s ombudsman.
Between January and March, there were 10,638 complaints. Compare that to the same period last year, where the figure was 3,277. Compare that to the small matter of there being 17,960 complaints in total in 2013, and it looks like we’re going to see record levels of gripes from customers. Crucially, are the energy companies going to even care?
The main concerns for customers is that they’re not receiving bills, angry about billing charges and unhappy with poor customer service.
This comes on the back of regulator Ofgem announcing that they would be referring the whole of the energy sector to the Competition and Markets Authority for an in-depth investigation.
The Chief Ombudsman Lewis Shand Smith said: “Consumer frustration and dissatisfaction is something that we hear about every day, and we welcome any attempts by Ofgem to make the energy market fairer.”
“With energy complaints trebling in the first quarter of this year and problems relating to billing the greatest concern, increased transparency is something that should be addressed.”
You know what it’s like. You try to find a reputable tradesman, and some pie eating git with a gut the size of the moon comes into your house, whistles through his teeth and tells you it’ll cost a thousand quid to put up a shelf. Then they bugger it up and you have to pay someone else to do it.
Well, last year, incompetent tradesmen cost UK householders an estimated £1.9 BILLION in botched repairs that had to be redone.
The figures, from the TrustMark tradesman scheme, said that one in five people who have had work done in their homes have had to employ someone else to fix problems – costing an average of £600.
The problems start when trying to choose someone from the job. A quarter of us will employ people based on recommendations from friends and family, while 57% of homeowners didn’t bother to check their qualifications. 6% of us simply go for the cheapest quote.
TrustMark is a government endorsed set of standards for tradesmen, which has been updated and is due to be launched soon. Consumer minister Jenny Willot said:
‘Every trader who has signed up to the scheme has been independently assessed for their competence. We want to put rogue or unscrupulous tradesmen out of business. One of the best ways to do this is to pick out the best businesses, so people know where to turn first for their home improvements, maintenance and repairs.I would encourage all legitimate and honest tradesmen to sign up to this scheme.’
That’s all well and good. But if you were a dishonest tradesman, wouldn’t you just sign up for it anyway?
Right minded people tend to slam the phone into the wall whenever they get a call about kitchens. But if you get a phone call about a government led ‘kitchen scrappage scheme’ – offering to give you a discount on a new kitchen in exchange for your old one – don’t fall for it.
It is, in fact, a con. Quite a clever con, really, considering the government have, in the past, run boiler and car scrappage schemes.
But of course, it’s all a scam to get your personal information. If you ask them what company they’re calling from, they’ll suddenly get shy, because it’s all shadier than a row of shady palm trees on Shady Lane.
What they’ll do instead is try to arrange a home sales visit, and then proceed to ask you probing questions like ‘How big is your cooker hood, love?’ and ‘What kind of knobs do you have?’ and ask you questions about your income.
Andy Curry from the Commissioner’s Office said that the calls will probably come from a lead generation company, trying to get your details so that you can be bombarded with further sales calls.
‘It appears these made up scrappage schemes are just another hook used to get people to give their details, which lead generation companies then sell on.’ he said.
Yet another reason to ditch the landline…
A while ago, we wrote about iFlorist and the fact that there was something a little fishy about a number of reviews they’d received. It certainly looked like positive reviews were being hastily thrown at sites in a bid to counteract all the negative ones.
Well, the complaints and negative reviews are back again, with people furious at what they think is crappy service.
On BW, one reader got in touch to say: “On March 29, 2014, I paid iFlorist to deliver a bouquet of flowers with a glass vase, a card (which was to be handwritten in) and a box of chocolates, which were to be sent to my partner’s mother for Mother’s Day.”
“After Mother’s Day weekend, the flowers did not arrive, and after several attempts at contacting iFlorist, they finally replied saying that they would try to get my order out and that they would offer me a £5 voucher for my next purchase – no refund (even though there were no flowers!)”
“Finally, on Wednesday, April 2, the flowers were delivered – and were old. No vase. No card. No chocolates. I’ve opened a dispute on Pay Pal and am trying to reclaim my money back. What good are flowers for Mother’s Day if they’re delivered 3-4 days late? Not to mention, 3/4 promised items weren’t even included! I’ve reported them to BBC Watchdog and hope these scam artists are go out of business and SOON.”
Over at MoneySavingExpert, there were more complaints. Shouting “AVOID THIS COMPANY”, one disgruntled customer said that they had “paid extra for express delivery. The roses turned up on the doorstep at 745pm and the courier didn’t even bother to ring the bell. Three of the flowers were blackened and the others looked very sorry for themselves. I cannot believe I ordered flowers through this company having seen them mentioned on MSE Valentines link… their chat link is always dead and they have not responded to support tickets.”
Yesterday, complaints were coming in at the ReviewCentre, where someone spat: “Purchased “designer flowers” for mothers day which were appalling. Flowers were half dead and wrapped in tissue paper that looked like it had been dropped on the floor and danced on! Only wish I had read other peoples reviews first because most people seem to be of the same opinion. Never again – my local supermarket were selling better at a quarter of the price and forget customer services – they are as bad as the flowers!”
A number of new complaints bloomed over at FlowerDelivery, saying “avoid”, “disgusted” and “took money – no refund given!” and TrustPilot was again rife with angry customers, with loads of complaints coming in this week. One iFlorist user said: “Extremely poor product and appalling lack of follow up service,” with products being delivered not as advertised, as well as “the supposed live support service appears to be permanently unavailable” and the customer feeling “cheated and angry. The flowers were a rip off and I have paid for goods and services in addition that I have not received. Now they don’t even have the decency to respond my enquiries by email and it’s impossible to get through to anyone on the phone.”
Other customers said they had been “ignored”, “the WORST company I’ve EVER dealt with”, “WORST SERVICE EVER”, “AVOID THIS COMPANY LIKE THE PLAGUE!”
iFlorist did contact one customer (not all) with an apology and an offer to “e-mail you personally to arrange some appropriate compensation,” so it may well be worth peeved customers giving them a ring on 0844 874 5010 or email them again at their contact page. You can send them a letter if you prefer, at iflorist HQ, Jubilee House, Phoenix Way, Burnley, Lancashire, BB11 5SX.
In the meantime, if an offer online looks like it is too good to be true, then it probably is.
Marks & Spencer just can’t cut it when it comes to selling clothes. Consumers don’t like their clothes and aren’t connecting with the M&S adverts, wondering who all those women are in the commercials. Everything about it is a bit fusty and pointless.
So with that, M&S are making eyes overseas, hoping that foreign people might like clothes that remind them of the kind of clobber you see worn in life insurance adverts.
M&S are looking to boost overseas profits by opening 250 new shops outside the UK. They’ve already got 455 on the go, but they want to make a serious move in places like India, China, Russia, the Middle East and Western Europe. They’ll also be flogging their food too.
“M&S Food is in much demand globally. From toasted crumpets in The Hague to red wine in China, our international customers are very quick to tell us what their favourite M&S products are. This is why expanding our fresh food offer presents us with a strong growth opportunity,” Steve Rowe, M&S Executive Director of Food, said.
You may recall that M&S tried something similar in 2001, which failed miserably. The plan thus far, is to open 100 stores in India, sell knickers and that to Saudi Arabia and in China, they’ve got no idea, but there’s a lot of people there so it is always worth trying if you can afford the gamble. Concerning the latter, Tesco are currently struggling to make any impact at all.
Those blessed ministers of ours are going to issue a crackdown on nuisance phone calls by companies and charities and, for those that don’t tow the line, there’s going to be fines of hundreds of thousands of pounds.
Of course, marketing companies aren’t daft and will soon find ways around any new rules and continue to be the needy ex boyfriend of advertising, so it makes you wonder why anyone bothers trying to police them at all.
Either way, culture secretary Maria Miller has to be seen to be doing something and as such, has called for a lowering of the threshold for when action can be taken against companies. Currently, they are only culpable if they’re guilty of causing ‘substantial damage or distress’. Presumably, new rules will see them fined for being ‘a bit annoying’.
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) doesn’t say ‘a bit annoying’, but rather, wants the government to penalise businesses where “nuisance, annoyance, inconvenience, anxiety” are caused. That could even apply to a firm that has made only one call.
Miller said: “Nuisance calls must stop. At best they are an irritation and an unwanted intrusion; at worst they cause real distress and fear, particularly to the elderly or housebound. People need to feel safe and secure in their homes. The rules are clear – people have the right to choose not to receive unsolicited marketing calls. We will work to ensure their choice is respected.”
Justice secretary Chris Grayling added: ”The scale of these fines shows just how serious we are about stopping them. The claims management regulator already takes tough action against companies which break the rules – suspending and closing down rogue firms – but now these fines will give us an extra weapon to drive bad behaviour out of the industry.”
Don’t hold your breath.
Most people who buy organic food do so owing to concerns about the use of pesticides in commercially produced produce, and possible absorption into the food chain. They may also wear sandals. Now a new report from the Journal of Cancer Studies produced by Cancer Research UK has found that eating organic food generally does absolutely nothing to lower the risk of developing cancer, and may even increase your risk.
The research looked at 600,000 women over a nine year period, of which around 50,000 developed one of the 16 most common forms of cancer. When comparing those who never ate organic food with those who “usually” or “always” did, the study found no difference in overall cancer risk, other than a small reduction in risk for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which even the scientists themselves dismissed as possibly not a “genuine association”.
In fact, the study did find that those who ate organically actually had a slightly increased risk of breast cancer, although again the link was not strong enough to show causation, and could just be by chance.
Professor Tim Key, a Cancer Research UK-funded scientist at Oxford University, said: “In this large study of middle-aged women in the UK we found no evidence that a woman’s overall cancer risk was decreased if she generally ate organic food.”
Dr Claire Knight, Cancer Research UK’s health information manager, said: “This study adds to the evidence that eating organically grown food doesn’t lower your overall cancer risk.” However, she pointed out that ”over 9 per cent of cancer cases in the UK may be linked to dietary factors, of which almost 5 per cent are linked to not eating enough fruit and vegetables. So eating a well-balanced diet which is high in fruit and vegetables – whether conventionally grown or not – can help reduce your cancer risk.”
The study’s findings were pooh poohed by Peter Melchett, director of policy at the Soil Association, which campaigns “for healthy, humane and sustainable food, farming and land use”.
Mr Melchett questioned the researchers’ methodology, as the study failed to monitor the women’s weight and physical activity regularly during the study. “It’s widely accepted that studying the relationship between diet and cancer is very challenging, given that processes that lead to development of cancer can operate over a lifetime and are hard to separate,” he chuntered.
The organic food sector has already seen a dip during the economic downturn, as people turn to cheaper, pesticide filled veg as their wallets get emptier. Finding out the cheap stuff is also better for you (or at least, no worse for you) is unlikely to improve market expectations.
They also won the telecommunications wooden spoon for their pay-TV service, which keeps breaking down and causing customers no end of trouble. Even when their actual service is working, customers complained of billing problems.
With 0.32 complaints per 1000 customers this quarter, BT has even surpassed the crapness of TalkTalk, who have been the worst offender for several quarters. However TalkTalk is still the most complained about telecommunications service for landline faults.
And even though BT has announced plans to hang out with their new boyfriend EE more to improve their mobile speeds, EE came second place on Ofcom’s s***list, generating above average complaints – 0.29 per 1000 customers.
It seems that if you don’t want to be on the phone all the time shouting at someone, you should switch to BSkyB or Virgin Media, who managed to come out of the report with significantly fewer complaints.
It seems even the legal system is getting tired of spurious whiplash claims these days. We’ve all been paying through the nose for those poor unfortunate people whose entire soft-necked families happened to be in a car that received a rear-end shunt, but now it’s all become too much even for a High Court judge.
Hearing the case of two women making a personal injury claim against the Home Office after a vehicle incident, Mr Justice Mostyn dismissed the claims as inaccurate and evasive, saying they were based on “an improper pecuniary motive.” Or, in other words, that they were thieving liars. Allegedly.
The court heard it took 18 days for one of the claimants to complain to her GP about any pain, and the other waited a week before she went to her doctor to report any injury as a result of the impact. Both women were, however, assessed by a medical ‘expert’ despite there being no visible damage to the car after the accident and the fact that neither woman reported any injury at the time or asked for time off work. Two other people in the car at the time of it hitting a bollard at slow speed, the driver and front seat passenger, miraculously escaped completely unharmed.
The judge took particular offence at the medical ‘evidence’ as it was so similar it “cast doubt on the professional objectivity of the expert.” In perfectly identical terms, medical reports said both had suffered “nervous shock and psychological trauma” and endured “recurrent obtrusive memories of the accident and obsessional thoughts as to how she might have been seriously injured” by a rogue bollard, prowling the streets looking for innocent victims.
Justice Mostyn did not mince his words:
“It is proper that I should go on to record that I do not accept the evidence of either of them, which I find to be inaccurate, evasive, partial and advanced for an improper pecuniary motive,” said the judge. ”This is yet a further example of the national phenomenon of false whiplash claims being made and it is in an attempt to stem the tide that I do not shrink from making firm adverse findings against them”.
He added: “Obviously it is, in terms of probability, almost inconceivable that each of these women would have suffered physically or mentally in precisely the same way.”
Of course, anyone who has genuinely suffered from whiplash as a result of a car accident will know how genuinely painful it is, and no-one, not even Justice Mostyn, is saying those genuinely injured shouldn’t be able to make a claim. However, first-hand experience of such ‘medical experts’ does back up the judge’s opinion, particularly where medical reports contain evidence that cannot possibly have been collected during the 3 minute examination- reports that are, as a matter of course, not challenged by insurers where whiplash is the main stated injury.
But until someone can come up with a pregnancy-test style wee-on-a-stick test for genuine whiplash, we are left relying on judges to make sensible outcomes from stupid claims in the forlorn hope that it will deter fraudulent claimants from wasting everyone’s time and money.
It followed an email complaint by Joey Parker of MTV Act, who emailed Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, to say that there were no black, brown or Chinese heads in the emoji vocabulary. The email was forwarded that same day to Katie Cotton, vice president of world wide corporate communications.
‘Tim forwarded your email to me.’ She wrote. ‘We agree with you. Our emoji characters are based on the Unicode standard, which is necessary for them to be displayed properly across many platforms. There needs to be more diversity in the emoji character set, and we have been working closely with the Unicode Consortium in an effort to update the standard.’
The last emoji update was in 2012 when they added some same sex couples to the mix. So when can we expect a multicultural cavalcade of differently coloured faces to tag onto our tweets and emails? Nobody knows yet, but maybe one day emoji-land will catch up with the rest of the world.
While they’re at it, could they also update their other emoticons? There are currently no emojis for gin and tonics or sex toys, which means it makes it hard for me to describe what I’m up to at the weekend.
Santander has been fined over 12 million by the Financial Conduct Authority for giving customers bad advice on investments, which is the largest fine ever given for this particular kind of incompetence.
The FCA said that Santander had ‘let customers down badly’ by giving customers duff advice. It claimed that the bank had not considered the risks customers were prepared to take with their investments, and gave them unclear advice.
They also rapped them for failing to train their new advisers properly, and not making the necessary checks to ensure they gave the correct advice.
Santander stopped giving in branch investment advice in 2012, and when confronted, the bank tried to make it sound like it all happened hundreds of years ago, under the reign of Henry V.
‘We regret that elements of Santander UK’s historic branch-based investment sales processes did not meet the required regulatory standards and apologise to any customers who have concerns.’ A spokesman said.
Tracy McDermott from the FCA countered: ‘Customers trusted Santander to help them manage their money wisely, but it failed to live up to that responsibility. If trust in financial services is going to be restored, which it must be, then customers need to be confident that those advising them understand, and are driven by, what they need.’