According to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), there’s been a rise in spam calls and texts, with more than 180,000 complaints made about these nuisances in the last year alone. That’s a 12% rise, compared with the year before.
The watchdog also said that they’d issued five fines relating to all this, totalling £386,000, alongside eight enforcement notices, with another 31 firms being “monitored”.
The said: “Most concerns related to accident claims, green energy deals, payday loans and lifestyle surveys. Live calls generate significantly more concerns than automated calls and spam texts.”
One of the reasons there’s been a spike, is that this year, the law was changed, to make it easier for companies to be fined for breaching rules regarding nuisance calls and texts. The ICO have also been doing a load of investigations where allegations of personal data being obtained or disclosed illegally. In one case, a Transport for London employee was prosecuted for illegally accessing Oyster card records.
Launching the report, the information commissioner, Christopher Graham, said: “We’ve seen real developments in the laws we regulate during that time, particularly over the past year. Just look at the EU court of justice ruling on Google search results, a case that could never have been envisaged when the data protection law was established.”
The executive director of Which!!!, Richard Lloyd, said that this was jst “tip of the iceberg”, adding: “This is why regulators, government and industry must work harder to cut off unwanted calls and texts that annoy millions of us every day. The ICO must use its new powers to full effect and hit hard any company breaking cold-calling rules. We also want to see senior executives personally held to account if their company makes unlawful calls.”
The largest operator of mobiles in the UK has been slapped senseless with a £1m fine from Ofcom, for breaching rules on handling customer complaints. It has transpired that, from 2011 to 2014, EE didn’t provide customers with full information about their right to take complaints to an independent body.
It is worth noting that you can always take your complaints to an independent body, like the Ombudsman, with any business.
EE should have told their customers in writing about this, but didn’t. This was discovered during the regulator’s broad look at complaint handling in the telecom sector.
Customers of EE have the right to take complaints that can’t be resolved to an independent body, up to two months after they first made the complaint. However, between 22 July 2011 and 8 April 2014, Ofcom found that a host of people who had requested a “deadlock letter”, which would have been the precursor to getting their complaint looked at by someone independent, never received any correspondence.
It turned out that EE hadn’t been notifying customers on their paper bills about the fact that they could take any complaint to this body, free of charge.
“It’s vital that customers can access all the information they need when they’re pursuing a complaint,” said Ofcom’s Claudio Pollack. ”Ofcom imposes strict rules on how providers must handle complaints and treats any breach of these rules very seriously. The fine imposed against EE takes account of the serious failings that occurred in the company’s complaints handling, and the extended period over which these took place.”
In the case of EE, if you want to escalate a complaint to an independent body, then you get in touch with CISAS. You can get in touch with them, here.
Not only that, EE are charging almost twice as much as their rivals for calling non-geographic numbers. This comes from Ofcom’s efforts to force operators to be clear about what they’re earning from numbers that start with 084, 087, 09, or 118. They’re charging 44p per minute for these calls.
You may recall that Dixons and Carphone Warehouse became one, a while ago. Together, they’re going to start throwing their considerable weight around and, now, they’re going to America like they’re Eddie Murphy’s Prince Akeem or something.
Dixons Carphone will be tagteaming with American network Sprint, where they’ll open 20 retail stores (or, if you prefer, ‘shops’). This is the first stage of the plan, which could see them opening 500 places. Sprint have a big sway in the USA, with 57 million mobile customers.
“This is a very exciting venture for us, and is a significant step in growing our CWS business in the US,” said Andrew Harrison, deputy chief of Dixons Carphone and chief executive of CWS. “We bring specialist knowledge and skills to this partnership and will be looking to deliver innovation and outstanding customer service under the Sprint brand.”
The love-in continued with Marcelo Claure, Sprint’s chief executive, who cooed: “We are excited to partner with Dixons Carphone and to leverage all their know-how as one of the world’s leading wireless retailers to benefit Sprint and its customers. We are committed to offering the best customer experience when buying wireless products and services.”
So there you go Americans! Isn’t this the most exciting thing to happen to you since Michael Jackson did the moonwalk at the 25th anniversary of Motown show?
These new rules will also include net neutrality regulations, which hope to make sure internet service providers (and other businesses) can’t discriminate between different services that run on their data networks.
The reason behind all this is to try and make the EU more profitable. The idea is that, with no mobile boundaries, the easier it will be for people to work.
Of course, the people who are making money from roaming charges aren’t happy about this. Vodafone and Deutsche Telekom are throwing their toys out of the pram and saying that, by removing roaming charges, this might hamper investment in Europe’s mobile and broadband infrastructure.
They’re not convinced that there’s anything good in reducing the costliness of people using their phones throughout Europe, unsurprisingly. What good could come from people being able to talk more freely from different countries and the like, eh?
“Europeans have been calling and waiting for the end of roaming charges, as well as for net neutrality rules,” Andrus Ansip, the European Commission’s vice president for the digital single market, said in a statement. “They have been heard.”
It is thought that, collectively, we’re going to save £900m per year after Ofcom decided that they’re going to get rid of freephone charges for calls from mobiles. It has been a daft situation where consumers have been ripped off for calling numbers that would be free from a landline.
Ofcom, understated as ever, have called this move “the biggest shake-up the mobile phone market has seen for more than a decade”.
Apparently, this will all take place today, which means that 175 million freephone lines will now cost nothing. Seeing as they can cost 20p a minute, and in 2014 we spent 250 million hours calling these numbers, this is good news.
This is all part of Ofcom boss, Sharon White’s changes. She wants to see companies spelling out exactly what they are charging you, with a particular onus on numbers for TV shows like X Factor and Strictly Come Dancing. So, numbers that start with 084 and 087 will have to tell you exactly how much they’re charging.
Ofcom’s figures show that there’s roughly 7 million of us, spending a whopping £35m every year on phone calls to take part in TV shows, and 08 and 09 lines are making £1.5bn a year.
White said: “UK Calling is the biggest change to telephone calls in over a decade. It’s important that people understand the cost before they pick up the phone. Callers will be able to see what they’re paying and where their money is going.”
Battery life is one of the main bugbears of anyone who has a mobile. Well, researchers at Samsung reckon they’ve found the new technology that will enable batteries to offer up to 1.5 and 1.8 times higher capacity than those doing the rounds now.
How? Well, they’ve come up with a brand new way of coating the battery cathodes, which means they can get more juice for your device.
The report explains to those people who understand this sort of thing: “Here we report direct graphene growth over silicon nanoparticles without silicon carbide formation. The graphene layers anchored onto the silicon surface accommodate the volume expansion of silicon via a sliding process between adjacent graphene layers. When paired with a commercial lithium cobalt oxide cathode, the silicon carbide-free graphene coating allows the full cell to reach volumetric energy densities of 972 and 700 Wh l-1 at first and 200th cycle, respectively, 1.8 and 1.5 times higher than those of current commercial lithium-ion batteries.”
We fell asleep about half way through the second sentence of that. However, BATTERIES THAT LAST LONGER! WE’RE INTO THAT!
The best thing about this, is that Samsung think this is commercially viable, which means this isn’t one of those developments that stay in the lab, which means this should end up in the phones they release in the future.
When will we see this fancy new batteries? Well, Samsung are working things out, trying to improve the effectiveness of the battery.
At some point next month, people in the UK will be able to use Apple Pay, which is backed by a shedload of merchants and retailers. However, the crappy news is that customers will only be able to spend £20 at a time.
It won’t be forever though, because when September comes around, you’ll be able to spend a whopping £30!
This is all a bit of a damp squib, as most people can make contactless payments for these amounts with their cards, but hey ho, some might want to show off that they’ve got an iPhone to everyone else for some reason.
Most people won’t be affected by all this, but it is definitely something to keep in mind, say, if you’re travelling to the UK and intent on using your phone as a payment option – get back-up.
It is worth noting though, that merchants with terminals “capable and configured properly” will be able to support larger transactions.
“To accept Apple Pay for transactions over £20, your payment terminal must be capable and configured properly, and your payment provider needs to support the latest network contactless specifications”, says Apple in its FAQ.
Well, Facebook aren’t bothered about that, and they’ve started making eyes at non-Facebook users and saying that you can use the app whether you’re signed-up with Facebook or not. All you need is a phone number and a willingness to have your personal privacy poked at relentlessly.
The latest update will allow you to sign-up with their name, phone number and a photo. Now, this hasn’t been rolled out in the UK yet, but it is only a matter of time before it is.
For those considering it, the Messenger app already has 600 million users, and you can send instant messages, as well as do video calls and play games on it.
“With this update, more people can enjoy all the features that are available on Messenger – including photos, videos, group chats, voice and video calling, stickers and more. All you need is a phone number,” said Facebook’s Louis Boval.
Have you been having trouble with your iPhone? Don’t all shout at once. It seems like there’s a number of problems with Apple devices, and the latest one sees iPhone users complaining that the iMessage system went down.
Not everyone has been affected by this and will be wondering what everyone is moaning about, however, others have moaned that their messages are sending slowly or not sending images. It is all a bit of a mess, especially when some iPhone users have noted that their phones keep randomly switching themselves off.
Well, we’ve had a look into it and it seems that, if you want to get things working again, there’s a rather unsophisticated way of fixing this.
If you haven’t, trying restarting your phone. This has been a successful fix for a number of iPhone users. If that doesn’t work, then you should try turning iMessage off and then on again in the Settings. Again, this isn’t the most fancy way of getting it working again, but it seems to have worked for a number of people with this problem.
Apple haven’t said anything about the problem, even though it has been trending on Twitter.
This follows some outages for Apple’s iCloud, which bothered a number of people earlier this month. Anyway, feel free to add your own ‘just works’ comments below.
Are you cheesed off with your current mobile provider? Have they whacked their prices up unexpectedly and you want out? Well, you might be wondering where to start in a bid to change provider, so here’s some useful information for you.
If you want to keep your number when you change companies, the first thing you do is ring your current provider and tell them you want to leave. They will try and guilt-trip you and woo you into staying, but if you’re adamant you want to go elsewhere, keep refusing their offers.
Tell your current provider that you want to take your number with you when you change companies, and ask for a Porting Authorisation Code or PAC. By law, your provider must issue you with this immediately over the phone, or within two hours by text.
Your PAC is basically a nine digit code (maybe more) and will be valid for 30 days. Don’t worry too much if it runs out, as you can ring your mobile provider again, and request a new PAC. With your PAC, ring up the people you’d like to take your business too, and give them this code.
Once your new provider has it and notifies your existing provider of the port request, your number will transferred the next working day. If you’re not bothered about keeping your number, then skip all this and just ditch your current provider and shop around.
Now, the sticking points – it is better to do this at the end of your contract, so ring your current provider up just before it finishes. If you’ve still got a number of months left on your contract, you will invariably face charges to buy yourself out of your current deal. Some mobile phone providers may charge you a fee to move your number too.
There are some exceptional circumstances which means you won’t have to pay out. If you are within the first 14 days of your contract (the ‘cooling off period’), then you’re golden. If your provider increases the price of your contract mid-term, then you can leave without charge. Or, if you’re not receiving satisfactory coverage or customer service, your network might let you negotiate with them.
The numbers to call, to get things under way are:
Three: 0333 300 3333
O2: 0844 809 0202
EE: 07953 966250
Tesco Mobile: 0845 301 4455
Virgin Mobile: 0845 6000 789
Vodafone: 08080 044 423
And that is basically it. Before doing anything, find out when your contract is ending and weigh-up any potential costs involved. If you have 6 months left, then you might want to wait until that period is nearly up to switch to someone else, as you could end up paying for something you’re not using, which is daft.
Aside from the networks trying to retain you as a customer, the whole process is rather easy, so don’t stick around with a provider that is making you miserable.
Ofcom are going to launch a new investigation into whether mobile, broadband and TV service operators have broken fair trading laws by making it increasingly difficult for consumers to cancel their contracts.
They’ll be looking at EE, Sky, Virgin, BT and TalkTalk, among others, because complaints against these companies has been the highest and most frequent.
The watchdog will also be investigating long waiting times for customers in call centres, as well as the difficulties in getting porting authorisation codes that people need when switching networks. Of course, they’ll also be looking at billing issues too, with a nod to people being charged after their contracts have finished.
A statement from Ofcom said: “Ofcom receives a large number of complaints about the difficulties experienced by consumers trying to exit their communications service contract. These suggest that communications providers are systematically making it difficult for customers to exit their contract. We consider this allegation extremely serious, and, if sustained, may result in significant consumer harm.”
“It is vital that consumers are not let down by poor customer service and difficult procedures, or even deliberate obstruction, when they try to cancel their communications service. Exiting a contract should be swift, easy and transparent, to allow consumers to exercise their choice and switch to another provider without undue hassle if they wish.”
If you are the kind of person who worries about their privacy, and you use WhatsApp, then you may want to stop now. That’s because a new report ranks WhatsApp as the worst when it comes to protecting your data.
The excitingly named Electronic Frontier Foundation have done their annual ‘Who Has Your Back?’ report, and was very critical of the messaging app in pretty much every criteria. Of course, the app is owned by Facebook, so all this isn’t really a surprise.
Getting a hearty pat on the back for their efforts to respect your privacy where Dropbox, Apple, Adobe, Wikimedia, WordPress and Yahoo.
The ‘Who Has Your Back?’ report assesses techn companies in five criteria: whether they follow best practices for data security, whether they tell users when the government requests their data, whether they are open about their policies on hanging on to your data, whether or not they’ll tell people when the government demands the removal of content, and whether they publicly oppose backdoors which give the government access to data.
If you’d like to see the EFF report, click here to see the easy-to-read table with giant yellow stars.
They’ve put a lot of prices up, for the times customers go outside of their packages. So if you go over your minutes, now you’ll be paying 37.5p per minute. If you phone 084 numbers, that’s gone from 19.17p a minute to 37.5p.
In fact, if you look at the changes, pretty much everything has been changed to 37.5p per minute.
Vodafone realise that this might make you want to ditch them, and say: “We appreciate this may mean your monthly bills increase by more than the Retail Price Index of 0.9 per cent, so we’re giving you the opportunity to end your agreement with us without charge. To do this, simply write to us within 30 days of the receipt of this communication at Vodafone Customer Care, Vodafone House, The Connection, Newbury, Berkshire RG14 2FN.”
Of course, this isn’t a charitable thing on Vodafone’s part, but rather, a legal requirement that was introduced by Ofcom in 2014. Don’t be thinking they do anything out of the goodness of their hearts.
The keyboard comes installed in advance of 600 million of Samsung’s mobile devices, and apparently, it can be very easily hacked, which in turn, can give away a lot of your vital information.
This is according to Ryan Welton, who is a researcher with cyber-security firm NowSecure. He reckons that the flaw could allow hackers to see what you’re up to and can access your GPS, camera and microphone, as well as enabling them to secretly install malicious applications.
NowSecure say they told Samsung about this back in November, but no-one has done anything about it, so they’ve gone public.
In a statement by SwiftKey a while ago, they said, “the way this technology was integrated on Samsung devices introduced the security vulnerability.” However, they soon deleted that. The Guardian ran a quote from Joe Braid, chief marketing officer of SwiftKey, saying, “Unfortunately, we were only made aware of the issue on Tuesday. We are working as hard as possible to support Samsung and help it fix the issue.”
Samsung have since said that they “take emerging security threats very seriously… and [is] committed to providing the latest in mobile security.”
If you’re worried about this, there’s a host of other keyboards you can download from the Google Play store or, if you want to bolster your device’s security, here’s the Bitterwallet guide to the best security and anti-virus programs you can download.
Fancy buying one of them Apple Watches? Well done – you’ve got a lot of disposable income. Also, you can now pick one up from an actual shop! That’s right. Walk right in and… well… here’s the thing – you can’t buy one without reserving it first, because Apple are absolutely determined to make this whole process slightly fiddly.
If you didn’t know, Apple have been asking customers to order all of their smartwatches online, and have it delivered to them. Of course, this will put some people off as they’ll want to hold one in their hand before parting with their money.
Well, now, Apple Stores will now be stocking them, allowing customers to book online and then head into an actual shop to pick it up. If you still want to hold one first, swap some watches and straps around before paying any money, you’re still screwed. Then again, if you’re an Apple devotee, you invariably trust them more than your own family.
The in-store orders began on June 17 in Apple Stores in the UK as well as Germany, France, US, Australia, Canada, China, Hong Kong and Japan.
This new system requires you to go to the Apple Store website, pick your case and band and then choose where to pick it up from a list of shops. You might as well get it delivered to your house really.
Apple stores do have some stock, which you can try on the watches as a demo, so if you’re really keep to get one and want to give it a poke first, get down to the shops and weigh it all up.