The Icelandic airline WOW air have announced the £99 fare, which includes taxes, which is being offered on a selection of one-way journeys next year.
Passengers can travel from London Gatwick to Boston Logan International Airport from 27 March next year and Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport from 4th June.
But there’s a but.
The flights aren’t direct, as there’s a stopover at Keflavík International Airport, in Iceland’s capital Reykjavik. Although going to Iceland for an hour or two would be amazing, even if it is just sitting about in their airport.
Additionally, there is a booking fee of £8.98 and it costs a further £39 to check in a bag, so customers are realistically looking at a minimum price of £146.98.
The Boston flight will operate five times a week and the Washington DC one four times.
The credit card giant are doing tests to see if a fingerprint function would work instead of a PIN number.
The company unveiled the protoype, which they developed in conjunction with Norwegian company Zwipe, who invented the fingerprint technology.
The contactless payment card has an integrated fingerprint sensor and a secure data store for the cardholder’s biometric data, which is held only on the card and not in an external database, the companies said.
The card also has an EMV chip, used in European payment cards instead of a magnetic stripe to increase payment security, and a MasterCard application to allow contactless payments.
The card is currently thicker than the usual ones, as it will have a battery in it to make it work, however Zwipe plan to eliminate the battery and make it the same as other cards, once they’ve started harnessing energy from contactless terminals.
As the fingerprint authentication is quite unique, there’s no limit on contactless payments, whereas other contactless cards have limits in them so that bad people can’t use them to buy diamonds.
Norwegian bank Sparebanken DIN has already tested the Zwipe card, and plans to offer biometric authentication and contactless communication for all its cards apparently.
Hands up if you want Mastercard to store your fingerprints?
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?
The state of the world’s financial markets suggests that a break is about to happen at any point! We’re doomed!
The Bank of International Settlements said that suspiciously low levels of volatility in the markets seen this year, suggest a lack of liquidity that could trip up investors who assume they can dispense of assets when a sell-off begins.
These remarks follow as the FTSE 100 index suffered another day of losses, dropping 2.8% and mirroring falls across Europe. Guy Debelle of BIS said global investors were buying assets on the misguided presumption of liquidity that does not exist and that in a possible sell-off, volatility and price movements “will be exacerbated by the reduced capacity and inventory of market makers”.
Despite the world issues flying around causing markets to wobble, the BIS observed that volatility in fixed income, equity and foreign exchange markets has fallen to historically low levels.
Debelle, who is also an executive at Australia’s Reserve Bank, said: “While there is more forward guidance from central banks in place than in the past, investors do not have to believe it. I find it somewhat surprising that the market (in aggregate at least) is willing to accept the central banks at their word and not think so much for themselves”.
Referencing the US bond crash of 1994, Debelle warned that exits in the present bonds market could be even more violent in future with “a fair chance that volatility will feed on itself”.
It’s all somewhat worrying isn’t it?
In his speech, Debelle also referred to tightened regulation in the sector introduced in the wake of the financial crisis, adding: “Regulatory changes have, as intended, increased the cost of market-making, and hence shifted some liquidity risk to end investors. There have also been some strategic decisions taken by institutions and internal constraints have been imposed which have reduced capacity”.
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.
Industry body the British Bankers Association (BBA) has teamed up with the police to launch a campaign which they hope will raise the public’s awareness on all things fraud, looking at the most common scams that will happen online or down the phone.
Based on the results of a YouGov poll, the BBA said that eight million people are vulnerable to voice phishing scams, four million may transfer money to fraudsters, three million could potentially carry out “test transactions” and 1.7 million would hand their bank cards to couriers on their doorstep if they had a convincing form of ID.
Best not to answer the phone or door to anyone, ever.
Anthony Browne, chief executive of the BBA, said: “Being defrauded is a devastating experience for anyone which is why we are launching this campaign. The more people know about fraud, the less likely they are to become victims.”
“Our Know Fraud, No Fraud campaign will help you spot some of the tactics used by scammers. Your bank would never send someone to your home to collect your cash or ask you to transfer funds to a new account.”
So, for your records to be printed out and stapled to grandma’s forehead as a reminder to her and everyone else, here’s the BBA’s List of Things That Your Bank Will Never Ask For.
- Ask for your full PIN number or any online banking password over the phone or via email
- Send someone to your home to collect cash, bank cards or anything else
- Ask you to email or text personal or banking information
- Send an email with a link to a page that asks you to enter your online banking log-in details
- Ask you to authorise the transfer of funds to a new account or hand over cash
- Call to advise you to buy diamonds or land or other commodities
- Ask you to carry out a test transaction online
An unusually warm September was blamed on all this, even though they would’ve blamed it on wet weather if that was around. Basically, people don’t know why we’re not shopping as much as we used to. Maybe its because we’re skint?
The British Retail Consortium said that the year-on-year drop in consumer spending was the most pronounced since December 2008, but said that there is some comfort to be taken from the fact that spending on big-ticket items such as furniture continued to be strong.
Helen Dickinson, the director general of the British Retail Consortium, said: “In September, we saw the lowest retail sales figures since December 2008, excluding Easter distortions. This can be attributed to a number of factors including the continuing decline in food sales.”
“Furthermore, there was exceptionally low demand for items such as boots and coats, resulting in the lowest fashion sales performance since April 2012. However, demand for big-ticket items continues to be strong, with furniture outperforming all other categories.”
David McCorquodale, head of retail at KPMG, said: “After a bumper summer, this is a disappointing outcome for retailers and has undoubtedly reversed some of the sales gains made in August. However, if temperatures drop to a more seasonal level this cooler weather will quickly turn around retailers’ fortunes and help them to sell their autumn-winter ranges.”
“The grocers had another challenging month, with further price cuts and promotions announced by most. With a rebasing of margins in the grocery sector throughout the year, this final quarter will see sales go to those who are most focused on their customers.”
Remember the halcyon days of 192? Not the cheesy stalking website 192.com, but the single directory enquiries service run by BT until the market was deregulated in 2003.
Of course, the reason the number was deregulated was to prevent BT’s monopoly of the service, with the introduction of competition clearly enabling a reduction in the call costs. In 2003, a call to 192 cost 40p. Now calls to directory enquiries can cost as much as £5 per minute. Good job deregulators.
The market is, however, still monopolised, with 118 118 (run by The Number UK) and 118 500 (run by BT) taking over 80% of the market share, despite there being hundreds of alternative providers. The Number UK has just released figures showing a healthy £70.9m pre-tax profit, despite falling customer numbers/turnover, with an estimated cost of £2.61 for a 45-second call to the company. That’s still an awful lot of calls to what is classed as a premium-rate number. Surely there is a better way?
If you are at home/at work in easy reach of a computer, the cheapest way would normally be to use an internet search instead of calling someone to do exactly that for you. However, assuming you can’t, for whatever reason, access or use a computer, one better way would be to get the number for free, and if you are on a landline (prices quoted here are for BT landlines) there are some free and lower cost alternatives. The best offering comes from, surprisingly, the company behind 118 118 itself. If you call 0800 118 3733 (that’s 118 FREE for those of you with alphabetic number pads), you can get an automated directory enquiry service for free. This isn’t for people in a hurry though, as you have to listen to adverts, and jump through recorded message hoops before you get your number, but it is a viable alternative.
The other 118 numbers can, and seemingly do, change their rate frequently, so, for example, a 2010 best buy table is not going to be accurate any more. And with so many number fighting over just 20% of a shrinking market, many numbers simply disappear from existence. However, we have found the following cheaper alternatives that are currently still effective.
The cheapest we could find is 118 390 run by Colt, who charge a flat rate of 32.5p per call, but you can only make one enquiry. And The Number UK actually come out well again, with their less-well known 118 811 service offering a single search for just 50p per call. Or if you’re feeling altruistic, try Ethcom who charge 40p plus VAT per call and donate 9p to a limited choice of (mainly Scottish) charities. The full list of valid 118 numbers can be found here. But if you want the security of a ‘trusted brand’ that should give you the right number, BT have a ‘corporate’ directory enquiries number of 118 707 that is charged at a flat rate of £1 per call and is described as ‘no frills’.
But what if you aren’t on a (BT) landline?
If you have a smart phone with an inclusive data allowance, the smart thing to do would be to look the number up on the internet. For free. You can even search BT directories online at 118500.com. But what if you don’t have any data allowance?
First of all, it might be cheaper to buy additional data than call a 118 number though your phone. While data add-on costs vary between plans and providers, as an example, EE offer 50MB of EU roaming data for £3, so it’s worth finding out how much a search using up to 1 or 2MB might cost you.
Calls to any premium rate numbers are even further inflated on a mobile, and 118 numbers are no exception. Fortunately, the main providers actually have a search facility on their respective websites so you can check how much premium numbers will cost before you call them.
For example, Vodafone’s internet calculator tells you that it is the cheapest network if you want to call market leader 118 118- a single call is a snip at £3.25 per minute, compared with BT’s 118 500 or at a full fiver a minute.
EE’s call cost calculator is a bit more complicated, as result depend on whether you are PAYG or Pay Monthly, and they sneakily exclude VAT from the monthly costs to make it look less expensive. Calls to 118 118 cost £4.50 per minute for Pay Monthlies ( but only £2.25 for PAYG) and 118 500 costs £4.08 per minute (£2.00). O2 is by far the simplest- its own dedicated directory enquiries number of 118 402 is charged at £1 per minute. All other 118 calls are £5 per minute. No confusion there.
As mentioned, the call costs can, and do change all the time, so if you think you might be caught out and need a number in a hurry, it could be worth checking beforehand. While many people haven’t used a directory enquiry service for years, and find it quite incredulous that people still do so, The Number UK’s figures show there are still an awful lot of calls being made. So why not save while doing so?
Samsung’s WiFi – it is claimed – will allow speeds of up to 4.6 gigabits a second or 575 megabytes per second.
That’s approximately five times faster than the current high watermark for WiFi speeds, which mooch in at 866 Mbps or 108 Mb.
So, for example, a 1 gigabyte (GB) movie could be transferred between devices in fewer than three seconds, and uncompressed high-definition videos can be streamed from mobile devices to TVs in real time.
Samsung went all announce-y and said: “Unlike the existing 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz Wi-Fi technologies, Samsung’s 802.11ad standard 60 GHz Wi-Fi technology maintains maximum speed by eliminating co-channel interference, regardless of the number of devices using the same network.”
Samsung claim they’ve solved all the palavers that get in the way of traditional WiFi , by making use of wide-coverage beam-forming antennae and micro beam-forming control technology. How flash!
The ‘sung hope to integrate this new technology into it’s products as early as next year.
While some people might think there are more sanitary things to worry about, saving water on toilet flushing is not a new idea- you can already buy things to put inside your cistern to prevent the tank filling, giving you a smaller and less powerful but more economical flush (although this can presumably cause its own problems on certain occasions)- and who can forget the questionable “if it’s yellow, let it mellow” approach to flushing.
But although this latest news might sound like a toilet humour joke, some students at the University of East Anglia (UEA) have actually launched a campaign to encourage people to take a slash in the shower instead of using the toilet. The campaign is called Go with the Flow.
Students Chris Dobson and Debs Torr have looked into it and have calculated that the water saving benefits could be huge. They said that if all of UEA’s 15,000 students took their first wee of the day whilst they were having their morning shower, they could save enough water over a year to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool 26 times.
But in case Olympic swimming pools aren’t enough to incentivise you, they’ve also calculated how much money you would save by not flushing that first time in the morning. Based on a cost of two pence per flush, you could save £7.30 annually. Presumably this saving is per person who would otherwise have flushed, meaning student houses could save a fortune.
But don’t worry about the hygienic aspects, the campaign has got that covered because the students spoke to a professor (of wee?) and researched the potential health risks of weeing in the shower before they started the campaign. “As long as the water is flowing there is no hygiene risk as urine is sterile,” they said, although they did add that they would “encourage that every person using the same shower consents to the challenge and if not that they don’t take part.” We foresee some interesting house share meetings.
The two students are representing UEA in the Npower Future Leaders Challenge to inspire students to come up with an environmental initiative for their campus.
Mr Dobson said: “We’ve done the maths, and this project stands to have a phenomenal impact. Imagine how big an impact it could have if we could get everyone in East Anglia, or even the UK, to change their morning habits.
But he did admit that “the campaign has been really divisive – people either seem to love it or hate it.” Funny that.
Still, if you need one final thing to convince you to wee down your own legs, you can win one of 15 £10 vouchers by going on Facebook or Twitter and telling all of your (former) friends and followers that you wee in the shower, using the hastag ‘#gowiththeflow’.
It turns out that the slogan “Red Bull gives you wings”, which the company had been using for over a decade is false. It doesn’t actually give you wings.
SORRY TO BREAK IT TO YOU THIS WAY.
Anyone who felt slighted by not obtaining wings after glugging down the syrupy energy gloop, can now take advantage of a cash reimbursement from Red Bull, after they set $13 million aside into an account.
Figuring that it would quietly die down, the company’s website has now been inundated with claims, with the likelihood of the settlement devaluing somewhat from the initial $10 to less than $3, due to an internet storm.
The site has been visited over four million times now, but as no proof of purchase is needed – anyone could feasibly waltz in and say that they broke their back jumping from a block of flats under the proviso that wings would occur, and that’d be cool apparently.
You have until March 2015 to claim your pay-out (which will be next-to-nothing) if you were in anyway affected by the lack of wings.
Of course, if they had advertised it as ‘Red Bull gives you a massive headache and buggers about with your sleep patterns’ then there’d be none of this palaver.
God help us if there’s a war.
While slightly down on the 18 per day of 2013, the rate of store openings actually plunged by 15%. So essentially, more and more shops are being left empty.
The new data is part of an analysis of the UK’s top 500 towns by the research firm Local Data Company (LDC) and accountants PwC.
Just over 400 shops were left empty over the period , which is more than in the whole of last year.
London and the East of England saw the number of empty shops actually fall, whereas the North West and West Midlands suffered.
Oddly enough, it is pawnbrokers that are now suffering, when in recent years they’ve been almost an essential. The shape of the high street is not what it was, with tattooists being a surprising growth area.
Mark Hudson, retail leader at PwC, said: “This data shows that we are now really starting to see the full effects of the digital revolution and consequent change in customer behaviour play out on the high street.”
Matthew Hopkinson, director of LDC, said that many big retailers were reducing their overall number : “They now want small stores as a local touchpoint or large stores where they can create an experiential environment and really engage with customers. Where once they would have had three stores including one on the high street now they just want one.”
Can we have some nice parks in place of all these boarded up shops then?
This weekend, it will be the first anniversary of the Royal Mail IPO, the much-criticised sell-off of the UK’s postal service to private investors. While the share price is still well above its initial purchase price of 330p per share, recent events have seen the share price fall from its high of 615p per share down to under 400p each. But what can Royal Mail expect for its first birthday as a private company? An £18million fine, that’s what…
Royal Mail is currently under investigation by the French regulator, Autorité de la Concurrence, over alleged breaches of competition law through its international parcels subsidiary Global Logistics Systems.
GLS operates one of Europe’s biggest ground-based parcel delivery networks, with almost 2000 trucks and 660 depots over 37 countries and the investigation- which is also looking at similar European organisations including Deutsche Post DHL, FedEx, TNT Express, and La Poste- seems to suggest that these postie types all got together over coffee and a croissant and decided how much they were going to charge for sending parcels in Continental Europe. Which is somewhat frowned upon, given it artificially sets consumer prices potentially higher than natural market competition might produce. Tsk tsk.
The results of the investigation will not be released until the end of next year, but Royal Mail says that the company has agreed to settle and “provide compliance commitments now” in order to get a smaller fine. Note that there is, apparently, no chance of no fine, which implies GLS’s behaviour might be capable of besmirching Royal Mail’s reputation. Royal Mail has therefore included an estimated penalty of £12 million, together with legal fees of £6 million, to make an £18million birthday bill.
And while £18 million might not sound small to us, City analysts estimate GLS’s share of the French parcels market to be just more than 5.5%, meaning its fine could have been much higher- up to a maximum penalty of 10% of worldwide turnover, which would be a whopping £160 million. The stock market thinks the fine is small too- the share price rose 7.7p at the news to 405.6p per share. Thank goodness for that.
But even if its continental indiscretions can be swept quietly under the carpet, Royal Mail is still in trouble with UK regulator Ofcom, after it attempted to instigate a price rise for other operators using its network to offer alternative delivery services. While Ofcom is wary of Royal Mail basically pricing competition out of the market, Royal Mail is complaining that competitors are only interested in muscling in on city deliveries, cherry picking the most profitable areas, while it is left holding the Outer Hebrides and remote rural areas baby. Royal Mail do still have a near monopoly on smaller postal services in the UK, although parcel prices have seen considerable challenge from new entrants to the market that has forced Royal Mail to look at its prices, as market competition often does. In sharp contrast to the never-ending price rises on stamps, Royal Mail recently announced a price cut for smaller parcels, to increase competitiveness in time for Christmas.
According to Ofcom, the network “did not handle some complaints in a fair and timely manner,” and closed some complaints without establishing that they were fully resolved.
That sounds like the actions of SCOUNDRELS.
Ofcom have also shaded Three for not logging calls as complaints when it was supposed to, therefore there weren’t treated sufficiently seriously enough, and just dumped into a corner while people pulled faces at them.
Three also failed to inform customers, either on the phone or in writing, of their right to escalate complaints to the independent alternative dispute resolution services, according to Ofcom.
Man, they sound a right hopeless affair.
Fortunately Claudio Pollack, Ofcom’s consumer and content group director, said: “When things go wrong, customers are not only entitled to complain to their provider, but must have confidence that their complaint will be dealt with fairly. That’s why we impose strict rules on providers on how they must handle complaints.”
“We treat any failure to follow these rules very seriously. The fine imposed on Three takes account of the shortcomings in its complaints handling, but reflects that the harm to consumers in this case was limited. The company fully co-operated with our investigation and has now taken steps to ensure it’s compliant with the rules on complaints handling.”
Three have 30 days to settle the fine and swear they’ll never do it again, despite trotting out some nonsense to the contrary.
“Customer service and complaint resolution is really important to us. Ofcom’s own figures, collected over the past three years, reflect a huge shift: we have become the least complained about mobile operator in the UK in 2014.”
“Ofcom identified issues with our complaints handling process back in spring 2013. Since then we have worked closely and openly with Ofcom to address these as part of the broader effort to improve complaint resolution, contacting all the customers that might have been impacted. Delivering a great customer experience remains an absolute focus across the business.”
Yes of course. You’re so great that you’re having to shell out for being so.