Is your sex data vulnerable?

May 22nd, 2015 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

sex with glass Is your sex data vulnerable?You invariably indulge in safe sex, but is your sex data equally safe?

Well, if you’re a user of Adult FriendFinder, you should know about a hack that has taken place, with millions of accounts potentially breached.

Adult FriendFinder has over 63million users, and had been hit by ne’er-do-wells who have made off with a load of personal information. With that, comes people’s sexual preferences and whether or not you intend to cheat on your partner.

Email addresses, dates of birth and post codes were also taken, even if you deleted your account. This all smells like potential blackmail material, so get your excuses ready now.

For newer couples, just pretend you had the account before you met your current beau. If you’ve been with your partner for 30-odd years, then you might not need to worry too much as they might be on there as well, through being thoroughly disillusioned with your relationship. Hey! It might be just the thing to put some pep into your relationship, eh?

FriendFinder Networks Inc said: “We have already begun working closely with law enforcement and have launched a comprehensive investigation with the help of leading third-party forensics expert. We pledge to take the appropriate steps needed to protect our customers if they are affected.”

cigarette Plain cigarette packaging to be challenged in courtThe debate over plain cigarette packaging won’t go away. Some say it doesn’t work (quite the reverse, in some opinion) while others think that anything that might discourage smoking is a good thing. Others, meanwhile, wonder if everything that is bad for you is going the same way – is booze and crisps headed for plain, boring packaging?

One company who aren’t impressed are Philip Morris International Inc. Of course, they provide the world with smokes, so that isn’t surprising. They’ve filed a suit in an English court, challenging the UK regulation that bans branding on cig packets.

Under the plain packaging law, which parliament approved in March, smokes will be sold in uniform packs and will loose all colours and distinctive logos. By 2016, they’ll just have ugly lungs on and corpses and the like. Someone should buy shares in fancy cigarette cases, and sharpish.

Philip Morris said that these regulations violate European Union and English law, and unlawfully deprive the company of trademarks that help distinguish their cigarettes from the brands of rival companies.

“We respect the government’s authority to regulate in the public interest, but wiping out trademarks simply goes too far,” said Marc Firestone, the company’s general counsel.

sky 300x168 Man finally manages to resolve Sky contract cancellation problem after two years and £1,395Forget last month’s story about the man who was kept on the phone for 96 minutes trying to cancel his Sky contract, Pete Swift from Edinburgh has finally managed to settle an ongoing dispute with Sky over cancelling his contract after two whole years. However, in a triumph for the underdog, he’s also been paid £1,500 in compensation to settle the £1,395 bill he slapped on Sky for his time spent in sorting out their mess.

The problems began in 2012 when Mr Swift moved to Leith in Edinburgh and cancelled his contract with Sky at that time. Unfortunately the cancellation never actually happened, and Mr Swift became intimately acquainted with a number of debt collectors over the next 18 months as Sky sent the dogs after him, for non-payment of a cancelled contract.

However, Mr Swift declined to take this lying down, and decided to take legal action, first contacting the Citizens Advice Bureau and then the Ombudsman. After speaking to the Ombudsman, Sky offered Mr Swift a £60 gesture of goodwill, but he was more concerned about the effect the error had had on his credit file. The Ombudsman said they could not do anything to rectify any blights upon his credit record, nor could they request any further compensation over and above the £60 offered.

Mr Swift decided this was just not good enough. “I told them that this sum was not proportionate to the hassle and frustrations I had experienced as a result of their error and was therefore not appropriate compensation,” he said, before deciding to take Sky to court over the matter.  The 30-year-old research consultant billed Sky £25 an hour for all the calls he had had to make- to the Sky itself, to the ombudsman, and to various credit reference agencies and debt collection companies. In total, Mr Swift spent almost 56 hours on the phone, including 31 hours talking to Sky.

Two days before the court case was due to be heard,  Sky said it would pay Mr Swift £1,500 for the time and money spent on trying to terminate his contract. He said: “When Sky finally agreed to cover the full settlement I had mixed emotions. On one hand I was really pleased to have the £1,500 and some form of resolution, but I was still very resentful of the lengths I’d had to go to and the way Sky had dealt with the situation,” adding that “Sky had contacted me the week before to try and talk me down to a lower sum of £500.”

He continued: “The whole time I was dealing with them it just felt like I was being fobbed off with the bare minimum they could get away with. There was never really an acknowledgement that something was wrong procedurally that needed to be addressed, it just felt like a case of let’s pay off the complaining customer so he shuts up.” Fortunately, Mr Swift has told his story to the national press before going away and shutting up as Sky would presumably have preferred, giving hope and inspiration to anyone else out there being walked all over by a big corporation.

Sky said the issue was due to a technical fault with its systems, meaning his cancellation was not recorded on his file. A spokesman for Sky said: “Our staff work hard to deliver great service. However, in Mr Swift’s case we got it wrong, and didn’t resolve things quickly enough.

“We are really sorry and have apologised, offering a gesture of goodwill in recognition of the frustration he has experienced.”

tanned Leading sun creams failing to protect from UVWhen you slather yourself in sun cream, you hope that it is protecting you from that flaming great orb in the sky. However, it looks like some of them don’t.

Feel free to add your own ‘don’t get burned by sun creams’ joke at any point during this article.

According to the folks at Which!!!, two leading sun creams don’t provide the UV protection that they say they do. If you’ve been smearing yourself in Boots Soltan Protect & Moisturise Lotion SPF30 and Hawaiian Tropic Silk Hydration Lotion SPF30, then you might want to consider another product.

The watchdog says that both of these offered only about two-thirds of their claimed SPF and are now referring to these products as “don’t buys”, adding that the Silk Hydration Lotion was “worryingly” the second Hawaiian Tropic product to fail their tests in the past two years.

Not only that, it is “more than four times as expensive as some of our Best Buys”.

Last year, Piz Buin Ultra Light Dry Touch failed the tests undertaken by Which!!! and apparently, the old formula is still available to buy now, where the others that didn’t pass the UV tests last year, have since been reformulated.

Which!!! executive director Richard Lloyd said: “We’re very concerned that a further two popular sunscreens have now failed our tests. Consumers must be able to trust and rely on the information provided by manufacturers so it’s disappointing to see well-known brands falling short.”

“We want them to take action to ensure their products deliver the promised protection.”

Hawaiian Tropic defended itself, saying that all their products are rigorously tested, meeting all SPF, UVA and EU requirements and regulations. A spokesperson said: “Hawaiian Tropic invests considerable resources and research in product development and testing to ensure consumer safety, and guarantees the SPF and UVA claim on all products.”

“Consumers can fully rely on Hawaiian Tropic products, safe in the knowledge they are protected against the sun to the level they want, need and expect.”

A Boots UK spokesperson, also said: “Customer safety is paramount and we rigorously and independently test our products to ensure the appropriate level of safety and efficacy in compliance with EU Regulations. We are confident that all of our sun care products, including Boots Soltan Protect & Moisturise Lotion SPF30, meet the SPF labelling claim and customers can rely on them to provide the level of protection expected.”

“We believe that it’s better to use sunscreen that will offer some protection rather than none at all,” said Lisa Bickerstaffe of the British Skin Foundation, adding that customers could also “look for a four- or ideally five-star UVA rating on the bottle which will help protect from UVA radiation, associated with skin ageing.”

So there you go.

shop bags 225x300 The best and worst places to shop ranked by consumersThe annual Which!!! retailer survey results are in, and specialist toiletries and cosmetics retailer Lush is the best shop for a second year in a row,  with a customer score of an impressive 80%. However, bottom of the shops was EE (previously Orange or T Mobile shops),with a less impressive 52% customer score.

Which!!! surveyed 9,409 members of the public in February 2015 about the shops they have used in the last six months, and ranked them out of 100. The overall customer score is based on its customers’ satisfaction and how likely they are to recommend it to a friend. Satisfaction levels include the range and quality of products available, customer service, what the store is like to shop in and its pricing.

Top of the shops, Lush, was lauded for its product range, quality and customer service. It also gained credit for its environmental credentials, with shoppers praising its “cruelty free” products. And its smells. Nice mostly. Lush’s score of 80% just pipped that other perennial favourite John Lewis to the top spot, the department store scoring just less on 79%. The rest of the top ten is as follows:

1. Lush
2. John Lewis
3. Independent stores (DIY and decorating)
4. Richer Sounds
Screwfix
6. Apple
Home Bargains
8. Independent stores (furnishings and homeware)
9. Fenwick
Go Outdoors
Waterstones
White Stuff
Independent Stores (Electricals)

Which!!! editor Richard Headland said: ”If retailers can get their products right, along with excellent customer service and a great shopping environment, customers will keep coming back through their doors.”

However, despite  40% of consumers saying price was their top consideration, the Which!!! survey bods said that “although great prices might tempt customers through the doors, our research and analysis found that, once inside, the range and quality of products are the most important things in determining whether shoppers have a good experience – and whether they give it a high customer score.”

In line with these findings, independent shops were this year’s dark horses, with three different types making the top 10, on account of their customer service

Headland added: “With independent stores on the up in our annual survey, it shows a big name isn’t everything as consumers look for quality in both products and service.”

By contrast, the bottom places were packed full of bignames, and at the other end, phone shop EE came bottom, earning the joint accolade of worst phone shop and worst electrical retailer. WHSmith crawled off the bottom spot this year, but customers still find it ‘cluttered’. And Tesco’s woes continue with a poor 90th place (out of 100) showing in the survey.

90. Poundstretcher
Tesco
92. Homebase
JD Sports
94. Sports Direct
Vodafone
96. BHS
H&M
98. Topshop/Topman
99. WHSmith
100. EE

So what do you think? Are the results about right, or have Which!!! got it totally wrong?

Bank Holiday rail strike is officially off!

May 21st, 2015 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

train1 297x300 Bank Holiday rail strike is officially off!After all that fuss about the strike that was happening on the railways this Bank Holiday weekend, with people thinking they wouldn’t be able to ride the rails to fun and sunshine (or, seeing parent and being rained on), worry no more!

The strike by various unions has been called off and suspended after Network Rail put a new pay offer on the table. Whether you think they deserve a pay-rise or not, is beside the point – you can catch trains this weekend and worry about it another time.

Meanwhile, the Tube drivers on London Underground are still to be balloted for strikes in a squabble over pay for new all-night services, but that won’t have any impact in the immediate future.

So, will all the trains be running as normal this weekend? Well, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be, but keep an eye out for announcements.

The RMT’s general secretary, Mick Cash, said: “Following the Acas talks, RMT has received a revised offer that enables us to suspend the planned industrial action while we consult in full with our Network Rail representatives.”

Lugging a TV out of the shop is still a pain in the hole. Even though they’re getting lighter and thinner, they’re still pretty cumbersome. However, LG might have just the solution as they’ve come up with a television set that is so light and so thin, it bends like paper.

The TV is less than 1mm thick, and so light that you’d only need a couple of magnets to mount it on the wall. And if it fell off, it’d probably float like a feather or something.

Of course, this is just a concept at the moment, but it looks like this is the future of TV sets.

LG display 500x375 LG makes TV so thin, you can bend it like paper

This TV uses OLED technology, which LG are really keen on. This means that displays can be much smaller because there’s no need for a backlight, like LCD screens have. And to show off, you can bend it while it is switched on.

Seeing as LG do displays for people other than themselves, you can imagine that a load of electronics companies are going to be sniffing around this. Someone will make a phone that is as light as a cigarette paper – just you watch.

Anyway, technology is getting lighter and thinner, so good news for removal men!

Prosecco drought to hit this summer?!

May 21st, 2015 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

Screen Shot 2015 05 20 at 14.12.37 250x300 Prosecco drought to hit this summer?!Even though there’s some dangerous bottles of prosecco knocking about, the world isn’t showing any sign of stopping drinking the fizz (which, effectively, is wine for dicks).

However, the appetite for prosecco is causing a problem and there might be a shortage of it this summer!

Roberto Cremonese, export manager of Bisol says: “Last year’s harvest was very poor, and down by up to 50% in some parts, so there is a very real possibility of a global shortage.”

“We’ll find out how big the problem is in August when the brokers release their stock. At the moment we don’t know how much Prosecco they’re holding on to. Because there is such a demand for Prosecco, the négociants are releasing it onto the market slowly and are taking it as an opportunity to put prices up, in some cases by 50%.”

“The négociants hold the power at the moment as they bought all of the stock. It might turn out that some of them have no fizz left but we’ll have to wait and see.”

Of course, when there’s a shortage afoot, another thing happens – suppliers capitalising on the demand and start putting their prices up and holding out on sales.

If people don’t want to drink champers and can’t get hold of any prosecco, it looks like everyone is going to be going hard on the cava.

spotify logo Spotify   now with video and original content!Spotify have clearly noticed that Jay Z’s Tidal is coming after it, and have decided to shake things up a bit. Of course, Tidal hasn’t exactly set the world alight (yet), but shows signs of what it can do when it streamed Beyonce and Nicki Minaj’s ‘Flawless’ video, sending social media into a mild hysteria.

With that, Spotify have announced that they’re expanding into video and original content themselves, going beyond simply streaming albums. With a number of artists showing allegiance to Jay Z, Spotify need to think of other ways of turning a profit.

Now, Spotify will support videos and offer news as well as other non-music content, with chief exec Daniel Ek keeping an eye on everyone’s mobile phone use: ”There is an incredible opportunity to soundtrack your entire day and your entire life in all of its complexity,” said Ek at some conference or other.

Ek says that Spotify have buddied up with a load of media companies, including some big US networks, the BBC, Vice and, most interestingly, the comedy network Adult Swim. They’ll be providing podcasts and other productions from their media pals, and they’re going to be providing their own material as well.

It seems to be working for Netflix, so why not Spotify?

If you’re one of those appalling people who likes to go for runs, then you’ll be interested in Spotify’s new function that will detect motion through your smartphone and select music based on the pace you’re running. Is there any music that is 23 bpm?

“We think that music is moving beyond just linear, one-way playback,” said Spotify’s chief product officer, Gustav Soderstrom. ”We’re going to take this approach to many more parts of your life very soon.” We assume they’re doing to do something relating to your activities in the bedroom, which matches the rhythm of your love-making. Do they make music that’s 7 bpm?

Along with an increased social element, this gives Spotify the opportunity to make more money from advertising and the like. Earlier this week, Spotify announced that they were teaming up with Starbucks, which will give staff the chance to choose tracks you hear at the coffee chain’s outlets.

So, for now, it is Spotify versus Tidal. All eyes on Apple’s updated streaming service, which should be coming soon.

Southern Rail fine customers for standing

May 21st, 2015 3 Comments By Mof Gimmers

train Southern Rail fine customers for standingSouthern Rail are a PR disaster at the moment. A director at the train company admitted that their trains being on time were ‘few and far between’, while one fella hates them so deeply, that they got a tattoo announcing as such, with some rather colourful language to boot.

And now, they’re only making themselves look worse as they’ve fined a bunch of customers who were forced to stand-up because the train was too crowded.

Commuters heading to London found themselves on a train that was so packed that they had to stand-up in the first class section, because their wasn’t room anywhere else. Did anyone make provisions or stop this from happening? Of course not. Southern Rail ticket inspectors were too busy doling out fines because customers didn’t have the right ticket.

Add all this to being one of the least punctual train companies in the country, coupled with some of the highest fares, and you’ll see why people think they’re a laughing stock.

Peter Boyland wrote to his MPs - Crispin Blunt and Sam Gyimah – to complain about all this, saying: ”The train was so packed in fact that the ‘revenue officers’ were unable to pass through to me to check my ticket, despite my clear proximity to them. This is a fine example of the attitude of Southern, who only seem concerned about protecting their revenue, and less about providing an acceptable level of service.”

A Southern Rail spokesperson said that these fines are just dandy, and with a straight-face, said that passengers would have been fined either £20 or twice the price of a single fare – they choose the fine by going for whichever of the two amounts is greater.

“In this instance, passengers who were issued with penalty fares were sitting in first class accommodation whilst holding standard class tickets. First class accommodation is not declassified automatically if the train is busy, but Conductors can use their discretion to declassify if it is deemed necessary,” the spokesperson told The Independent.

Refund and Compensation

If you think you’re entitled to a refund or some compensation, have a look at our guide to getting your money back. While the train wasn’t late enough to get reimbursed, the fact remains that Southern didn’t provide an adequate service and it is worth trying to dispute the fines and asking for the price of your ticket back.

Let us know how you get on.

prostar offer 0407 bogof 300x150 Which!!! special offers actually cost you more?We all like a good BOGOF every now and again, but a new Which!!! investigation has uncovered some situations where buying products on special offer might not only not save you any money, but in some cases would cost you more than if you  had bought the product when it was not on offer.

Coming on the back of Which!!!’s super-complaint to the CMA last month, complaining about supermarkets’ dodgy pricing strategies and offers, the consumer group have now highlighted some examples of offers that blatantly flaunt consumer guidelines  on special offers and some that actually cost you more money.

The worst offending ‘offers’ both came from Asda, who would like you to buy two 2-litre bottles of Pepsi for ‘just’ £3, which at a cost of £1.98 each saves you a tidy 96p. Unless you consider the fact that, when not on special offer, you can buy the same bottles of pop for £1 each, meaning the ‘special offer’ actually costs you £1 more. Similarly, Elvive shampoo and conditioner costs around £2.80 each, but you can buy two products for £4, allowing you to pocket the difference of £1.60. Yet anytime the products aren’t on special offer, they actually cost £2, so the offer saves you precisely zip.

Government guidelines set out how retailers should use special offers that aren’t misleading and ensure they’re complying with the law. Which!!! identified three ways in which the bigger supermarkets appeared to be breaking the guidelines:

Running a special offer for longer than the higher ‘was’ price was in effect. This makes it appear like shoppers are getting a discount, when actually the lower ‘discount’ price is a more accurate reflection of the value of the product because it’s been available for longer. Gillette Venus razors, for example, were sold at £2 in Asda for 37 days, then 97p (‘was £2’) for 86 days, more than twice as long.

Referring to a higher ‘was’ price that was used for fewer than 28 days in a row (on a non-food item). The short period of availability is again not the best reflection of the value of the product. Which!!! found Sainsburys had a cracking deal on Finish dishwasher tablets for £6, but the higher £9 price had only been available for 19 days prior to the offer starting.

Not referring to the price immediately before the offer started as the ‘was’ price, but referring to an older, higher ‘was’ price instead, exaggerating the amount of discount. Asda (again) were selling Hovis white bread at ‘just’ £1, with a crossed through price of £1.20, despite the fact that the bread hadn’t actually cost that much bread for 116 days.

Overall, the supermarkets are just making things worse for themselves, and this extra evidence is sure to help Which!!!’s CMA complaint, a decision on which is due in the next couple of months. It’s no wonder shoppers are eschewing silly offers and turning to discount supermarkets instead, where a price appears to be just the actual price, all the time…

 

Screen Shot 2015 05 20 at 14.52.41 300x296 Takata extend faulty airbag recall to 34 millionWell, that escalated.

We’ve been following this Takata story and their exploding airbags for a little while now and last week we reported some more major manufacturers had released statements confirming recalls. We had Toyota and Nissan closely followed by Honda and Daihatsu.

Takata now say that they’re going to be recalling 34 million cars due to them being fitted with this defective airbag which has been linked to the death of 6 people and more than 100 injuries.

The Transport Department’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said that following tests they believe it “points to moisture infiltrating the defective inflators over extended periods of time as a factor”.

That moisture may make the chemicals that ignite to set off an airbag burn too quickly, causing the structure to break and “sends metal shards into the passenger cabin that can lead to serious injury or death”.

This recall is the largest product recall in US automotive history and it affects models from 11 different carmakers.  You can check your carmaker website for recall information or use your VIN if the system allows on the links below. If you’ve concerns your vehicle could be affected it would be sensible to call the dealership or get in touch with the carmaker.

HONDA RECALL INFO

DAIHATSU SITE

NISSAN RECALL INFO

TOYOTA RECALL CHECKER

 

sse SSE loses half a million accounts (and blames everyone else)SSE have managed to lose 500,000 accounts, blaming what they call the “increasingly challenging and highly competitive market conditions”.

Maybe people were ditching them because they kept putting their prices up, and overcharged tens of thousands of customers, and were investigated for alleged breaches in competition laws.

That said, SSE won’t care because, despite losing half-a-million customers, they still managed to report a 39% increase in profits through their retail arm. After a number of price hikes, they pledged to freeze prices until next summer.

That’s if the government makes things easier for them.

The company said: “SSE would like to extend its price freeze again, or even cut prices if further costs can be taken out of energy supply, and will work with the new UK Government or indeed any stakeholder to find such solutions.”

While all this is going on, the Competition and Markets Authority is currently in the middle of an in-depth probe into the energy market, as there are suspicions that customers have been treated unfairly by the UK’s dominant big six energy suppliers. We’re expecting a lot of fines to be handed out in 2015/6.

Screen Shot 2015 05 20 at 14.12.37 250x300 Product Recall: Do you have a dangerous bottle of Prosecco? Having your favourite bottle of Prosecco smash unexpectedly might be one way to get your party started but it certainly isn’t safe. Nor is it a good use of alcohol. Nope.

The FSA have today published a notice recalling bottles of The Society’s Prosecco as there are concerns that the glass might shatter. If you’ve got one of these, you’re advised to not drink it. WHAT.

The full product information is:

Product: The Society’s Prosecco
Bottle size: 75cl
Lot number: L15S051, L15S092, L145322 (the lot number can be found ink-jetted on the bottle neck just below the gold rim of the foil capsule)

Do check your Prosecco reserves but be aware that this particular bottle is a mail order only (sorry posties) from The Wine Society who will have records of all customers that bought the product.

If you have bought the product, you can contact the Member Services of The Wine Society to arrange a collection and refund/credit. This can be done by phone on 01438 741177 or email to memberservices@thewinesociety.com

marks and spencer Marks & Spencer profits up for first time in yearsWhile most supermarkets are soiling themselves at the Lidl and Aldi onslaught, Marks & Spencer have been quietly getting on with it and, for the first time since 2011, they’ve delivered an increase in profits.

This has been thanks to not throwing their money around, not bothering with discounts and getting good deals with their suppliers.

As a result, M&S said it would return £150m to shareholders and saw their underlying profit before tax going up by 6.1%.

One fly in the ointment is that the retailer has had yet another difficult year with their M&S clothing wing. Basically, everyone thinks their clothes are rubbish.

They’ve fared much better with food sales though, which isn’t surprising if you’ve been in one of their shops recently. Mark Bolland, the chief exec, said their food arm had enjoyed an “outstanding year in a difficult market”, adding: “We are transforming M&S into a stronger, more agile business – putting the right infrastructure, capabilities and talent in place to drive our strategic priorities.”

With M&S and Waitrose doing well, and Aldi and Lidl performing strongly at the other end of the spectrum, it seems Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda and Morrisons need to decide whether to aim for the bargain-end of the market, or try and tackle the higher spending end with disposable income.