Apparently, over 1 million Brits have completely finished their Christmas shopping, according to some research. That’s 1,377,000 people, who have patted themselves on the back, that Christmas – bar the food – is taken care of.
Honestly. And Bitterwallet hasn’t even got anything in for its tea yet.
This survey was undertaken by the shopping mad people at channel QVC. They’ve also predicted that a gigantic £29 billion will be spent in total this Yuletide, which is up by £4.5 billion on the £24.5 billion forked out last year.
That’s an average spend of £650 each, including food and booze. And the biggest Christmas spenders are in the North East, which Wales is the Scrooge of the scenario.
Irritatingly, QVC will be making eyes at the organised, and they’re starting their special Christmas broadcasts from today. So if you’re after a dead-eyed doll that soils itself, some diamonique earrings or a scarf you can wear in 46 different ways as well as being a drain unblocker, you’re in luck.
To the rest of you – you’ve got over 150 days to get sorted. Don’t worry yourself.
Google and Apple don’t like each other. They both want to rule the world, but sadly, this Earth isn’t big enough for the both of them. And they’re probably going to squabble about that new Earth that NASA have found, too.
Anyway, onto smaller things and it looks like Apple have pulled the plug on Google’s Nest Learning Thermostat from its physical and online stores.
The people at Nest have said that they consider Apple to be a valuable partner for their company, and they intend to sell their wares through Apple’s channels, even though Apple have taken all the product pages down.
This isn’t the first time Apple have walked away from the Nest – they removed both physical and online listings of the device from their stores earlier in July. However, this time, it looks like they’re doing it for good.
Even though Apple were one of the early adopters of Nest and were willing to promote it, they’re now trying to do their own thing, obviously. They created their own smarthome stuff, with the arrival of HomeKit. Of course, within that range, there’s ecobee3, which is the smart thermostat which is compatible with HomeKit.
Of course, Google showed off Brillo, which is their own version of the HomeKit platform.
Former Apple executives Tony Fadell and Matt Rogers are the co-founders of Nest, with Fadell being dubbed ‘the godfather of the iPod’, but it seems that tech companies just can’t play nicely together, despite what their penchant for twee adverts and ukulele music might suggest.
Anyway, looks like things still aren’t great at the pram-vendors. Internationally, Mothercare have been doing okay, with only their UK-arm letting the team down. However, the chain’s international business has suffered a fall in sales, which has seen their shares drop.
Mark Newton-Jones, the chief executive, has been trying to turn the company around, but now, it looks like he can’t rely on international sales, which has been propping up the UK division for years. In the Middle East, they’ve stopped shopping at Mothercare, and the weakness of the euro, on top of sanctions in Russia, have hampered sales.
Shares were down by nearly 6% last night, and Newton-Jones said: “Trading across our international business has been more volatile, as we have previously highlighted, with increased macro headwinds impacting consumer confidence in a number of our markets.”
Curse those macro headwinds! They really make a mess of your hair!
Poorly performing stores are being shut down across the UK, after last year, Mothercare said they’d close a quarter of all shops. The company have a plan, which is to move away from the high street and look toward bigger retail parks. Of course, shoppers have shown that they don’t like big retail parks anymore, with supermarkets trying to get away from them, so what Mothercare are doing is not clear to us.
It isn’t wholly bad news for the business – online, their sales have gone up 23.9%, which is encouraging.
Newton-Jones added: “Our strategy in the UK is continuing to deliver results. We have delayed the end-of-season sale to take advantage of well-controlled stock and the warm weather to sell more at full price. As a result, margins are improving without adversely affecting like-for-like sales. Online has also benefited from lower discounts and promotions with the additional benefit of improved functionality.”
Unsurprisingly, rent is going up and up, with a third of letting agents seeing rents increase between May and June, which is the biggest climber of 2015. Of course, this is going to continue, as 80% of agents surveyed have said that private rents are set to rocket in the next 5 years.
Why? Everyone is pointing fingers at the Budget, as the impact of it trickles through to the buy-to-let market.
George Osborne has made a number of promises to get tough with the tax relief enjoyed by buy-to-let landlords, however, letting agents say that tenants are going to inevitably pick up the slack. So, while private landlords can claim tax relief on monthly interest payments at up to the 45% top level of tax, as of April 2017, this will be at a basic rate of 20%.
Not only that, but from April 2016, the ‘wear and tear allowance’ will be axed too. Basically, there’s a number of things that landlords will want to claw back, and of course, the simplest way they can do that is by putting up people’s rent.
The Chancellor thinks that the changes being brought in will ’level the playing field for homebuyers and investors’, but not a lot of people agree with that.
“Findings like this continue to prove that the housing crisis isn’t going to disappear anytime soon and it will take a while before we see steps heading in the right direction,” said David Cox, managing director of the Association of Residential Letting Agents, which compiled a report on all this.
‘The impact of the Chancellor’s reductions to the amount of tax relief buy-to-let investors can claim – announced in the Budget this month – will affect the cost of renting over the coming months and is likely to mean it will take even longer to see any improvement in affordability in the private rented sector.”
With private rents growing faster than the price of houses in June, and the average rent at an all-time high of £789 last month, something needs to be done, and quickly.
The National Trading Standards Scams Team (NTSST) have been cracking down on these ne’er-do-wells for the past three years, and have discovered lists of would-be victims who were being targeted because they’ve previously engaged with marketing mailings.
A lot of these people were vulnerable, so were likely to live alone or be elderly, according to the the NTSST.
These particular scams included fake prize draws and special deals, with the average victim losing out on £1,100, or more. So, keep an eye on nana next time you see her.
Lord Toby Harris, chair of NTSST, said: “To have saved consumers more than £5m in three years is a great achievement and shows the powerful effect the National Trading Standards Scams Team is having. However, we know our work is not done. Criminal scammers are targeting some of the most vulnerable people in society – ripping them off in many cases for thousands of pounds.”
“We are going to continue in our fight to protect consumers and we urge you to help us by reporting suspected cases of postal fraud to the Royal Mail.”
That’s right – the Royal Mail are in on this too. The NTSST have teamed-up with the postal service and have 2,000 staff trained-up, in a bid to spot bogus marketing and other scams. However, such is the volume of these scams, We The People need to help them out as well.
Louise Baxter, who leads the NTSST, added: “We really need the public to help us with this – by being vigilant about mass marketing scams themselves but also looking out for relatives or neighbours, particularly those who are elderly or vulnerable. We often find victims who have lost hundreds of thousands over several years; the impact on individuals and consumers is devastating.”
Ladbrokes have been dragging behind William Hill over the years, especially when it comes to online sports-betting. So, they’re hoping that, by tag-teaming with Gala’s digital arm, they’ll be able to get on board with all that lovely money that can be made from prizing the coins out of people’s pockets while they’re messing about on the internet.
Gala’s bingo business is not part of this deal.
“This is a major strategic step for Ladbrokes which firmly accelerates our strategy to improve the customers’ experience and build recreational scale,” said Ladbrokes chairman Peter Erskine. “Ladbrokes and Coral are two highly complementary businesses, with rich heritage and brand presence across the UK and internationally.”
Are you ready to have your experience improved while someone builds recreational scale around your ears? You were born ready, don’t even pretend you weren’t.
Of course, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) are going to be paying close attention to this whole thing, meddling at every turn – but that’s the price you pay when you leapfrog every one of your competitors like this.
“Both Ladbrokes and Gala Coral are confident that the merger is deliverable and are committed to working closely with the CMA in its review,” the companies said. They added that ”it is anticipated that the combined entity will need to dispose of retail stores to satisfy potential CMA requirements”.
They’ve got over 4,000 shops to play with, so if your town has a Coral AND a Ladbrokes, expect one of them to vanish soon.
Who could forget the horsemeat scandal that saw so many of us being unwitting consumers of horses, and not to mention the subsequent Which!!! Investigation that found a worrying number (40%) of lamb curries were actually not lamb at all. Ok in that instance they were mostly beef or chicken, but there was a principle at steak stake. Now, the lovely investigators at Which!!! Have found another food that seems to be commonly not actually what it sayd on the outside- and its something you’d never be able to tell by yourself, and have quite possibly been consuming the substitute for years. The kitchen culprit? Oregano.
An “exclusive cutting-edge food fraud study” for Which!!! found that 25% of 78 samples of dried oregano contained ingredients other than oregano. Fortunately these other ingredients weren’t Chinese tea, or toenails or anything else actually harmful, but in most cases were olive and myrtle leaves, but they were found to make up between 30% and 70% of the product. So in some cases, less than a third of your oregano jar is actually proper oregano. And don’t think this is just dodgy spice pack bought from Spices R Us online- the investigation used oregano samples bought from a range of shops in the UK and Ireland and from online retailers.
But how could they tell what was oregano and what was other milled leaves? The simple answer is you can’t, or at least you can’t, Which!!! could by using impressive-sounding mass spectrometry which identifies compounds by their atomic composition. The analysis was conducted by Professor Elliott, Director of the Institute for Global Food Security, who was the author of the independent review into food crime commissioned by the government in the wake of the horsemeat scandal.
Professor Elliott said: “Clearly we have identified a major problem and it may well reflect issues with other herbs and spices that enter the British Isles through complex supply chains. Much better controls are needed to protect the consumer from purchasing heavily contaminated products.”
Which!!! are, of course, adding this to their ‘Food Fraud’ dossier, and will be passing these latest results to the Food Standards Agency. Which!!! executive director Richard Lloyd, said: ‘It’s impossible for any shopper to tell, without the help of scientists, what herbs they’re actually buying. Retailers, producers and enforcement officers must step up checks to stamp out food fraud.’
Grease-vendors, McDonald’s, might be rolling out all-day breakfasts this year, over in That America. They’ve been playing with the idea and testing it out in a couple of their chains, but now, it looks like it could go statewide in October.
According to the Wall Street Journal, they’ve seen memos which has been sent to all their American staff, and warned them to be ready.
Of course, with McDonald’s not doing nearly as well as they used to, it seems that they’ve finally started cottoning on to the fact that people want certain things from them (such as all-day breakfasts and McRibs all the time) and they should probably give it to them.
Basic commerce really.
Earnings have been down across the world for six successive quarters, and they ended up sacking their CEO, Don Thompson as a result. We hope they threw his body into the machine that makes nuggets.
So with that, we’d like to see this rolled-out to the UK please. We think it is ridiculous that you can get a Fillet O’ Fish any time of day, when no-one wants them, but you can’t buy a Sausage and Egg McMuffin after some arbitrary time of day. We like the sausage patties because they do what a McDonald’s foodstuff should do – trickle grease down your top and give you two day’s worth of salt intake, per mouthful.
Maccies! Make it happen! Don’t make us set up an internet petition!
Can egg McMuffins and orange juice buoy the food giant back to growth? It had better, since other efforts have not done the trick: McDonald’s franchisees, in a recent survey, said the turnaround isn’t working, leading one analyst to give the company the worst six-month outlook he had seen in 21 years. Thus, new CEO Steve Easterbrook is placing high hopes on the power of breakfast—for lunch and dinner.
Thinking of ‘getting on it’ on your flight to Ibiza? Thinking of stocking up in the airport so you can get bladdered in your hotel before hitting the clubs in San Antonio? Think again, as Ryanair have banned passengers from bringing duty-free booze onto flights to Ibiza from Bristol airport.
Dullards, feel free to point out that you can fly from other airports or that other airlines are available.
Anyway, this decision follows an incident where five blokes got booted off a flight to Ibiza after they were apparently drunk and abusive towards Ryanair staff.
Of course, you can still put your booze in the hold, but you can’t have it on the flight with you.
Ryanair told passengers passengers: “Any alcohol purchased in airport shops or elsewhere must be packed carefully in a suitable item of cabin baggage, which will be tagged at the gate and then placed in the aircraft hold free of charge.”
“If the bag is unsuitable for placing in the hold (e.g plastic bag) then customers will be required to dispose of the alcohol in the bins provided. Boarding gates will be carefully monitored and customers showing any signs of anti-social behaviour or attempting to conceal alcohol will be denied travel without refund or compensation.”
The Civil Aviation Authority said that they back the decision and pointed out that it is a criminal offence to be drunk on board an aircraft or to disobey the captain’s orders. You’ve been warned, booze-hounds. You’ll just have to get messy via the drinks that the flight serve on the trolleys, for 40 times the price.
Oh. We see what’s going on here.
EasyJet have been accused of selling tickets for seats on flights, that don’t exist. On top of that, those that buy these tickets end up on roundabout routes which take ages to get to your destination.
Feel free to insert a joke about being dropped off approximately 50 miles from your destination, in the sentence above.
The airline has been accused of overselling thousands of peak-season flights, which has seen some families being broken up while travelling. And it isn’t just EasyJet, as similar accusations have been thrown at British Airways and Virgin Atlantic.
If this is true, then some airlines are clearly in breach of European rules on overbooking. Regulations state that airlines must get passengers to their destination ‘at the earliest opportunity’.
There were problems with tennis player Annabel Croft, who tweeted: “Have arrived Portugal minus our daughter. Not a great start to our family holiday – no idea buying a ticket didn’t guarantee a seat. I asked easyJet if I could stay with her and they said yes, but we will charge you £60. Unbelievable.”
So what do EasyJet have to say for themselves? A spokesman said: “A flight will only be overbooked after reviewing the no-show rate for the last three months. On average, across our flights we will only overbook by one or two passengers per flight.”
Google have confirmed that they’re toying with the idea of letting you customise your Gmail address, so instead of having HunngMan69@gmail.com, you can now go for something that says alex@SummatElse.com.
There’ll be rules on domain names and all that, but it will allow you to have something more personal to you, rather than the usual address.
Now, this will come at a cost, and it looks like Google will charge $2 per month. We suspect that Google will do the $1 = £1 rule on this, so in the UK, you’ll have to cough-up a couple of quid every month. That’ll give you exactly what you already have, but with a different address.
For $5 per month, you can get extra storage, coming in at 30GB, along with 24/7 support and probably some other stuff you won’t use. Then, for the go-getters among you, you can spend $10 per month for unlimited storage with archiving capabilities and Google’s eDisovery service.
“We know that your first choice of username probably wasn’t firstname.lastname@example.org which is why we’re experimenting with scalable ways to provide other options. This is just a test though, and we haven’t made any decisions for the long term,” a Google spokesperson said.
It’s a bit like the perennial question of whether the tree falling over alone in the woods makes a noise– do the too-good-to-be-true sales offered by sofa retailers and double-glazing salesmen ever end? Well now the ASA has ruled against one such company to prevent them from advertising heavily discounted prices which are actually just the normal prices.
You’ve probably seem the Safestyle UK television adverts (and then wished you could scrub your ears and eyeballs), which normally involve a lot of screaming and unbelievable offers of free upstairs windows, or free windows at the front or BOGOF or something else that offers a prima facie discount of around 50% from the ‘normal’ price of their windows. The ASA, however, were responding to a complaint over advertisements offering “55% off” as a promotion. The complaint suggested, heaven forbid, that the 55% off was not, in fact, an offer, and the 55% off prices were available all the time, meaning that this constituted false advertising.
In response, HPAS (trading as Safestyle UK) affirmed that during the previous six months there had been 86 offer days, with a further 86 non-offer days. They said given the schedule, and similarly to other retailers that offered periodic sales, it was possible, if not likely, that consumers would see a number of different promotional Safestyle ads before either responding or making a purchase.
As part of the investigation, as is often the case, the ASA also spoke to Clearcast, to see what checks they had undertaken before allowing the ad to run.
Clearcast said they had also been suspicious of the 55% off claims taken care to discuss what was needed to support the pricing claims as “the prices must represent genuine discounts”. They had received ‘evidence’ from Safestyle in the form of a signed letter that affirmed the above and stated that “the products had been sold without discount for at least the previous 93 days at the time of clearance”, which is already not quite the same as the 86 days they claimed to the ASA. Safestyle, however, also informed Clearcast that because all items were made to measure, they “did not have price lists as such but that any full prices would be discounted by 55%.” Clearcast also trusted Safestyle as far as they could throw them, so further requested, and received, some kind of legal confirmation “that the ad was accurate and not misleading.”
Nevertheless, the ASA did their own digging and found that, far from the 86 or 93 days claimed by Safestyle, from the beginning of 2015 until the date of the complaint in early March, “there had been only one three-day period, in January, at which no promotional price was offered against Safestyle’s standard prices.” The ASA did concede that there was a longer non-promotional at the end of 2014, amounting to a massive 35 days, but during that preceding three month period, the products had been offered at either 55% off or on a buy-one-get-one free promotion for the majority of the time.
As a result, the ASA concluded that the ‘discounted’ price, and not the non-promotional price was the normal selling price and that therefore any offers claiming to offer 55% off were misleading and must not be used again. Consumers 1, dodgy double glazing salesmen 0
What does that mean? Maybe it’ll offer highlights to people while the game is still running? Or maybe you’ll be able to get updates with all the goals, almost as they happen? One thing you can bet on, is that it will cost you money as Sky don’t do owt for free.
Sky says that this 3-year deal kicks off in time for the 2016/17 season, and will cover their mobile and online users.
It looks like News UK has chipped in with some of the money to pay for this, which means you could be getting video content through The Sun and The Times.
Sky Sports MD Barney Francis said “This will allow us to offer our customers even more content across mobile and online. The way people watch sport is changing rapidly and this agreement ensures Sky Sports will continue to offer the best coverage across TV, mobile, online and social media.”
Paywalltastic, but could be right up the street of some people, that’s for sure.
If you wanted to leave Virgin and didn’t want to wait until the end of your contract, this is good news, as you can now ditch them without a charge. You’ll have until 31st August to hand your notice in.
For new customers, who aren’t phased by all that, there’s a bunch of codes floating around where you can get up to £50 off on online orders. You can see those here.
That said, Virgin have form with this, and have been warned about mid-term price increases by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), concerning some broadband and phone deals. Basically, the ASA found that Virgin could raise the price above what they had already promoted their services for, which is a breach of the regulator’s rules.
Concerning the latter, the ASA said that even though the contracts that have been complained about were variable, consumers were still mislead over the notion that they were being offered fixed-prices during the minimum term of the contract.
The ASA ruling said: “We considered that the monthly price of a contract was likely to be material to consumers when deciding on a telecommunications package, and that they might not choose a particular package if they knew that the monthly cost could increase beyond the amounts stated in the ad, during the minimum term. Therefore, we considered that the price claim should have been immediately qualified to explain to consumers that it was not fixed throughout the minimum term, and that the contract was a variable one in which the price could rise.”
“Because subsequent price rises meant the advertised price claims for the packages did not represent the prices that consumers would pay throughout the minimum term of the contract, across both the promotional and standard periods, and because it was not made clear that the contract was a variable one in which prices could increase, we concluded that the ad was misleading.”
Virgin’s wrists might get slapped over these new TV prices too, if they’re not careful.
Netflix is about to get more expensive. According to the CEO, that’s the price for more original content. Considering the successes of Orange Is The New Black, House of Cards, Daredevil, BoJack Horseman and others, you could argue that they know what they’re doing.
The gaffer of the company, Reed Hastings told investors that they’ll be shunting people toward more expensive plans, and not only that, they’re going to try and make it more difficult for people to share their passwords.
So, while you can have four profiles on one account, that might soon become a thing of the past, as they want more people paying for the service.
Hastings said: “We want to take it very slow. Over the next decade I think we’ll be able to add more content and have more value and then price that appropriately.”
Of course, Netflix put prices up this year, by 50p, for new subscribers in the UK, but it looks like everyone is going to be paying more. Will it be an increase that puts people off the TV and movie service, or is everyone in too deep?