BT bring Sky Sports to YouView

December 17th, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

bt sky 300x150 BT bring Sky Sports to YouViewAre you a BT customer with a YouView set-top box? You are? Then behold, there’s some treats in store for you!

You’ll now be offered Sky Sports 1 and 2 on it, as some to-do that’s been wanging on for four years between rival pay-TV sorts, Ofcom and UK competition regulators has now been settled.

The two Sky sports channels will give BT’s YouView customers, who already have access to BT Sport, ESPN and the Eurosport channels, the option of adding an extended range of live Premier League football games.

Which is fantastic news if you like all of the sport, is it not?

BT reckon they’ll offer Sky Sports 1 and Sky Sports 2 for £22 a month or £16.50 a month for one or the other of the channels, allowing customers the flexibility to opt in and out of the Sky Sports channels with 30 days’ notice.

Delia Bushell, managing director of BT TV and BT Sport said:“The ability to bundle together great content on our most advanced set-top box will underpin our aim to sell BT TV to more of our broadband customers and to accelerate the number of our customers who take a triple-play bundle from us”.

Existing BT customers who already pay for Sky Sports 1 and Sky Sports 2 should be able to swap their Vision+ box for a YouView+ box for £35 at the end of their current contract, but only if they also take BT Infinity broadband.

According to the Sky website, existing Sky customers can currently add all seven Sky sports channels to their subscription for £24.50 per month. New Sky customers can opt for a bundle with sports for £35.25 per month for the first six months, rising to £46 each month after that.

Post Office card account renewed until 2021

December 17th, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

postoffice10a 300x180 Post Office card account renewed until 2021The government have confirmed that the Post Office card account will continue until at least November 2021

The previous contract between the government and the Post Office had been due to expire in March 2015, but crisis has been averted and now been extended to the new date in the future.

The card is a lifeline for those 2.5 million people – at least half of those being pensioners – who have no truck with banks

The account allows holders to get their cash out at the Post Office’s 11,500 branches or 2,500 cash machines.

Pensions Minister Steve Webb welcomed the news, saying: “Although most people have a bank account, there are certain groups for whom this is not viable and, for them, the Post Office card account provides an important lifeline,”

He also threw in the bonus news of the contract costing 10% cheaper than previously, but the amount paid to subpostmasters per transaction remained the same.

George Thomson, general secretary of the National Federation of Subpostmasters, said: “The renewal of the Post Office Card Account will help provide the Post Office network with a more stable future.”

Supermarkets start to drop petrol prices

December 17th, 2014 1 Comment By Mof Gimmers

petrol guage 300x199 Supermarkets start to drop petrol pricesIn a handy move for Christmas, the supermarkets have started a round of price cuts on petrol and fuel.

Asda and Sainsbury’s are cutting their petrol by 2p a litre and diesel by 1p a litre, tomorrow. That’s nice isn’t it?

The RAC reckon that, thanks to world oil prices, petrol could be below £1 a litre in the new year, which would be the lowest pump prices since 2009.

RAC fuel spokesman Simon Williams said: “What’s currently happening at the pumps with falling fuel prices is something many motorists will not remember seeing before. Talk of prices going up like a rocket and falling like a feather could not be further from the truth as retailers have been quick to pass on savings at the forecourt since we forecast on December 6 that prices were due to come down by 7p a litre for petrol and 6p for diesel.”

Did it take you a couple of attempts to see what the crap he was talking about then? Anyway, it isn’t all happy-happy-joy-joy.

AA president Edmund King is being altogether more cautious: “With duty on each litre of fuel at 57.95p and VAT around 20p, plus the pound at its lowest level against the dollar for three months, it would take another almighty drop in crude prices to reach £1 a litre at the pumps.”

“Drivers would love to see £1 per litre but a white Christmas might be a better bet at the moment. However, for canny drivers there are still variations in pump prices of up to 5p litre in the same town. So shop around and make the most of the lower prices.”

Wonga cap loan rate all by themselves

December 17th, 2014 2 Comments By Mof Gimmers

wonga ladies 300x282 Wonga cap loan rate all by themselvesWonga have capped the costs of their payday loans at the maximum rate of interest allowed by the FCA. You may remember that, last month, the regulator said that they were introducing a cap of 0.8% and rules would come into play on the 2nd January.

Well, Wonga have decided to implement these new rules now, as well as capping late payment charges at £15, which is also the maximum allowed.

The payday loan vendor has also ditched the £5.50 transmission fee and increased the minimum you can borrow to £50 (it was previously £1, remarkably. Why you’d want to take a loan out for a quid is anyone’s guess).

Wonga UK chief executive Tara Kneafsey said: “We’re pleased to offer our customers a cap-compliant product ahead of the FCA’s January deadline. This and all the changes we’re making at Wonga reflect our commitment to provide short-term lending to the right customers in a responsible and transparent way.”

You can almost hear the seething resentment in her words can’t you? ‘They made us do it.’

Of course, Wonga will still be grumpy because, in October, they had to write off 330,000 customer loans after the FCA found that they weren’t properly checking their customers’ ability to repay loans. Oh, and they also had to dole out over £2m after they were caught sending out letters to threaten customers with, from non-existent law firms.

Here’s hoping they have a rotten Christmas.

Barclaycard road-testing tap and pay gloves

December 17th, 2014 1 Comment By Ian Wade

barclaycard gloves 300x180 Barclaycard road testing tap and pay glovesAll you’ll need is gloves, if a batcrap trial currently being conducted by Barclaycard has its way.

The bank are trialling a prototype glove that will ‘tap and pay’ like shoppers would do with contactless cards.

Barclaycard’s cashless mittens are embedded with a small contactless chip that can be linked to a credit or debit card. And look so, so stylish.

You can use them to pay for items up to £20 which all sounds a bit of an effort to be honest.

They are presently being tested on guinea pig shoppers (not people shopping for actual guinea pigs) in the UK and may take off next year if they go down well.

Barclaycard added that it is working on, rather sexistly, ‘his and hers’ versions of the gloves, with the women’s version having a softer and more ‘fleecy’ appearance than the men’s.

Mike Saunders, managing director of digital consumer payments at Barclaycard, said that the gloves “could be bringing some festive cheer to bag-laden shoppers by Christmas 2015″. No, honest. He did.

The company had previously announced that they have already been testing out bPay wristbands. Oh they might as well just turn us all into cyborgs and be done with it, eh readers?

Google News no longer a thing in Spain

December 16th, 2014 3 Comments By Ian Wade

Google News is no longer a thing in Spain, due to what the search engine reckons is a new law that would have required it to pay publishers for their content.

Google had previously said that the site was going to stop, to comply with the recent updates in Spanish law, and today the company confirmed that it was off.

googlenews 500x283 Google News no longer a thing in Spain

The post says: “We’re incredibly sad to announce that, due to recent changes in Spanish law, we have removed Spanish publishers from Google News and closed Google News in Spain.” (but in Spanish, obviously).

The new law actually comes into play on January 1st, and will now require search engines to cough-up for the rights to re-link snippets of news stories.

Basically, it’s the first sign of people giving Google what for, and should this take off, expect other countries to follow suit. Things could be about to get rather ugly.

Skype introduces Skype Translator

December 16th, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

skype Skype introduces Skype TranslatorSkype have announced the launch of Skype Translator, which feels like something straight out of Star Trek.

Thanks to speech recognition software that can decode foreign tongues in real time, Skype Translator is now out there in the public. Roaming about.

There are up to 40 instant messaging languages to choose from, so you can get up to all manner of saucy talk from around the world now.

According to Skype’s corporate vice president, Gurdeep Pall: “Skype Translator relies on machine learning, which means that the more the technology is used, the smarter it gets,” explained

“We are starting with English and Spanish and, as more people use the Skype Translator preview with these languages, the quality will continually improve. Our long-term goal for speech translation is to translate as many languages as possible on as many platforms as possible and deliver the best Skype Translator experience on each platform for our more than 300 million connected users,” added Pall.

Microsoft reckon it will open up all sorts of possibilities for the people of Earth, allowing them to connect without any fear of getting the wrong end of the stick in various languages.

Skype Translator is available RIGHT NOW. Do you want to see a video of it in action? What else have you got on?

All I want for Christmas is… a tax return?

December 16th, 2014 1 Comment By Thewlis

tax letter All I want for Christmas is... a tax return?What will you be doing over the festive season? Getting online for those early sale bargains? Pricing up how much you can flog those unwanted gifts for on eBay? If all else fails, actually talking to your relatives? Well, an estimated 23,000 of you will be doing something far less boring instead. You’ll be submitting your tax return.

Last year 23,059 people submitted their self-assessment returns between Christmas and Boxing Day. Admittedly, most of those returns were submitted on Christmas Eve or Boxing Day, but there were still over 1,500 people with naff all better to do on Christmas Day than to complete their tax returns.

Of course, if you are sent a return form, or notification to complete a return, then you need to complete it, and around 9 million workers need to submit a self-assessment tax return. The paper deadline for submitting your return was 31 October, so your only option now is to use the online system.

But perhaps these folks aren’t just boring. Perhaps they are just so busy, holiday season is the only time they have to complete their returns. If so, they’d better hope they don’t need to call to ask anything about their return form, as chances are, they’d get cut off and be unable to speak to anyone. Or have to find an extra 40 minutes to wait on hold, according to Which!!! reports on the matter.

If you do still need to file your return for the 2013/14 tax year, you can still file online up to the 31 January deadline, and if you make a mistake, you can amend your return online before that date as well. You also don’t have to complete it all in one go- a bit like Christmas dinner you can do some of it on the day and save the fiddly bits for a curry later in the week as the system automatically saves your progress

amazoninstant Being chased for full payment after 1p Amazon cock up?You heard about the 1p cock-up at Amazon? Well, some people got themselves a bargain before Amazon corrected the glitch.

Well, turns out some companies aren’t happy about this and have sent messages to customers, saying they want the rest of the money.

One avid BW reader told us that they were sent an email by a company called PremiumBrands4Less. The order has been fulfilled by Amazon and dispatched.

The email reads: “Dear Customer, firstly, I’d like to apologise for the disruption this email may cause. We experienced a problem with Amazon UK yesterday at about 18:00GMT and worked to fix the original issue by 20:00GMT.”

“We continued to work over the following few hours in conjunction with Amazon to revert any incorrect prices to their original prices, caused via the Amazon system. We have received communication that Amazon will not penalise sellers for this error, but have requested we contact buyers and ask them to create a return request to return the stock back to amazon.”

“We are continuing to work to identify how this problem occurred and to put measures in place to ensure that it does not happen again. We’ve been in business for over 4 years and we’ve always taken pride in the levels of service we provide, so everyone here is devastated and disappointed we experienced this problem. Unfortunately, our inventory lost over 10000 units within a space of 2 hours, which couldn’t be prevented. This will result in PremiumBrands4Less entering liquidation as a result of this pricing error by amazon.”

“We understand that you think you may have grabbed a great bargain, but we have instructed amazon to revert the prices to our usual prices and recharge your card with the correct amount owed. We would like to offer customers a grace period of 7 days to create a return request and return any stock incorrect priced and dispatched. If this action isn’t carried out, we will seek to recover sums owed”

“1. By recharging your credit/debit card
2. If funds are not available, passing to a debt collection agency
3. Informing experian and getting your address added to the mail order black list”

“We would like to urge customers to be honourable and honest during this Christmas period and not take advantage of a small business, who cannot afford to give away its £100,000 inventory for under £100. This will create a number of job losses in the run up to Christmas, due to the behaviour of a select number of customer.”

“I again reiterate, the products were not Amazon Inc, products, but were PremiumBrands4Less owned products dispatched on our behalf by Amazon Inc.

Yours sincerely

PremiumBrands4Less”

What do you make of that then? Would you laugh at them and think ‘hard cheese! I’ve done nothing wrong and you can whistle!’ or would you be guilt-tripped into helping out a small business?

**UPDATE** When queried, Amazon responded. Have a look in the comments.

poo crap 300x300 People literally bought a load of crap on Black FridayOn Black Friday, there was a lot of muttering about people buying crap they didn’t need. Well, it turns out that you didn’t know how literal you were being as, in America, 30,000 people bought actual faeces in a box.

They bought it from the people who brought the world the game, Cards Against Humanity, who said that for $6, you could have ‘actual bullshit’.

Now, online, lots of people assumed that this was all a big wheeze and that there might be a new game in the offing or maybe something collectible and fun. However, those that parted with their money soon found that they’d spent cash on a box with some poo in it.

Even though the game’s creator Max Temkin repeatedly tweeted that the thing being sent out was literally some dung in a box, people still weren’t convinced. And the boxes of poo sold out . 30,000 cardboard boxes with excrement in it. Bought with money.

And there’s a lovely video of someone doing a box opening, which shows a box with something akin to the poo emoji (as seen above) and a wrapped box that says ‘Bullshit’ on it. And inside, lo and behold, something that fell out of a bovine’s arse.

That’d be Cards Against Humanity earning $180,000 from selling actual bullshit. Where there’s muck, there’s brass.

facebook 300x300 Facebook catching up as a search tool for Christmas ideasWhen Facebook aren’t recreating HAL, who will try and kill us all through the power of dead-eyed nagging, they’re apparently a portal for shopping research for Christmas consumers.

It seems that, according to research, nearly a quarter of UK shoppers researched festive gifts on Facebook. This is according to some lot called Searchmetrics, who said that 23% waltzed around Facebook looking for ideal presents.

This isn’t quite as much as Google’s 50% search share, but creeping up fast.

Of course, Amazon is still the daddy in this instance, taking the top slot with 61% of shoppers finding the answers to their gift solutions on there.

The chief technology officer and founder of Searchmetrics, Marcus Tober, reckoned: “One of the benefits of looking for product ideas on social networks is that you get to see feedback and preferences from other consumers, as well as participate in online discussions about products with a range of people, including your own friends and followers. And of course purchase recommendations from other shoppers – especially friends – can be very powerful,”

This news will gladden the heart of Mark Zuckerberg, as apparently he’s been eyeing up Facebook to become more searchy, and hopes to enhance that further.

Lower down the findings, both Pinterest and Twitter had 7% of shoppers sifting through them for ideas for gifts.

Tober has advised retailers on increasing their internet presence for Christmas: “They should be trying to increase their visibility in Google searches, as well as building a strong presence on social networks such as Facebook. And even if they are not present on marketplaces such as Amazon and eBay, they need to be checking these sites to see what their competitors are doing.”

We await the figures from the report that tells us all about people going into shops, holding something in their hand for 40 seconds and thinking “it’ll do.”

BT to buy EE?

December 16th, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

bt logo BT to buy EE?As we’ve previously touched on, BT have money burning a hole in their pocket and they want to buy something with it, fast. The telco have entered exclusive talks with the owners of EE for a potential £12.5 billion deal.

If it goes ahead, it will give BT the top slot in mobile as well as fixed line services.

BT had been chatting with Telefonica over purchasing O2, however it seems things have moved on and BT now expects further negotiations with EE’s owners to take several weeks to reach a definitive agreement.

If it does happen, BT will pay for EE using half cash and half shares to make the 12.5 billion price tag. Deutsche Telekom will get a 12% stake in BT and the right to appoint one board member while France’s Orange will get more cash and only a 4% stake in BT.

Recent valuations have had EE last month at nearer £11 billion pounds, and O2 at £9.4 billion. However, combining the whole thing could face higher regulatory hurdles than a deal for Telefonica’s O2.

According to Deutsche Telekom’s chief executive Tim Hoettges: “If no significant obstacles arise in the due diligence process, it will pass quickly”.

BT have chipped in by saying that buying the UK’s biggest mobile network would allow it to give their customers seamless access to the internet via wi-fi and fibre broadband.

We’ll just have to wait and see what happens.

Britain’s first ‘social supermarket’ is here

December 15th, 2014 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

supermarket sweep b 300x225 Britains first social supermarket is hereWhen we first heard the phrase ‘social supermarket’, we assumed it would be some awful social media experiment selling cheeses called ‘LOL’ and toilet roll with hashtags on it.

Mercifully, it is much nicer and more useful than that, as it is a supermarket that sells items at a fraction of the price for people who are struggling financially. The Community Shop is a cooperative that want to help those stuck in food poverty and will sell goods that are deemed surplus food, donated from the big supermarkets.

Tesco, Asda, Morrisons, the Cooperative, Ocado and Marks and Spencer are all on-board.

Each of these social shops will operate through a membership scheme, so try and make sure it is solely available to those who are skint. It won’t stop some people trying to pull a fast one. For the latter, we advised swift retribution, concerning the seat of someone’s pants and a foot.

At the shops, there’ll also be advice on how to make wholesome, cheap food and help in how to find work. The first official store has opened in London’s Lambeth and a national roll-out is planned after a successful pilot in Goldthorpe in Yorkshire.

John Marren, chairman of Company ShopGroup, who run the scheme, said: “Members can shop for good food at great prices, which eases pressure on their family budgets, and they will also access tailored, professional development programmes, to kick-start positive change in their own lives.”

So with ‘news’ that only a quarter of us trust our energy supplier, just how bad are the energy suppliers at looking after customer? And are the smaller, friendlier firms actually any better than the big bad Big Six?

One way that commitment to existing customers (over scrabbling for new ones) can be measured is the resources spent on customer care over sales- using the time taken to answer a customer service call over a sales call. Helpfully, the good eggs over at Which!!! have already done this for us and have compiled a table of the best and worst offenders in the length of time to answer a customer service call stakes.

Taking half an hour to answer call, the scrapings at the bottom of the barrel belong to Big 6 Scottish Power, who blamed a new IT system and a need for more staff for their shocking performance, which didn’t stop them answering a sales call in just 49 seconds, which earns them a second top prize for the worst customer service:sales call ratio. However, the second longest customer service call waiting time was found at the door of friendly smaller company First Utility at a little under 19 minutes, who recently came out as having finalised their faster switching service earlier than required- perhaps they should have employed those resources on looking after the people who had already switched first.

which energy calls 454x500 The best and worst energy firms for customer service  is smaller necessarily better?

The shortest call times were found at Ebico, which has managed to answer calls in less than 30 seconds on average in all four of Which!!!’s  investigations so far, proving it can be done. It was also one of only five companies who prioritise existing customers over new ones, evidenced by a shorter call waiting time for customer service. The other four were Good Energy, Utility Warehouse, Sainsbury’s Energy and Spark.

But Which!!!’s investigation does not show that the Big 6 are necessarily the worst for customer service- nPower in particular has vastly improved its call answering times, down from a shocking 19 minutes in earlier years. But nor are the smaller ones necessarily any better.

OVO energy prides itself on offering 3% interest on credit balances to customers who pay by advance direct debit. The idea being that even if you do overpay, you’re getting compensated for the fact that they have your money instead of you. And 3% isn’t a bad rate. However it seems that OVO are less keen on actually giving you your money back, particularly at a time when you might need it, like before Christmas. Despite the fact that their own terms and conditions say that refunds requested will normally be paid within seven days, anyone requesting a refund is currently being told they might have to wait for fourteen working days (so 18 actual days) for their own money. Amazing in a time of two hour transfers. We did ask OVO for an official response but they declined to comment.

But it is worth pointing out that OVO, and a number of other energy firms don’t only allow customer service contact by telephone- customers can often get an immediate response by webchat, and OVO complaints (for example) are handled within one day even on a Saturday.

So, who is your energy provider and would you rate them as good or bad for customer service? And is the standard of customer service the main reason for investigating a switch?

the pirate bay logo 300x300 The Pirate Bay is back, not that it makes any differenceWith yawning inevitability, The Pirate Bay is back online, resurrected by another torrent site. Of course, the return of the site is only of note to show those trying to close torrents that they’re indulging in an utterly futile endeavour.

In the time TBP was shut down, internet piracy carried on as normal. Seems the authorities are so busy chasing a big name that they haven’t cottoned on to the fact that most people who use torrents have moved on or at least, have ten other options.

Of course, the takedown wasn’t without retaliation – a group related to Anonymous released a load of emails of government sorts, leaving officials flailing around, screaming ‘WON’T SOMEONE TELL US HOW THE INTERNET WORKS?!’

The Pirate Bay can now be found, fully functional, at oldpiratebay.org.

If anything, this resurrected version is a bit nicer than the old one, with all the dirty adverts that littered up TPB now missing. Isohunt, who have revived it, have said that, even though TPB is a competitor of theirs, they’re happy to bring it back because of its historic importance to the file sharing community.

“As you all probably know, the beloved Pirate bay website is gone for now,” a statement released with the new site said. “It will be always remembered as the pilgrim of Freedom and possibilities on the Web. It’s the symbol for a whole generation of the internet users. In it’s honor we are making oldpiratebay.org search.”

“We, the Isohunt.to team, copied the base of the PirateBay in order to save it to the generations of users. Nothing will be forgotten.”