The TPS runs a register designed to reduce any unsolicited sales calls. Firms can be fined for ignoring the list.
According to the findings of the research, while the TPS is “highly effective” at stopping calls to consumers registered on TPS by legitimate telemarketing companies, TPS-registered consumers still receive on average 2.5 nuisance calls per month.
It transpires that only a third of “nuisance” calls are blocked by the service, which allows individuals to opt-out of marketing calls, research has found.
However some rogue companies are flouting the rules, according to regulators. And us lot unwittingly give consent for calls by ticking a box on devious online sales forms.
The research, commissioned by Ofcom and the Information Commissioner’s Office, found that registering with the TPS blocked 35% of all nuisance calls.
If you’re an individual, registration on the TPS is free and takes 28 days to become effective.
It is a legal requirement that all organisations – including charities, voluntary organisations and political parties – do not make such calls to numbers registered on the TPS unless they have the individual’s consent to do so.
There are plans to increase the level of fines levied on firms that make nuisance calls, and these are due in October.
Fines of up to 20% of annual turnover could be handed down to firms using information gathered by unlawful unsolicited calls and texts. That’ll learn ‘em.
Let’s see what the swarthly named Claudio Pollack from Ofcom has to say: “We understand how frustrating it is to still receive some unsolicited sales calls despite being TPS-registered,”
“That is why we welcome tough enforcement action from the ICO against rogue companies who breach the rules.”
Currently, the ICO must demonstrate “significant damage or distress” caused to individuals by nuisance calls or spam texts in order to issue monetary penalties of up to £500,000.
Christ, let’s hope no mobile company has pissed off its users by spamming them willy nilly then. Oh.
Companies ripping you off is nothing new, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t grass on them. As it is the summer holidays, you should be aware of some of the sneaky tricks tour operators are doing to screw you out of money.
Of course, in the peak season, prices go up for no reason, but operators are taking advantage of families in other ways.
HolidayPirates have got some operators rumbled and have shown that some parents are being hoodwinked into paying premium by charging them MORE for children than they do for adults.
In one case, they found that a holiday was being sold as £245 per person (including all extras for the school holidays), but the holiday is based on four adults sharing. However, if you swap two adults for two kids – for the same flights, same hotel, same everything – the price goes up to £344 each.
In some instances, you can’t just book for adults and take the children instead, so if you’re thinking of pulling a fast one, better buy some fake moustaches for the nippers.
Some tour operators will tinker with prices dependant on the child’s age.
If you book one holiday for a family of four (two adults, one infant and one child aged 12) and one for exactly the same sized family but with the child being 13 (two adults, one infant, one child aged 13), you’ll see a big hike in the price of £133 each.
Have a look at HolidayPirates’ findings and, when you’re booking your family holiday, be sure to play around with the options before processing any payment to make sure you’re not being ripped off.
*calls Daily Mail, faints*
What’s more, these super ants, also known as Fire ants, will eat through your home’s electricity cables and live in your plug sockets, causing potential fires.
They love a bit of electricity, because they’re EVIL, and they don’t even care if they get killed – it just makes their army stronger.
Fire ants aren’t usually found on these shores, but the species first made an appearance back in 2009, when 35,000 were found crawling all over a National Trust property in Gloucestershire. (Who counted them all?).
Now, a colony have taken over a house in Hendon, North West London, and they’ve been spotted in Buckinghamshire, too.
Jo Hodgkins from the National Trust said: “The problems with them are they seem to get attracted to electricity and they can take up residence in plug sockets and power sources, creating a fire hazard. They can easily establish themselves in somewhere like Britain and I would not be surprised if they colonised other areas. They are pretty tough little creatures.”
RUN! RUN from your new ant overlords!
We seem to be experiencing an actual summer this year, which is novel. However, our friends over at Which! are investigating whether this is a summer of discontent by surveying over 3,600 people to ask them about their favourite complaints.
As a result we have the updated top five sectors that give people the most cause for complaints. Few would be surprised to see telecoms, energy, and money, topping the list, but also beating off shoddy competition are public services and parking, according to the Which! research.
Unsurprisingly, most people gave up at the first stage of complaining, and if the supplier told them to naff off, many people did just that. However, where people were tenacious enough to escalate issues to an independent reviewer such as an ombudsman, 68% of cases were upheld in the consumer’s favour. Reasons given for giving up at the first hurdle included not knowing that there were complaint schemes, fearing that the process would be too complicated and not believing that they’d be successful. Which isn’t really the right attitude now is it?
The Which! research also found that the chances of winning an escalated complaint – a ‘win’ being classified as a company being told to apologise, to give compensation or to take remedial action – varied greatly by sector.
Escalated complaints to do with energy and telecoms – including broadband, mobile and landline services – proved very successful in 2013/2014, with between 86% and 95% of people being successful.
However, during the same period, only 58% of consumers who had complained to the financial ombudsman won their case, while for public service complaints to the parliamentary and health ombudsman, just 42% of cases were upheld.
But the most valuable statistic has to be that, according to the figures, just over half of motorists who’d appealed their parking tickets to the Traffic Penalty Tribunal were successful in 2012/13. Save a quick £60 anyone?
The cheery little runabout that has been knocking around for nearly 40 years, has sold 4.1 million, to become the best selling car in the UK.
It has overtaken (OVERTAKEN HAHAHA) the Ford Escort, the previous record holder, to become the most popular model among British drivers.
The Fiesta was a mere £1,865 when it came out in 1976, and soon become a hit with the young set and lead the small car end of the car market ever since.
Mark Ovenden, head of Ford Britain, said: ”The Ford Fiesta has gone from strength to strength and today’s car combines style, value, driving dynamics and remarkable technologies such as the multi-award-winning 1.0-litre EcoBoost engine.”
“It continues to outsell its nearest retail competitor by more than two to one – and that really tells the story of this extraordinary car.”
Also, the advancements in technology differ somewhat from the car’s launch. For example, it would now take more than 80 modern-day Fiestas to generate the same nitrous oxide emissions of a single 1976 Mk1 model.
This first-generation Fiesta, with the 46bhp four-cylinder 950cc petrol engine, weighed around 800kg and achieved 37.7mpg. Today a 1.0 litre Fiesta is more than a third heavier, but achieves nearly 66mpg.
Fiesta models are developed in Dunton, Essex, while engines are assembled in Dagenham, Essex, and Bridgend, south Wales. Cars destined for the UK market are built in Germany and Spain.
Well done Fiesta!
France have already fined Google £150,000 because they failed to co-operate with its laws on tracking and storing information, and it looks like Italy might be next to hit the company with a piffling fine that wouldn’t even make a dent in the average Google CEO’s lunch bill.
The Italian data protection Authority have told Google that they must ask its users for permission to use their personal information before they go spreading it around Facebook in the form of targeted ads about Fitflops and belly fat.
They also said they must honour customer requests to delete data within two months. Or else.
Google are co-operating so far, perhaps fearing reprisals from burly, well-connected Sardinian men called Beppe.
How about you stop selling our data to advertisers without our permission, Google? That would be logical ‘next step.’
As they say in Italy – VAFFANCULO.
Apple will dripfeed everyone with their new operating system, Yosemite, as of tomorrow.
OS X Yosemite was announced in May, and now it will be available as a public beta test, which will kick off around 1pm EST (which is around 6pm in the UK). If you want to test it out, then hit this link and sign up.
So what’s new? Well, Yosemite will use translucency throughout the system, so if you didn’t like the ‘flat’ colourful UI design of iOS 7, you’ll probably hate this.
There’s also a thing called ‘Handoff’, where Yosemite and iOS 8 will work easier with each other. If you start work on your iPad, it’ll be simpler to pick up where you left off on your Mac (and vice versa). You’ll be able to answer phonecalls from your iPhone with Yosemite too.
There’s improvements to iCloud and the Mail app too, and AirDrop will now work between iOS and Mac devices.
There’s a load of other new things going on as well, but we advise that, if you’re really interested in all that, you let Apple tell you all about it, here. The short version is that Apple want to hook your iPhone up with your other devices in a way that is much easier for the user.
A security breach has lead to a host of email addresses and other contact info being stolen from a European Central Bank database.
The ECB have told everyone to calm it, as the information leaked is related to those who had registered to attend its events, such as conferences or visits, and was not encrypted.
Although, you know, you wouldn’t necessarily be on their database for the lols, but the ECB reaffirm their fans that no sensitive stuff was compromised.
The ECB said the matter first came to its attention after it received an anonymous email seeking money in return for the stolen data.
They also said it was in the process of contacting those who may have had their contact information stolen, while all passwords on its website have been changed as a precautionary measure.
Now, let’s try and do this whole anonymous threat thing again. Demanding money in exchange for a thing you’ve done, but failing to say who you are seems a bit daft.
Modern times, ladies and gentlemen.
Two out of three people are incensed about paying the sneaky charges hidden in the small print of insurance policies. It’s becoming a thing now to insert charges for cancellations or amendments to your policy and consumers are NOT happy.
A Which!!! survey revealed that nearly half of insurance firms have increased admin fees in the last few years – fees that have no real basis in reality, like a £20 charge to set up a policy or get copies of documents.
So why all the secret fees and subterfuge? Well, it’s those goddamn comparison websites, innit?
Insurance companies want to keep those all important headline fees down, so they have to spread the actual cost somewhere else. It’s also happening with mortgages, credit cards and bank accounts. In fact, it’s like the whole world is turning into Ryanair.
And we’re getting wise to it, too. 68% of those surveyed said they were aware of the manipulative trickery that companies employ to keep headline costs down.
Hit it, Ricardo Lloyd-o! “Consumers are fed up with being hit with unexpected, additional costs for financial products that lead to them paying more than they bargained for. These fees can be hard to avoid, and people often don’t know what they’re really paying for.”
“We want the financial services industry to stop sneaky fees and charges, and put an end to excessive, unclear and hard to compare fees that do nothing to improve the low level of trust in these markets.”
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PayPal – a company that people don’t exactly trust or like – have announced that they are going to start offering cash advances to small businesses in the UK. If you can’t get a loan, then PayPal want to ‘help’.
Of course, everyone’s problems with PayPal are well documented, but so too is the general irritation with loan companies and banks. It is basically getting a consumer to pick which illness they’d like.
The PayPal Working Capital fund will launch in the UK later in the year, but has been giving out loans in the USA since last September. And people are taking them up on the offer. Thus far, they’ve made £82m worth of advances to American firms.
They say they will provide “funding in minutes” after approvals and all that… but no credit check. A one-off fee is required on the advance (like interest) and the fee you can receive is based entirely on sales history from the PayPal account, the amount of money being advanced and the schedule of repayment.
Businesses will pay back what they owe with a share of sales made using PayPal, so if you don’t sell anything on a given day, PayPal get nothing.
In America, there’s been glitches – a number of customers have noted that unauthorised payments have been taken out of their PayPal account as repayments, with PayPal clearing business accounts without much fanfare or explanation.
Would you trust PayPal to sort you out with a loan? Or are they no better or worse than any other loan company?
Are you all set to have your mind blown? Ready to be told things that will make you scream with glee that someone is on your side?
The CMA have identified opaque pricing, the dominance of utilities and an uncompetitive retail market as the main negative factors of the industry.
Doesn’t that feel amazing? Finally, someone is sticking up for us all! They’ve translated our feelings into a succinct report! And, obviously, we should hand the CMA a degree in stating the bleedin’ obvious.
Their investigation into the energy market isn’t finished yet and they’ll publish a final one before Christmas Day in 2015.
“We are looking to identify the underlying causes, at both wholesale and retail level, which could be leading to the widespread concerns that have surrounded this market in recent years – including rising energy bills, service quality, profitability and uncertainty over future investment,” said Roger Witcomb, chairman of the Energy Market Investigation Group.
The CMA statement said they’d spotted “four candidate theories of harm” which explain how market characteristics were adversely affecting competition. Shall we break them down?
- Opaque prices and low-level liquidity in wholesale power and gas create barriers to entry in retail and generation.
- Vertically integrated electricity companies harm the competitive position of non-integrated firms to the detriment of customers.
- Market power in electricity generation leads to higher prices.
- “Energy suppliers face weak incentives to compete in retail markets, due in particular to inactive customers, supplier behaviour and/or regulatory interventions.”
So in short, the Big Six aren’t keen on telling us how they come up with their prices, there’s not enough competition to get the prices down, it is too hard for new energy companies to start up and people can’t be bothered to switch suppliers because they’re all rubbish. You knew that. Everyone knew that.
“This is a market which is very complex so it is important at an early stage to focus the investigation on the most relevant issues,” said Witcomb.
But hotheaded tea drinking chimps everywhere are now going to have to concede that PG Tips pyramid bags DO let out more flavour than Tetley’s round ones.
Tetley were furious when Johnny Vegas and that godforsaken monkey appeared to trash their round teabags in a recent advert. They sit at the kitchen table and do a test to see which teabags are best, with Monkey concluding that:
‘PG Tips uses pyramid bags, so if we test one against a regular tea bag … you’ll see the tea has got more room to move, freeing the great fresh taste for a perfect cuppa.’
Tetley said that although they weren’t mentioned in the ad, it was obvious that as they are purveyors of round teabags, they were being targeted and ‘denigrated’ by a knitted primate.
BUT the Advertising Standards Authority upheld PG Tips claims, and enraged the Tetley teafolk by saying that pyramid bags WERE better, and that their round ones basically suck.
‘Unilever provided test results which showed that the infusion of tea, at 40 seconds and two minutes into brewing, was greater when using a pyramid teabag than when using a round teabag. We therefore concluded that the ad did not exaggerate the capability and performance of the advertised product and was not misleading.’
You are probably familiar with the concept of an Ombudsman, an independent reviewer who will review the facts of a case once the normal complaints procedure has been exhausted, and will normally find in favour of either the complainant (usually the customer) or the retailer.
Now, we all know that HMRC no longer has victims, rather customers, and as such, it is open to complaints same as any other service provider. While there is no ombudsman for tax-collecting services, there is an Adjudicator. The Adjudicator has now published her annual report for 2013/14, which shows that an unbelievable 90% of customer complaints have been upheld- and government bodies including, and mostly HMRC, have been ordered to pay a whopping £4.4m in redress payments.
The Adjudicator provides an independent review of complaints about HMRC, as well as against the Valuation Office Agency and the Insolvency Service, although these are only a small proportion compared with the HMRC complaints. In fact, the actual number of complaints about HMRC has gone down, a staggering 90% of taxpayers’ complaints have been upheld this last year.
There were 1,131 new complaints in 2013/14, 1,087 of which were about HMRC. This is less than half the number in 2012/13, when there was a surge in complaints, many of them about PAYE.
Of the cases resolved last year:
90% were upheld substantially or partially (61% in 2012/13)
7% were not upheld (37% in 2012/13)
3% were withdrawn or reconsidered (2% in 2012/13)
The total amount the departments paid out in redress, on the Adjudicator’s recommendation, was £4,369,258 , massively up on the £1,194,031 the year before. The total includes tax credit overpayments written off, as well as costs reimbursed and compensatory payments.
Complaints to the Adjudicator are typically about mistakes, unreasonable delays, poor advice or inappropriate staff behaviour.
In her report, the Adjudicator noted that HMRC had put “a lot of effort” into transforming its complaints handling, and complimented the department on “listening to her constructive criticism.”
She did, however, acknowledge the startling proportion of upheld complaints and described seeing many cases “where HMRC staff failed to consider the circumstances of vulnerable people and where communication was poor.”
Anyone else with a 90% upheld complaint rate might be looking for their P45. But still, at least HMRC are trying, right?!
Smartwatch watchers, your hunch was correct. Apple have indeed been busy designing a smartwatch and were awarded a patent for a wrist-worn device with a touchscreen that can communicate with a smartphone.
The patent was submitted in 2011, but Apple’s secretive design manoeuvres mean that it wasn’t officially disclosed until yesterday.
On some of the documents, the device is called ‘iTime’ but as the name hasn’t been trademarked, it’s possible that idea has been ditched somewhere along the line.
The patent is for a device that can work either clipped into a wristband, or on its own.
But when connected to the wristband it turns into a smartwatch which includes ‘haptic sensors’ that mean you can control it with hand gestures (you probably know a number of ‘hand gestures’ you’d like to do at smartwatch wearers).
When will the watch finally appear? Who knows? But Apple say in the patent that there are: ‘continuing needs to make portable electronic devices smaller and more portable. There is also a continuing need to enhance functionalities of portable electronic devices.’
GET ON WITH IT THEN.