Remember us telling you that Converse were suing the entire world for ripping off their iconic Chuck Taylor trainers? Well, things are starting to take hold and Ralph Lauren are trashing an entire range.

ralph lauren shoes 500x500 Ralph Lauren destroy trainers after being sued by Converse

Over 30 companies have been hit with legal threats and several major brands have been accused of copying Cons’ famous canvas kicks and they’re demanding that the infringing articles get pulled from shelves and stop being produced.

New Balance decided to play hard-ball and are counter-suing Converse, but Ralph Lauren have decided to give 36 different sneakers the boot.

Ralph Lauren’s decision followed an out-of-court settlement with Converse, who just happen to be owned by Nike… and Nike have some very tasty lawyers indeed. Ralph Lauren agreed to destroy all of the “related molds, parts, tools, marketing, packaging and promotional materials” of the copycat trainers.

They also have to pay an undisclosed amount to Converse as part of the settlement.

Russell Hobbs recall: what’s the hold up?

January 27th, 2015 2 Comments By Mof Gimmers

Russell Hobbs Russell Hobbs recall: whats the hold up?At the end of last year, there was a recall on a number of Russell Hobbs irons. Initially, customers were happy with the way things were being sorted out, but alas, things seem to have gone awry.

There’s been a raft of complaints to Bitterwallet, saying that things seem to have dried up at Russell Hobbs, in terms of helping those who had faulty irons.

One avid BW reader got in touch to say: “I contacted Russell Hobbs 9th Dec, again week before Xmas, again on 7th January. Have had promises made each time of either replacement iron or refund within 7 – 10 days. Still waiting. On 7th I had duty manager call me and he promised he would arrange refund. I called again today and just the usual rubbish had to give all details for the fourth (or 5th) time if you count duty manager and then same apologies and promises. I doubt we’ll ever see this refund. Congratulations to Russell Hobbs you have absolutely exceeded diabolical customer services.”

Another got in touch to say: “On the phone we have been reassured that a returns label would be sent and instead of a replacement iron we have requested a refund which has been an advertised option. On each occasion since the beginning of December we have not received anything at all. Customer services through their website hasn’t bothered to get back at all. It leads me to believe that this is not a genuine recall and that Russell Hobbs have no interest in making amends to their customers – what a joke!”

It was a similar story with other correspondence, with one reader saying: “We have since had to buy a new iron and have returned our faulty iron to Russell Hobbs so really starting to feel out of pocket on this debacle!”, and other adding that, after being told to wait 28 days and “after telephoning an 0800 number four times with no response it has left me bitterly angry”

Over on the Russell Hobbs Facebook page, one angry customer said: “I don’t wish to be fobbed off about how busy you are. You told me that I would get a reply in 5 working days. Why are you so busy? Too many faulty goods! I have yet another faulty kettle which was sent as a replacement to a previous faulty kettle less than a year ago. This has resulted in me purchasing another kettle from a different brand. If you need the details of the goods they are in the email previously sent to you.”

Another said that “Made several follow up calls. Phoned again 2 weeks ago, the customer service chap said he had to check (manually) through a spreadsheet……that wasn’t in alphabetical order (what???) couldn’t find my logged call so logged again. Have received a ‘returns’ form- NO replacement iron.”

So we decided to get in touch with Russell Hobbs and we got pretty much the same story. High volumes of requests and such have seen some returns taking longer than others. When asked what customers are supposed to do without their irons, it was very much a case of ‘we’re getting through the backlog as quickly as we can’.

No solutions here sadly, which means you can either wait for a replacement and wear some wrinkly tops in the meantime, or you could again try their customer service lines and ask for reimbursement rather so you can buy an iron from somewhere else. The numbers are Freephone 0800 307 7616 for landlines or 0333 103 9663 for mobiles.

It looks like a full refund would be advisable, rather than wait for a new iron, after all this waiting. Let us know how you get on and we can chase it up further.

**UPDATE**

We got further correspondence from Russell Hobbs, and a spokesperson said: “We are currently dealing with a backlog of enquires but please be assured that we are working through them as quickly as we can. We would like to apologise to any inconvenience this is causing our customers and thank them for their patience.”

EGGS 300x199 EasterWatch: Marmite and Pot Noodle eggs are now thingsCalm down the rioting, lovers of Pot Noodle and Marmite, for there IS an Easter egg for you after all.

Yes, Unilever have brought out Easter eggs for both their unique products, which they hope will ‘broaden the appeal of Easter’. Bloody Hell.

Each egg will have flavours of each product embedded within the chocolate, which may sound a bit mental, but actually might be quite nice. However, we at Bitterwallet can only go so far in fields of research, and will await public consensus before running to the nearest confectioners on this occasion.

Unilever has formed a partnership with the confectionery firm Kinnerton to deliver the chocolate egg which carries hints of Marmite and is promoted under the slogan ‘love it or hate it’.

Ah, they’re sticking with that slogan. One day Marmite will realise that people either love something or hate something in general, and their whole pitch will be rumbled.

The firm’s UK head of licensing Julie McCleave said: “Building on the success of our first ever Easter egg launch last year with iconic ice cream brands Magnum, Cornetto and Mini Milk, we wanted to bring something new to the Easter egg market once again for 2015. ”By broadening the appeal of the Easter egg fixture, we anticipate that the new additions will drive sales for retailers by offering an exciting new product from brands that consumers know and love.’

The Easter egg market is worth a whopping £365 million a year in the UK, so understandably, Marmite and Pot Noodle want in on a bit of that. Kinnerton’s Rachel Wyatt said: “Easter isn’t just for kids. We want to bring fun to Easter fixtures by using these two iconic brands. The Marmite Easter egg, which shoppers will either love or hate, combines Marmite with chocolate.”

‘Easter fixtures’. Good grief. Each egg will set you back a fiver.

Deals of the Day: Tuesday 27th January 2015

January 27th, 2015 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

deals of the day 300x162 Deals of the Day: Tuesday 27th January 2015Have you ever wanted to drive a car really fast like you’re Starsky and Hutch? Ever wanted to razz a car on a famous track with the smell of burning clutch in your nostrils? Well, you are in luck, joyriders!

You can pit your wits while driving the Top Gear test track in a reasonably priced car and see if you can beat the time of Joanna Lumley or Richard Whitely for £175. You can even dress up like the Stig – we won’t judge you. Have a look at the deal here.

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Amazon are top of the pops for entertainment

January 27th, 2015 No Comments By Ian Wade

amazoninstant Amazon are top of the pops for entertainmentAmazon took one in every four pounds spent on an entertainment solution, in the run up to Christmas.

The online retailer was the key victor in physical sales of music, games and DVD products, with a 25.6% of the market. Get that! Over a quarter of all sales! Amazon must be thrilled.

They beat Tesco with 14.7% and HMV with a measly 13.9%, according to figures from Kantar Worldpanel.

However, what makes these figures interesting is that shoppers still buy the bulk of their entertainment products on the high street, in the few remaining vendors that cater for them, and Black Friday had an effect too, with heavily discounted promotions tempting the weak inside.

Fiona Keenan, strategic insight director at Kantar Worldpanel, said: “While consumers’ average online spend increased by 6% this Christmas, they still spent less than they did when shopping in physical stores as retailers struggled to get them to shop impulsively online.”

“A third of in-store purchases were bought purely on impulse, creating an additional £119m for the industry, but when shopping online this proportion halved. Retailers need to identify ways to encourage impulse purchasing in an online environment, particularly as so much of our spend goes through this channel.”

Asda, however, fared less well in the game and music sales area, falling 3.4%, to 9.5% of the market. But such is the way of these things, as Asda and Tesco both cut back on the CD and DVD offerings in many of their larger stores.

Game Digital also did rather well, 1.4 percentage points, but it has issued a profit warning after selling too many games too cheaply on Black Friday. The buffoons.

TalkTalk 300x180 Talk Talk join blocking unsavoury stuff online setTalk Talk are the latest to block unsavoury adult material online.

They’ve said that customers who have not chosen to whether to activate net filters, must opt out of the safety system if they want to look at saucy content online.

The net provider will block access with pop-up boxes until decisions are made by the user, and will also prompt their customers to review their settings each year.

This follows Sky’s announcement last week that it would activate filters for inappropriate content by default.

However, BT and Virgin have yet to reveal any proposals for automatic filters, but seeing as David Cameron is bearing down on the whole ‘internet safety’ thing, it’s likely an announcement will occur soon.

TalkTalk customers are now presented with information about the HomeSafe filter activation in their account settings pages, and reckon 95% of its 4.2m customers have already decided whether to activate the filters.

According to Talk Talk’s spokeswoman Alex Birtles on the firm’s blog: “We pre-tick the ‘on’ option, but it’s the customer’s choice. Filters will only ever be applied if the customer has consented and they’re able to change their mind or edit their level of protection at any point.”

So if you’ve yet to visit the settings page, you’ll be confronted with a pop-up box if they try and look at some rude stuff. However, like most filters, HomeSafe does not block material accessed via a web proxy or Virtual Private Network (VPN).

According to the website blocked.org, a project by the Open Rights Group (ORG), around 11% of the 100,000 top websites (according to Amazon-owned analytics firm Alexa) are currently blocked by default filters.

Deathwatch: Are IBM going west?

January 26th, 2015 6 Comments By Mof Gimmers

ibm 300x300 Deathwatch: Are IBM going west?IBM are looking ropey at the minute as reports suggest they’re planning to get rid of 111,800 of their staff. That’s over a quarter (26%) of their current workforce.

This is all part of IBM’s reorganisation, which has been given the codenam of Project Chrome, and will see most of the company’s American staff being given the sack. To turn things around, IBM are pinning their hopes on cloud computing, rather than hardware for which they’ve been famous for.

Robert X Cringely wrote for Forbes: “To fix its business problems and speed up its ‘transformation’, next week about 26% of IBM’s employees will be getting phone calls from their managers. A few hours later a package will appear on their doorsteps with all the paperwork.”

This is big news, seeing as IBM has been running since 1911, taking the name International Business Machines in 1924.

Cringely continued: “This is a bit short-sighted and typical for IBM. They just announced the new Z13 mainframe and hope it will stimulate sales. Yet they will be cutting the very teams needed to help move customers from their old systems to the new Z13.”

“The storage cuts are likely to be short-sighted, too. Most cloud services use different storage technology than customers use in their data centres. This makes data replication and synchronization difficult. IBM’s cloud business needs to find a way to efficiently work well with storage systems found in customer data centres. Whacking the storage teams won’t help with this problem.”

The company are still making a load of money, so saying Deathwatch is rather premature, but losing a quarter of your entire workforce is a big deal indeed. One to keep an eye on.

Michael O Leary Ry 1208663i 300x276 Ryanair fined €550k for poor customer serviceWe like consumer championing here at Bitterwallet, and once again the Italian competition watchdog AGCM has brought out the big guns and landed a massive fine for unscrupulous business practices. This time, its budget airline Ryanair, who have been slapped with a €550,000 (£412,000) fine for poor customer service practices, including  “extreme difficulty” and exorbitant costs.

ACGM already investigated Ryanair last year, after a deluge of complaints from passengers over its premium rate customer service phone lines. Fliers found it “difficult and unreasonably expensive” to get reimbursements, to find alternative flights following cancellations or to receive detailed billing information for tax and expenses purposes. Others complained of huge difficulties when attempting to change their bookings before the flight or even getting accessibility information for passengers in wheelchairs.

The AGCM  did acknowledge Ryanair’s effort in the last year to improve its service, which included getting rid of a premium phone number for passengers requiring assistance with boarding, but those measures were deemed not sufficient to avoid a fine. This is also the second fine imposed by the Italian watchdog on Ryanair in less than a year. Last February, the airline was fined €850,000 (£635,000) for the “lack of transparency in their travel insurance policies” and the “obstacles created in case of refund” during the online purchase of airline tickets.

Besides the money, this ruling is likely to come as a blow to Ryanair after having so publicly turned over a new leaf on the customer service front, with flamboyant Chief Michael O’Leary even saying he was trying not to p*** people off.  ACGM also recently fined TripAdvisor for publishing ‘misleading reviews’

Ryanair has issued a statement saying it has noted the ruling and is looking into an appeal.

Post Office set to combine financial services

January 26th, 2015 1 Comment By Ian Wade

postoffice10a 300x180 Post Office set to combine financial servicesThe Post Office are set to announce that it will bring together all of its financial products into a new whole called Post Office Money.

It’s hoped that this will pump the Post Office up to becoming a leading challenger-type brand in the financial services solutions market, while the big bank set start to wind down branches on the high street.

Business secretary Vince Cable is to meet up with major lenders to sort out a deal that will let bank customers make the most of the Post Office’s 11,5000 branches.

The Post Office currently offers products including insurance, mortgages, savings accounts and foreign exchange, some of which are provided through a partnership with Bank of Ireland.

Speaking to Sky News, Nick Kennett, director of financial services at Post Office Money, said: “Consumers want a choice about how they manage their money; at Post Office Money our customers have access to an unrivalled network as well as online and phone, combined with multi-award winning products.

“We have been listening to our customers and know that people are facing some big financial decisions, and through the new Post Office Money we want to become their first choice when thinking about a mortgage, credit card or a safe haven for their savings.”

The Post Office network has around three million customers within its banking and insurance business and nine million people use its foreign currency exchange services, while 2,500 of its branches open on Sundays.

Vince Cable is said to be quite keen on the idea, after getting cheesed off with major banks who decided not to renew a commitment not to close branches where they are the only one left in local communities.

The banks are all saying that with technology and the like, people are doing less in a bank, and more online.

But Mr Cable argued to Sky News that: “There are a lot of people who are not connected who also need to do basic banking functions, and we mustn’t be in a position where large numbers of villages and other small communities are effectively being cut off from banking.

“If the banks cannot perform that service we need an adequate substitute, and they’ve got a responsibility to help provide it.”

Register to vote and improve your credit score?

January 26th, 2015 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

vote Register to vote and improve your credit score?Voting is a pain – not least because picking a candidate to vote for is often like choosing which debilitating disease you’d like to contract.

However, your credit score could depend on it, which means that, come the general election, it’d be worth voting for someone or spoiling your ballot, just to keep your credit score up.

So what’s all this about? Well, in 2014, the UK started moving toward the Individual Electoral Registration (IER), which means that the head of the household no longer registers everyone who lives under their roof. Mercifully, you can register online, so you don’t have to try and cajole any lazybum teenagers into getting off the couch for too long.

People who have moved house are less likely to be on the voting register because of reasons, which causes voting problems in the renting sector.

And all this will affect your ratings because, for example, credit reference agencies use the electoral register to confirm that you live where you say you live and companies use the electoral roll to confirm you are who you say you are. If you’re thinking about getting a mortgage, then being on the electoral list is paramount. Basically, it is used to try and stop fraud.

As well as that, if you’re not on the list, you can’t vote, which means you might be shunned at dinner parties by your chest-beating pals who like to parp on about such things… not that Jeremy Paxman and Russell Brand vote, but there you go.

Either way, being included on the electoral register means you’ll have a healthier credit score. Now, conspiracy theorists: Do your worst.

Cheap oil won’t mean cheaper flights

January 26th, 2015 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

airplane Cheap oil wont mean cheaper flightsNow that the price of oil has gone down, prompting savings with our energy bills and at the petrol pumps, does that mean the price of holiday flights is going to fall? Well, according to what you’ve just read in our headline, it doesn’t look like it.

This follows what Flybe have stated, saying that this drop in oil costs will have a “minimal impact” on the price of air travel. With that, shares in Flybe dropped accordingly by over 20%.

Saad Hammad, chief executive, who is trying to get the company making a profit again has been selling the company’s peripheral assets and reworking their routes. He’s certain that the airline is on the up (pardon the pun), saying: “Flybe’s improvement in its core UK business continues to progress. Only a year into our three year transformation we now have a platform which enables us to compete in a tough environment where the consumer demands value.”

“We have responded to that by keeping our fares low and launching new routes. Having removed nearly a $1bn of future liabilities over the course of this year in relation to the firm legacy order for additional Embraer E175 aircraft and ongoing losses of Flybe Finland, we are making solid progress towards finding a solution to our remaining legacy issue, Project Blackbird.”

Project Blackbird sounds like a secret services strategy where they incite race riots or something. Either way, fact is, Flybe won’t be dropping their prices and at the moment, it doesn’t look like anyone else in the industry is going to bother either.

Estate agent website to shake up dominance

January 26th, 2015 2 Comments By Ian Wade

london houses Estate agent website to shake up dominanceThousands of estate agents are set to remove their listings from the likes of Zoopla and Rightmove. Why? Well, there’s a new sheriff in town.

A new website, called onthemarket.com has launched and any agent that signs up to it does so on the condition that they can’t list on the other two biggest sites. Zoopla and Rightmove get around 100 million hits each month.

The new property website has been set up by consortium of estate agents. Its founders, Agents’ Mutual, which is made up of Savills, Knight Frank, Chestertons, Strutt & Parker and the London firms Douglas & Gordon and Glentree Estates, claim more than 4,000, or one in four, agents have signed up to the site and more are being recruited.

Onthemarket will give members the chance to fix a monthly fee for listing properties for five years, and also allows agents to control their costs against the increasing fees of Zoopla and Rightmove.

This new comparison site is trying to garner a competitive edge by encouraging agents to put their properties on its portal 48 hours before listing with rivals. It’s all a bit edgy, this estate agent lark.

Ian Springett, chief executive of onthemarket.com, reckons: “We will showcase hundreds of thousands of UK properties for sale and to let and will immediately become a ‘must-view’ portal because the vast majority of these properties will have been removed from Rightmove or Zoopla/Primelocation so OnTheMarket.com will have a unique inventory of properties.”

“Success in selling is not just about listing on as many property websites as possible, it is also attributable to an agent’s expertise, contacts and overall marketing mix.”

Over at Zoopla, Lawrence Hall says that he expects the newcomer to have a “short-term impact” on his website, and described onthemarket.com as “regressive”.

It “creates the biggest conflict of interest ever to exist between estate agents and their clients, who now have to think very carefully about which agents are looking after the homeowner, versus which are looking after their own interests.”

The world of buying and renting – it is all about to see more shade being thrown than RuPaul’s Drag Race.

Deals of the Day: Monday 26th January 2015

January 26th, 2015 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

deals of the day 300x162 Deals of the Day: Monday 26th January 2015Are you wanting to get on the tablet train? No, that isn’t some kind of ravespeak where you’ll end up under a railway arch, off your face dancing to disco re-edits with a bunch of people with ironic haircuts.

We’re talking about tablets, which are enabling people all over the world to watch dirty videos on the toilet, or if you prefer, give off an air of professionalism which we all know is frankly, a lie. You can get a Linx 8 tablet (32gb Windows 8.1 Office 365 subscription) for £69 using this code.

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SSE joins in with the energy price cuts

January 26th, 2015 No Comments By Ian Wade

sse SSE joins in with the energy price cutsSSE have become the latest energy company to announce a price cut.

The company become the fifth of ‘The Big Six’ energy firms to have announced a reduction in their price cuts, following recent moves by the likes of E.On, British Gas, Scottish Power and Npower.

Now they’re all staring at EDF to follow suit.

SSE will cut domestic gas prices by 4.1% from 30th April, which should save their average households around £28 a year. Whoop. They’ll be mindful that they’ve got to win people over after it was revealed that Ofgem are investigating them.

SSE – who have around 8.7 million customers – have also said it would extend its guarantee not to increase its gas and electricity prices until July 2016, and that wholesale energy costs now make up “less than half of the typical household energy bill”.

Steve Forbes, SSE’s director of GB Domestic, said: “We were the only supplier to freeze prices and we promised we would cut them if we could; now we’re delivering on that promise with an average £28 reduction in gas bills.”

“There are significant other costs within energy bills, including those relating to government-sponsored environmental and social policies and the roll-out of smart meters.”

Chipping in, Alistair Phillips-Davies, SSE’s chief executive, said: “Customers are at the heart of SSE’s business, and our work to secure their energy supplies in wholesale markets last spring enabled us to guarantee that prices would not increase until at least January 2016, showing we are committed to treating all of our customers fairly and to giving them stable prices over the long-term.”

“We’re being true to that commitment with a 4.1% reduction in the typical gas bill and an extended guarantee meaning gas and electricity prices won’t go up before July 2016 at the earliest.

SSE reckon the prolonged period of mild weather to 31 December 2014 meant that average consumption of electricity was estimated to have fallen by 5.6% while average consumption of gas dropped by almost 16%.

This ongoing set of price tumbles is responding to politicians and general “stop charging so much” level headed humans as well as due to the reduction in oil and gas prices. For that reason, the energy industry is undergoing a full scale inquiry from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) into the way it operates. The CMA inquiry is expected to report its provisional findings in May or June.

Deathwatch: BHS

January 26th, 2015 3 Comments By Ian Wade

bhs logo Deathwatch: BHSSir Philip Green has popped BHS on the market.

The department store for elderly relatives has been struggling for a while, and clocked up a pre-tax loss of £69 million.

The chain has 185 stores in total, and has been on the high street since 1928, and was inspired by the launch of Woolworths, but wanted to be a bit classier.

BHS has been a central part of the Green empire, which includes Topshop, Dorothy Perkins, Miss Selfridge and Wallis, since he bought the chain for £200million in 2000.

Sir Phil bought the company in 2000 for £200m from the Storehouse group. Initially, it was a success and was one of the main reasons that helped Green to become a billionaire and opened the opportunity for him to buy Arcadia. However, the high street is a very, very different place to the one it was at the turn of the Millennium.

2013 saw sales at the chain dip 3.5% to £675.7 million, and a pre-tax loss of £69.6 million. Blimey. Despite a near 1% rise in sales to £2.7billion, BHS slid further into the red. The group also did not pay out a dividend for the ninth year in a row.

According to rumours, Primark had been sniffing around the chain as well as HMV restructurers Hilco.