Posts Tagged ‘investigation’
Only a few weeks ago, it was looking as though the MoneySavingExpert was about to become the MoneySpendingExpert, as Martin Lewis announced plans to sell off his thriving website to MoneySupermarket for a tasty £87m.
BUT… its not a done deal just yet. The Office of Fair Trading are probing the deal, wondering whether it will “result in a substantial lessening of competition” under the merger control provisions of the Enterprise Act 2002.
The OFT is currently in consultation with customers and competitors of the two companies and if they feel as though there are sufficient worries, they can refer the deal to the Competitions Commission.
Our breath is literally bated here. Bated.
Big cheeses at HSBC are going to face a Congressional committee next week. The US government are trying to stop banks moving money through countries including Iran, Cuba and Sudan. Basically, money is being laundered through the finance system, which is nice to know after the banks went power-mad and caused a recession, not to mention the whole Libor-rigging scandal.
HSBC are the only British bank with a network in America and there looks like there’s going to be some huge fines handed out.
Stuart Gulliver, HSBC’s chief executive, told staff yesterday that “between 2004 and 2010, our anti-money laundering controls should have been stronger and more effective and we failed to spot and deal with unacceptable behaviour,” adding “it is right that we be held accountable and that we take responsibility for fixing what went wrong”.
HSBC have confessed that some of these investigations focus on historical transactions with “Iranian parties”. Basically, America and the EU are trying to make it difficult for Iran to fund its nuclear reactor programme. The Congressional committee said they will be using HSBC as a case study to look at “the money laundering and terrorist finance vulnerabilities created when a global bank uses its US affiliate to provide US dollars, US dollar services and access to the US financing system to high-risk affiliates, high-risk correspondent banks and high-risk clients”.
So there you have it. A bank, basically being accused of helping terrorism. That’s nice isn’t it?
Chuggers are scum that get away with it. If anyone else pestered you in the street, you’d tell ‘em to sling it. However, these people have guilt-trips in their armoury, so assaulting them seems a bit much. However, these charity peddling swine are going to be investigated for ‘poor practice’ which is wonderful news!
The Fundraising Standards Board (FRSB) are looking at allegations that chuggers have been using confusing tactics and flouting rules.
FRSB will look into Tag Campaigns, whose street fundraisers were reportedly failing to abide by some regulations while raising money for Marie Curie Cancer Care. The regulator is following up the Torygraph’s investigation which ‘exposed’ the tactics used by charity workers.
Footage given to the FRSB showed team leaders urging chuggers to be persistent while one fundraiser confessed that they got people to stop by ‘confusing’ them by telling them they’d dropped something. The rules state that chuggers should “never deliberately confuse, mislead or obstruct the public”.
One team leader was shown following pedestrians down the street after they’d said they weren’t interested. How many of you have suffered that?
Alistair McLean, chief executive of the Fundraising Standards Board, said: “The footage of both training and on-street fundraising that I was shown by The Sunday Telegraph is deeply worrying. Fundraising agencies must maintain the highest standards at all times, protecting and building the brands and reputations of the charity clients they work with. Any breach of these standards can have a weighty impact on trust and confidence in the charity, fundraising technique and, ultimately, donation levels.”
Apple is under fire after their manufacturing partner Foxconn was accused of using forced student labour and hiding underage workers during the well publicised independent inspections last week.
Debby Sze Wan Chan, a case worker at Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior (SACOM) has been tracking what they allege to be “involuntary labour practices” at Foxconn. She told Reg that local governments in China “repay” Foxconn’s decision to locate in their area by getting vocational students to work in the factories as interns in order to help cope with the high turnover of employees.
“We describe the internships as involuntary or forced labour because if they don’t go to the factory they may not be able to graduate or they may need to drop out of their courses,” says Chan. She added that, after speaking to Foxconn workers, the recent inspection by the Fair Labor Association (FLA) was hugely flawed, after SACOM gathered information which says that Foxconn are hiding illegal workers.
“I heard from Foxconn workers that underage workers of 16-17 years old were not assigned any overtime work during the audits,” she said. “It’s obvious that Foxconn prepared for the audits, although the FLA said they were unannounced.”
Even the FLA are coming under scrutiny, with SACOM claiming that they are “not really independent”, given that they’re funded by corporate companies, including Apple themselves.
While many companies invariably have similar problems on their hands, Apple have made themselves a target by claiming to be more stringent about such matters and, in Apple’s defence, CEO Tim Cook has admitted the existence of underage labour supplier plants and has pledged to end it. Apple have also pressured Foxconn into raising workers’ wages by 16 to 25 per cent.
But is it enough?
Office of Fair Trading is looking hard (really, really hard) at replacement vehicle, repair costs and referral fees following steep rise in premiums. That’s right! The OFT is chasing the motor insurance industry with a broom handle and want to thwack it’s behind!
The OFT has been collecting evidence thanks to continued rising prices, with some estimates putting the annual increase at 40%. They say that they’re going to look at two areas in particular that they believe “restrict[s] and distort competition”.
The first area they want to investigate is the cost to insurers of third party claims for replacement vehicles and repairs. OFT think that insurers “appear to find it difficult to assess the extent to which the costs claimed are reasonable”. Secondly, they want to look at the practice of referral fees, with insurers, roadside assistance companies and garages all cited for selling off drivers’ details to claims management companies.
The Government have already announced a ban on referral fees in England and Wales, however, without thorough policing, there’s a strong chance the whole thing won’t work in practice. In addition to this, the OFT has asked for the help of the Financial Services Authority (FSA) to work with insurers to make insurance product information easier to understand.
The results of the OFT investigation are due in spring 2012.
The European Commission are investigating e-book publishers owned by Lagardere, Pearson Plc, News Corp. and two other firms after the suspected they may have colluded with Apple to block rivals via their pricing deals.
Antitrust rules forbid price-fixing agreements designed to shut out competitors.
“The Commission will in particular investigate whether these publishing groups and Apple have engaged in illegal agreements or practices that would have the object or the effect of restricting competition in the European Union or in the European Economic Area,” the EU’s executive Commission said in a statement.
“The Commission is also examining the character and terms of the agency agreements entered into by the above named five publishers and retailers for the sale of e-books,” it said.
It identified the publishers as French media-to-aerospace group Lagardere’s Hachette Livre unit, News Corp’s Harper Collins, CBS Corp’s Simon & Schuster, Pearson’s Penguin and Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holzbrinck, which owns Macmillan in Germany.
A Pearson spokesman said the group would work with regulators in the investigation, with a spokesperson noting: “Pearson does not believe it has breached any laws, and will continue to fully and openly cooperate with the Commission.”
Apple, however, declined to comment.
The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) are going after two loan sharks payday loan companies following a thoroughly fascinating investigation by Which! Money.
The consumer group have, according to themselves, uncovered “widespread” poor practice in the sector. Like what? Things like breaches of the Consumer Credit Act, poor privacy provisions and inflated interest rates.
So who should you be looking out for apart from… well… all of them? Of the firms reported, the oddly named Paydaykong.com appear to be operating without a valid Consumer Credit Licence and Swiftmoney.co.uk failed to show the APR for its loans anywhere on its website.
Which! Money’s investigations are also sniffing around Casheuronet UK (who operate Quick-payday.co.uk) and Quickquid.co.uk after the consumer group received dozens of unsolicited third-party emails and phone calls following a researcher’s application, which implied that his details had been sold on.
There are also reported examples of potentially misleading claims about APRs, customers being encouraged to borrow more money than necessary and consumers being urged to roll-over existing loans for several months. All poor form really.
There’s also talk of several firms not being up to scratch with website security, with one provider allegedly asking customers to enter bank details on an unsecured page.
Which! executive director, Richard Lloyd, says: “Payday loans might seem like a good solution for people whose money won’t stretch to the end of the month, but they should be treated as an absolute last resort.”
“With increasingly squeezed household budgets, more people are taking out payday loans so it’s vital that regulators keep a close eye on providers and deal firmly with any lenders breaking the rules.”
The cost of car insurance has risen by 40% over the past year or so, but hey, that’s okay isn’t it? The insurers wouldn’t put the prices up by so much if they didn’t need to now would they? Everyone shut up and think about something else.
But wait a moment – it’s not that cut and dried. The Office of Fair Trading aren’t prepared to let it lie. They’re about to launch an investigation to see if we’re being unfairly overcharged. Phew!
We quoted that 40% premium rise figure at the top of the story but that’s just an AVERAGE. 17-22 year olds are now paying a typical premium of £2,431 per year, a hike of 64% on the past year.
The insurance companies are citing factors such as an increase in fraudulent and personal injury claims, claiming that the whiplash epidemic (570,000 claims in the past year alone) is making it tougher for everyone.
Otto Thoresen, the director general of the Association of British Insurers, said he saw the OFT investigation as an opportunity to highlight the cost pressures motor insurers are facing. “The motor insurance industry has not been profitable for the last 16 years” he said. Hopefully the OFT will find it if that is indeed the case or not.
BDO (that’d be a bunch of faceless accountants, rather than Liam Gallagher’s terrible new band) have been called up by Ofgem to take the laborious examination of energy companies’ pricing policies after they were all accused of saying that they weren’t making as much profit as they actually were, which enabled them to hike up customer charges.
Those under the microscope will be The Big 6 – British Gas, E.On, EDF, Scottish Power, Npower and Scottish & Southern.
Ofgem have accused these energy buggers of putting their prices up in response to soaring costs much more quickly than they’re willing to reduce prices when costs retreated.
For starters, the Big 6 have been asked to be more transparent so that we can all understand how they get to the figures we see on our bills.
An Ofgem spokesman said BDO will look into each account area and concluded: “We feel there could be more transparency for the customer.”
This is going to be a long and expensive investigation isn’t it?
The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) have opened up an investigation into websites that charge people for government services that are available for free, or lower prices, such as European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) applications, applying for child benefit and tax rebates.
The OFT have already closed down a number of these copycat EHIC websites last summer, but it appears that there are still some in the system that need rooting out.
The plan is to widen the investigation and shut down sites passing themselves off as official government sites, and effectively charge them with “unfair commercial practice”.
Cavendish Elithorn, from the OFT, says: “It is important that companies are clear about the service they are offering, and do not trick people into paying for something that they can get for free or much cheaper on government websites.
“We will be considering whether any of the sites under investigation are misleading consumers.”
So if you’re being asked for money from a government website, don’t immediately assume that this is exactly the kind of thing those greedy swine would do, but rather, check your options as you may well be getting hoodwinked out of your hard earned pennies.
Okay? Now give us a tenner.
Scam mail has been a pretty constant fixture in Britain for some years now, usually being taken up by the vulnerable and making off with their money. Of course, the Royal Mail are obliged to deliver this nefarious mail once it enters their system; but is there more to the Royal Mail’s involvement than they’re letting on?
A BBC Panorama investigation has discovered that Royal Mail owns 33% of a Netherlands-based company that is aiding the flow of scam mail through our letterboxes.
While Spring Global Mail handles a lot of legitimate international business correspondence, they are used by fraudsters. Together, Spring Global and Royal Mail offer something called “local look”, which means that overseas mail has a Royal Mail postmark and no trace of their overseas origins, leaving these scam letters undetectable and bearing what many feel is a seal of legitimacy.
Fraud investigator Detective Chief Superintendent Steve Head of City of London Police says: “I think the downside is that when people get that and they see that Royal Mail brand, that brand counts for something. That whole idea that in actual fact there is this local look, somehow gives that mail that kind of credibility.”
Mike Haley, director of the National Fraud Authority, says: “We’re trying to make Spring Global and Royal Mail more aware of the human tragedy that this type of fraudulent mail impacts on victims. I think they need to understand the terrible consequences of delivery of this mail to some people.”
In a statement, Royal Mail have said that they are working closely with police to stop scam mail from entering the system: “We very much understand the upset and disquiet that scam mail can cause households across the country, including vulnerable people. We do not want our postmen or women handling or delivering mail that causes harm. We have made significant progress in our efforts to root out scam mail as we intensify our drive against it.”
“If this turns out to be scam mail harmful to the recipients, we will stop it, irrespective of the cost and loss of revenue to Royal Mail.”
Spring Global are also working with authorities in an attempt to stem the flow of junk and scam mail, but if they are both making money from the ventures, are they likely to really put the scuppers on it, especially given that the postal service is being phased out in favour of electronic communication?
The Panorama: Why Hate Junk Mail? special will be on BBC One, Monday, 4 July at 2030.
Have you seen those international phone cards that get sold in newsagents or sometimes, on the street by shivering blokes in branded caps? Well, you’ll be staggered to find that some of them are as dodgy as you thought they probably were in the first place.
In fact, one in ten of these international calling cards fails to work, even when a customer alerts the company to the problem. Shoddy.
And so, Ofcom is on the case now and having a crackdown on the advertising and sale of these cards. There’s a big enough market for them too, with roughly five million people in the UK using them, spending an average of £13 a month on them. For the most part, they are bought by people from immigrant communities and used (when they work) to make cheap international calls to people back home.
If you wonder how they work, the card gives a customer a PIN code which enables you to use the service via an access number. Ofcom have been investigating the companies that make them and have found that duff cards were rife, even those bought from places like the Post Office and Tesco.
Ofcom found that the cards bought from iCard, Lycatel and Nowtel provided less of the minutes promised in advertising. Some companies have been accused of hiding charges and exaggerating the number of minutes that customers expect to receive after reading the advertising.
Bad form really, especially given that these cards are used primarily by people who don’t have English as a first language.
The information superheroes at Google could find themselves in a spot of hot water soon as the European Commission look into their activities following complaints from rival search engines.
The Commission has announced that they are opening an antitrust investigation and will look into allegations from price comparison site Foundem and legal search engine ejustice.fr that Google’s search engine deliberately lowered the rankings of rival search engines.
The EC have said that they are launching the investigation following “complaints by search service providers about unfavourable treatment of their services in Google’s unpaid and sponsored search results coupled with an alleged preferential placement of Google’s own services.”
Both Microsoft and Intel have been on the wrong end of the EC’s investigative might in the past, so there’s no reason for Google to assume that they’re facing a lightweight like Ofcom or Wigan Athletic. But the BBC claim that the success of the probe will depend on the EC getting a close look at Goggle’s search result algorithms (which they regularly change) in order to prove that foul play has occurred.
Over in Americaland, the Justice Department is making angry faces and set to examining Apple’s tactics in the digital music market for digital music.
There’s this antitrust inquiry that’s just kicked off and allegations are being made that Apple have not been playing nicely and have been using their dominant position in the market to persuade/bully record labels into refusing to give Amazon exclusive access to music.
Apparently, Amazon asked record labels to give them the exclusive right to sell certain forthcoming songs for one day before they went on sale more widely. In exchange, Amazon promised to include those songs in a promotion called the “MP3 Daily Deal” on their site.
However, it is alleged that representatives of Apple’s iTunes asked labels not to participate in Amazon’s promotion. If they ignore this request/order they would be punished and would see any marketing support for their songs withdrawn on iTunes.
Seeing as iTunes sells around 70% of all the online music in the world, you can see why this threat isn’t something to be taken lightly by a record label.
The inquiry is one of many being investigated by the feds. Apple are currently being looked at for their rules on developers who create apps for the iPhone, with that particular complaint being called into action by the folks at Adobe Systems (who make Flash format).
2010 has not been a good PR year for Apple and, with these investigations, looks to be getting worse.
Also caught in the glare of the OFT will be airlines who pile extra charges on top of the advertised fare. For the life of us we can’t think of the name of any companies who would do such a thing. Can you?
According to BBC News, among the dastardly doings that will be examined are…
• Drip pricing – where consumers only see an element of the price upfront and end up paying much more due to optional or compulsory extras. This could include products sold by airlines, car hire firms and insurance companies
• Time-limited offers – such as sales that finish at the end of the month or last for one day only. Carpet stores and furniture sellers could be representative of this practice, the OFT said
• Baiting sales – where a company advertises discounts to attract visitors whilst having few items at that price on sale
• Reference prices – artificially inflating the pre-sale price of an item in order to make the discount look more attractive. This could refer to companies offering cruises, selling furniture or to supermarkets
• Complex pricing – where it is difficult for a consumer to assess an individual price, such as with three-for-two offers and ‘free’ add-ons. Mobile phone companies, supermarkets and computer stores could fall into this category.
The OFT say that the investigation is expected to be completed by next summer, just in time for them to put their feet up and have a month off watching the World Cup. Good for them – they’ll have earned it.