Posts Tagged ‘News’

ANT-AGEDDON

July 24th, 2014 No Comments By Lucy Sweet

ants ANT AGEDDONBEWARE OF THE ANTS! THE ANTS ARE COMING! Not just regular ants, either, but ASIAN SUPER ANTS!

*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!

Italy gives Google 18 month privacy deadline

July 24th, 2014 No Comments By Lucy Sweet

google Italy gives Google 18 month privacy deadline The way Google handles data is under fire from Italy, who have given them 18 months to change their ways and improve user privacy.

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.

They said: “We’ve engaged fully with the Italian DPA throughout this process to explain our privacy policy and how it allows us to create simpler, more effective services, and we’ll continue to do so. We’ll be reading their report closely to determine next steps.”

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.

People are angry at sneaky insurance charges

July 24th, 2014 No Comments By Lucy Sweet

insurance 289x300 People are angry at sneaky insurance charges 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.”

You betcha.

PayPal toy with being a payday loan company?

July 24th, 2014 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

paypal PayPal toy with being a payday loan company?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?

energy Competition watchdog publishes report on energy marketThe folks at the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) have published their report into the energy market.

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.

pg tips tea bag1 287x300 Pyramid bags are officially better than round ones, says ASA Tea aficionados have argued the toss about different shaped tea bags since the dawn of time (well, ok, that’s not exactly true).

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.’

FIGHT!

iwatch High time for iTime: Apple IS designing a smartwatch 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.

*taps watch*

Google Glass 4 We don’t want no Tech Utopia...we dont need no thought control... Do you think the world would be just dandy if it was a headset wearing, liquid food-eating homogenised utopia run by massive tech companies?

Well, you’re in the minority. It seems like there’s a old school backlash brewing against the constant onslaught of technology – so you’d better watch out where you wear your Google goggles.

San Francisco, home of Google, is rebelling. And if the recent anger aimed at Silicon Valley is anything to go by, it looks like we really don’t want tech companies and their inventions interfering in our human interaction and daily routines.

In California, there have been vocal demonstrations and attacks on Google’s private employee buses, which operate in the Bay Area. Then a Google Glass wearer, Sarah Slocum, was attacked in a bar by a woman who claimed that Google was ‘killing the city’.

The onslaught of tech is also killing jobs. San Francisco restaurant workers are campaigning for a wage increase –and in response a Conservative lobby group who works for the US restaurant industry to threatened to replace staff with iPads.

And some of Silicon Valley’s ideas are verging on the insane. It’s even happy to crowd fund the sinister liquid food replacement Soylent – with Google’s Justine Tunney actually suggesting that they could feed it to poor Americans to make them healthy and productive.

So the old idea that if you don’t like technology, you’re a prehistoric fossil, is over. San Francisco may be a hub of artists, hippies, punks and musicians, but it’s clear that people getting increasingly concerned about the influence that social media and new tech products have over our minds and choices.

What do you think? Are we in danger of becoming oppressed Orwellian robot slaves? Or is Glass just a handy way to find a good restaurant?

Aldi is COMING

July 22nd, 2014 3 Comments By Lucy Sweet

aldi logo 252x300 Aldi is COMING First it was Lidl. Now Aldi are looking to expand in the UK and blitzkrieg the supermarket scene like a giant budget zeppelin.

Tesco, who are currently crying into a bag of their ill-fated own brand salt and vinegar doughnuts, will be quaking at the news that the German brand is planning a £600m expansion. It’s planning to open 60 new stores and a massive distribution centre in the Venice of the North – Barnsley – and it’s also making in-roads into city centre convenience stores.

This is Aldi’s biggest investment in the UK to date, and will double its workforce to 24,000.

Unlike Tesco, confidence is running high at Aldi, and they’re expected to announce a profit jump of 25% when it releases its figures in September.

Managing Director Roman Heini said that Aldi’s business model was simple and that gave them a chance to be close to the market. ‘I’m glad we don’t have huge complex beasts with online, banking and huge ranges.’

(He means Tesco).

Joint managing director Matthew Barnes added, rather evilly: ‘We have been happy for our growth to be below the radar. We are even more happy if the other grocers are not worried about us.’

(That means they’re going to ATTACK Tesco with cheapness).

Be afraid, retailers. Be very afraid.

Bitterwallet Facebook censorship Facebook introduces another featured to the clutterThe hilariously convoluted social network, Facebook, is adding yet more features to the already bewildering array of things you can do. You won’t do them of course, but the options is now there, which means someone at FB HQ can feel like they’ve done some work.

Facebook have said that they’ve been listening (oh, we know that – what type of listening though? The one where you listen to an answer, or the one where you listen-in?) and some users have complained that there’s just not enough time to see all the stuff that gets thrown at your feed.

Of course, the real issue is your wall is filled with stuff that Facebook deem important, not you. That’s why loads of pages you’ve liked by magazines, business and whatnot, don’t appear on your timeline any more. It isn’t a case of not having time, but rather, being restricted access.

Either way, ignoring all that, Facebook have basically come up with an option to save articles so you can read them later. Daniel Giambalvo of Facebook said: ”Every day, people find all sorts of interesting items on Facebook that they don’t have time to explore right away.”

“Now you can save items that you find on Facebook to check out later when you have more time. You can save items like links, places, movies, TV and music. Only you can see the items you save unless you choose to share them with friends.”

So basically, there’s going to be a drop-down menu with an additional option in it. It will get stored and you’ll be given reminders from Facebook telling you that you’ve got unfinished admin. This is in addition to Facebook adding a ‘buy’ button to the network.

This new feature will be rolled out over the next couple of days.

What is the Royal Mail for?

July 22nd, 2014 5 Comments By Mof Gimmers

Royal Mail What is the Royal Mail for?Once upon a time, we couldn’t manage without the Royal Mail. Then, everyone started using emails as their primary channel for correspondence, but at least the post was still needed for parcels – you can’t email a huge box full of stuff.

However, the Royal Mail didn’t bet on growing competition for parcel delivery and now they’re warning everyone about a hit to their revenue expectations, like anyone is supposed to care.

It looks like the Royal Mail’s post offices are the only useful thing left, if you see any inherent value of owning a load of buildings that old people can queue up in while moaning to each other.

UK Parcels revenue fell 1%, invariably down to the old-fashioned thinking that the Royal Mail still employ – their rivals, collectively, offer far more flexibility. So now, they have said they’ll now have to control their costs and rely on money generated by letters sales to meet their full-year expectations. That probably means that they’ll stick the price of stamps up again as letter volumes declined by 3%.

Chief executive Moya Greene said: “In the first three months of our financial year we have delivered low single digit revenue growth in line with our strategy. Trading has been characterised by a good performance in letters, with the decline in addressed letter volumes better than our expected range, but a weaker than expected performance in UK parcels, largely driven by the intensifying competitive environment in the account, consumer/SME and export channels.”

“On costs, performance is better than expected. Given the increasing challenges we are facing in the UK parcels market, our parcels revenue for the year is likely to be lower than we had anticipated.

“However, through cost control measures and with continued good letters performance we expect to be able to offset the impact on profit such that our overall performance would remain in line with our expectations for the full year.

“Our parcels revenue will be dependent on our performance in the second half, which includes the Christmas trading period, and on no further weakening in our addressable UK parcels market.”

There’s going to be a lot of reviews into the Royal Mail by the Government, with particular interest in the ways state assets are sold, thanks to taxpayers getting stitched-up on the sale of the Royal Mail.

If it offers no value for money, and the only way they can make money is via letters which are in decline, and we’re all utilising other parcel couriers, the question remains – what is the Royal Mail for?

pop up 300x300 Pop up shops arent just annoying    theyre also worth £2.1bn The phrase ‘pop up’ surely has to be one of the most odious in recent memory, along with ‘heads up’ and ‘totes.’

But it turns out that rather than just being a trendy, half-arsed conceit pedalled by drinks brands, vintage stores and other self consciously hip companies, pop up shops are actually making money for the economy: £2.1bn, in fact.

Pop up shops are the children of the recession – temporary stores in empty properties or in town centres where rents are too high to sustain them – so it’s no surprise that they’re flourishing.

But a recent study by EE suggests they’re an economic force to be reckoned with. There are 9400 pop up shops in the UK, which employ 23,400 people – and they’re likely to grow by 8.4% in the coming year.

We’re spending money in them, too. The report predicts that the average customer spend will grow from £110 to £120 next year.

Mike Tomlinson from EE says that pop up shops are a ‘breath of fresh air’ and ‘truly embody the entrepreneurial nature of the UK.’

So think about that next time you’re in that shady branch of American Sweets, looking at a dusty box of Lucky Charms and wondering whether it’s all a front for money laundering.

white ps4 playstation 300x168 Why are we paying more for computers and TVs than Americans? WAIT A MINUTE. We good citizens of Blighty are paying a ton more for electrical products like laptops, games consoles and tellies than Americans – sometimes up to £402.

Which!!! pitted US prices against UK prices on 13 products, including TVs, games consoles, headphones and even computer software, and found that UK customers are getting the less fragrant end of the stick.

One Samsung TV was £402 more expensive in Britain, while a Macbook Pro 13 inch laptop was £194 more. Meanwhile, Xbox Ones and Playstation 4 cost £57 more than in the US. Software is also astronomical – Adobe Creative Cloud costs £114, and Microsoft Office is £89 more. And the list goes on…

Why? Well it’s not particularly clear. Which! attempted to contact a variety of companies to ask why Britain was paying over the odds and got nothing but mumbles, bumbles and fumbles. Most didn’t bother to reply, and Amazon said something incoherent about ‘different operating costs in each country.’

WTF, Richard Lloyd from Which!!!: “UK consumers are getting a raw deal by paying up to hundreds of pounds more for the same tech products on sale in the US.’ Manufacturers should play fair and explain why consumers are paying more for buying in the UK.”

Damn right.

Ditch the wheatgrass smoothies and save £440

July 21st, 2014 1 Comment By Lucy Sweet

Wheatgrass 250x250 Ditch the wheatgrass smoothies and save £440 Crazy people who believe in the healing power of superfoods are spending far too much on their health fix, says Which!!!

Instead of spunking all their hard earned wages on goji berries and wheatgrass and other dubious inedibles, our favourite consumer vanguards suggest that people should try cheaper alternatives, like kiwi fruit and sardines.

In what has to be their most niche report yet, Which!!! found that swapping blueberries for kiwis and salmon for sardines could help healthy types save £440 a year and still stay alive longer (while not having any fun.)

Lean, mean, tanned and toned Richard Lloyd from Which!!! paused his Tracy Anderson workout DVD and said:

‘You don’t need to break the bank to eat healthily. We’ve found you can swap some superfoods for cheaper alternatives and save a packet while still getting the vitamins you need.’

Thanks Richard! And now we can spend that lovely £440 on beer and pipes of Pringles.

nationwide 2153673b 300x187 Nationwide’s famous technical glitches are BACK! It’s been a few months, but it looks like the IT bods at Nationwide will be getting another bollocking after thousands of customers were locked out of their own online accounts last night.

Customers trying to make payments and do their banking both online and via their mobiles over the weekend were thwarted by error messages and frustration.

They took to Twitter on Sunday night with pitchforks and voiced their annoyance at the glitches, which took place between midnight and 7.30am this morning.

Nationwide said they were very sorry, but regular website maintenance had taken longer than expected.

‘Unfortunately our overnight planned maintenance has overrun and affected customers accessing our online bank and mobile banking app.’ Said a spokesperson. ‘We apologise for the inconvenience caused to our customers. The online bank and mobile banking app are now up and running.’

Perhaps the real reason that customers are so annoyed is that it’s a fairly regular occurrence with Nationwide. It ain’t the first time – and chances are it’s not going to be the last…