Posts Tagged ‘News’

£10 charge for London diesel drivers

July 29th, 2014 No Comments By Lucy Sweet

pollution £10 charge for London diesel drivers Boris Johnson – Foursquare Mayor of the Bullingdon Club chophouse – is considering charging £10 for each diesel vehicle to enter London from 2020, in a bid to tackle the city’s monstrous pollution levels.

Low emission zones might become widespread in major cities as efforts increase to oust clapped out old diesel vehicles, which are responsible for the majority of stinking local air pollution.

Boris would pile the £10 charge on top of the existing Congestion charge, meaning that lorry and van drivers would be forking out £20 minimum to enter Central London. And if you’re in a diesel car made before 2006, you’ll also have to raid your wallet.

However, if your white van or lorry meets Euro 6 emission standards, you won’t have to pay.

It comes as Labour proposes plans to introduce a network of UK-wide low emission zones. If not, most British cities will be choked up with dangerous levels of pollution by 2030, and we’ll all probably choke to death.

Boris’ environment lackey, Matthew Penchartz, said: ‘We want to see an unwinding of incentives that have driven people to diesel. Euro engine standards on emissions have not delivered the savings expected, meaning we now have a legacy of a generation of dirty diesels.’

However, for years, everybody was happy to push diesel as a ‘clean’ alternative to petrol. In fact, ministers encouraged people to buy into it to fight climate change.

Well, you live and learn, eh? *coughs*

Primark have a lot of detractors because their clothes are cheap. Snobs don’t like it when people can buy new outfits, while others worry for the welfare of people in sweatshops who make the garments (but are seemingly less bothered about premium brands who do the same things).

Now, the budget fashion vendor is in hot water for getting all thinspo. A mannequin was spotted in one of the store’s windows and, as the photo shows, the ribs are sticking out on it.

primark ribs 500x500 Primark cause a stink with protruding ribs mannequin

Shopper Mel Fraser wasn’t happy about it after seeing it in Glasgow. She messaged Primark directly, asking: “Dear Primark, is it really necessary that these new mannequins have protruding ribs?”

She continued: “I’d just like to see mannequins in all different shapes and sizes in all stores rather than young girls thinking this is the only way to be.”

Of course, thin mannequins also represent one of the shapes and sizes a woman can be, but you get the picture.

Primark replied, saying they’d look into it and said that they are currently changing its window displays. They’ve removed the dummy and in a tweet, said: “The mannequin you describe will not be used in this way again.”

Police block ads in anti-piracy war

July 29th, 2014 1 Comment By Lucy Sweet

music piracy Police block ads in anti piracy war City of London Police are ruining your daily download of pirated content by putting up big buzzkilling banner ads all over them, saying ‘THIS WEBSITE HAS BEEN REPORTED TO THE POLICE – please close the browser page containing this website.’

If they suspect a website is being run illegally, they’ve posted the ads to stop piracy sites making any money out of advertising.

It’s part of a (terribly named) project called ‘Operation Creative, which aims to block ads from well-known companies appearing on dodgy sites, alongside illegal content and porn.

‘When adverts from well known brands appear on illegal websites, they lend them a look of legitimacy and inadvertently fool consumers into thinking the site is authentic,’ said Detective Chief Inspector Andy Fyfe from the City of London Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (Pipcu).

Operation Creative is using technology created by an equally terribly named private firm called Project Sunblock – which works on behalf of high street companies to have their ads removed from piracy sites, or porn sites called things like in-uranus.net.

It’s a strategy that might hit illegal sites hard – many of them rely on advertising to survive. But some critics have warned against over zealous blocking, amid fears that legal sites might die on their arse without advertising revenue.

Still, it’s better to be on the safe side. After all, you don’t want a back to school at BHS advert appearing on a hardcore bumming page, do you?

okcupid 300x300 OkCupid is actually a massive psychological experiment Looking for someone with their own teeth, face, head and a GSOH who shares your love of craft beer/cat memes/potholing? Well, chances are you’ve dabbled with online dating.

If you’ve got a profile on OKCupid, however, start getting worried. Its founder Christian Rudder, recently wrote a blog post, and admitted that the site used Facebook style psychological tricks (without users’ knowledge).

The post, subtly entitled ‘We Experimented on Human Beings!’ told the world that the company removed text from profiles, hid people’s photos and even told users that they were a perfect match when actually they completely incompatible.

Why? ‘We might be popular, we might create a lot of great relationships, we might blah blah blah,’ Rudder wrote. ‘But OKCupid doesn’t really know what it’s doing. Neither does any other website. Experiments are how you sort it all out.’

Their first experiment was called ‘Love Is Blind’, and removed pictures from all the profiles and found that conversation flowed and message responses were up 44%. (Of course, as humans are irretrievably shallow, these conversations stopped as soon as the profile pictures went back up.)

Then they tried to work out how much the text on the profile mattered – compared to the photo – and found that you may as well have just written skduskwehlwhfjfdjhsjsrslrsekajeskhjr and posted a photo of a hot girl in a bikini. Text mattered less than 10%.

But perhaps most heinously, OKCupid deliberately mismatched couples to see what would happen. Thankfully, the couples figured out that they were awful for each other straight away.

While these experiments are pretty revealing, and show what a crock online dating actually is, not telling users what they’re up to is still pretty dodgy. But Rudder is unrepentant.

‘Guess what, everybody: if you use the Internet, you’re the subject of hundreds of experiments at any given time, on every site.’

*secretly massages your algorithms*

Homebuyers’ confidence is down

July 28th, 2014 1 Comment By Lucy Sweet

 Homebuyers confidence is down Consumer confidence is a funny, fragile thing. Sometimes it’s riding higher than Prince on a purple motorbike, the next it’s like a teenage girl in the Top Shop changing room worrying about the size of her thighs.

This time, homebuyers’ confidence has taken a blow – it’s dropped by 35% and is now at its lowest level for three years, thanks to fears about inflated prices and increased interest rates. That’s according to the Halifax quarterly Housing Market Confidence Tracker.

And it’s not surprising that the most tentative homebuyers are in London and the South East, while the ones with the most devil-may-care attitude are from Scotland and the North East.

Their survey found that there was a recent sharp rise in people who say that they can’t afford to buy because of prices going up. (from 20% last year to 35% this year).

However, people are still confident that they will manage to SELL their homes, even though they might not be able to afford their next one. A quarter of people surveyed said that this year was a good time to sell up and get out.

Craig McKinlay from the Halifax said:

‘Over the past two years consumer confidence has continued to grow, however it appears that we’ve reached a tipping point, with the equilibrium between buyers and sellers much more out of sync.’

25% phone in sick after their holidays

July 28th, 2014 No Comments By Lucy Sweet

holiday 25% phone in sick after their holidays There’s nothing like going on holiday to make you realise that you’re wasting your life in your dead end, wage slave job. Instead, why not just live on sun lounger with rum coursing through your veins?

This horrific post holiday epiphany could be why a whopping 25% of us take an unofficial holiday extension and chuck a sickie on our first day back from holiday.

A survey by Travelex also found that if we didn’t phone in sick, we spent our lunch hour pining for the fjords and planning our next trip out of the office hellhole.

The survey asked 2000 workers about their holiday attitudes, and also found that nearly half of us admitted to being distracted or forgetful after their holidays.

But you can hardly blame people, can you? You’ve got a skinful of pina colada and a digestive tract brimming with calamari, as well as sunstroke.

And let’s face it, we all need 24 hours to recover from a Ryanair flight.

Bitterwallet appeal parking tickets1 Have you been stung by cowboy parking fines? You might have seen the signs in supermarket car parks, or outside McDonalds. Or maybe you didn’t, and you were unexpectedly hit with an entirely random charge for overstaying.

Well, so called ‘cowboy’ private parking firms are springing up everywhere – employed by high street companies to limit the time you can loiter in the car park eating a Filet-O-Fish and stinking up the place.

Charges of up to £100 are being doled out to unsuspecting shoppers who return to their cars a few minutes late. If you ignore the charges, you’ll probably get a scary letter from a bailiff ordering you to pay up.

But these companies are what’s known in Consumer Land as WELL DODGY, and they have no legal standing. They can’t come in and take your possessions, or take you to court – in fact, they have no legal powers whatsoever. They’re just at it.

Companies like McDonalds use the shady MET Parking Services, which has links to an ‘unfit’ debt collection agency and a solicitors firm which has been shut down. And critics say that high street companies are tarnishing their reputation by being involved with these private parking crooks.

Marc Gander of the Consumer Action Group said: “Private parking companies are part of a bounty hunting fad which has risen up over the past few years and is making an industry of penalising people without good reason or for their simple human mistakes.”

“Big brands like McDonald’s don’t seem to appreciate how this new industry operates or the sense of anger and injustice that it produces in its victims and who are also their own customers.”

Have you ever been stung with a £100 parking fine? If so, did you pay it?

passport photo2 261x300 Passport Office workers to strike, which might muck up your holiday Looks like there’s going to be a strike from the workers at the Passport Office, which might make a mess of some holidays plans you have.

As if getting yourself a passport wasn’t enough of a pain.

Unions are walking out in a dispute over staff shortages which saw a huge backlog of processing applications. The Home Office are not pleased with the timing of the strike, pointing out that this will be a huge inconvenience to holidaymakers.

Seeing as the Public and Commercial Services (PSC) union want to draw attention to the shortages in staff and inequalities in pay, you have to assume that inconveniencing people is half the point of holding a strike now.

David Cameron, trying to spin gold from shit, has said that the surge in applications is down to the fact that the economy is picking up and HM Passport Office chief executive Paul Pugh said that around 775,000 applications were received in June, which could be “the highest ever recorded in a single month.”

However, not helping is that the PCS union is saying that staff numbers are down by more than 300 in the past four years. General secretary Mark Serwotka said: ‘The staffing crisis in the Passport Office has been obvious for everyone to see and it shouldn’t have taken a committee of MPs to force the chief executive to meet us to discuss it.”

“We are still a long way off getting a commitment from the agency that it will work with us to put the proper resources in place to ensure these backlogs do not reoccur year after year.”

A Home Office spokesperson replied: “We are disappointed the PCS leadership has called this strike given that HMPO has been in discussions with the union on their issues of concern. Holding a strike at this stage is irresponsible and will only inconvenience our customers and jeopardise their holidays.”

“We strongly urge PCS to reconsider this action which is not in the interests of staff or the general public they are dedicated to serving.”

Customer service counters are open today, so if you need something urgently, you’re advised to get your candy arse in gear right now, or else you might miss out on some sun.

Cost of Driving Licence to fall

July 28th, 2014 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

scrapped car Cost of Driving Licence to fallThe cost of applying for a driving licence is going to be reduced, and about time. If you’re a new driver, it costs £50 to apply, but under new rules, in the future it’ll only cost £34.

If you’re renewing your licence after 10 years of driving, it’ll now cost you £14 instead of £20. In addition to that, all driver tachograph cards would be £32 from the old price of £38.

The new transport minister Claire Perry, said: “The cost of driving can be significant, especially for new drivers. I’m pleased to say that we are planning to save drivers £18million a year by cutting licence fees, thanks to the DVLA making significant savings to their running costs.”

This is a smart move by the coalition, but the Lib Dems won’t let the Tories speak without chipping in themselves, so over to creepy schoolboy robot, Danny Alexander, who says: “I have been working hard to drive savings across the whole public sector and it’s great to see the benefit of these efficiencies feed through to drivers and businesses’ pockets. What the DVLA have shown today is that you can do more for less.”

It is worth pointing out though that this is a review, so someone might scupper this plan. However, the DVLA are reviewing all the fees they charge to motorists, so it looks good for drivers new and old.

This consultation closes on August 25th (2014, so they’re not mucking about) and it is thought that the Government will introduce the new fees by the end of October 2014.

Sadly, no-one is able or willing to do anything about rip-off mechanics and petrol prices for you drivers.

Is Amazon going down the pan?

July 25th, 2014 1 Comment By Lucy Sweet

amazoninstant Is Amazon going down the pan? More than $16bn just fell off the value of Amazon last night, as investors ditched it for failing to post consistent profits.

Amazon has been spreading itself around like a guy covered in Lynx in a Brentford nightclub, flirting with smartphones, investing in warehouses and ridiculous drones and spending money hand over fist – and it’s making a negative impact on their figures. As a result, the company has posted its biggest net loss for almost two years: £126m.

Shareholders have forgiven Amazon’s woolly headed approach to making a profit in the past few years, putting it down to the perils of running a mega international multi channel super corps. But with some now deserting the company, could cracks be starting to show?

It’s likely that this spendy trend will continue into the third quarter as Amazon announced it expected to post further operating losses of up to $810m.

But with the arrival of the Fire smartphone, Amazon is confident it can make it up.

‘We have a tremendous amount of opportunity,’ chief financial officer Tom Szkutak said: ‘While it’s impacting short-term results, we’ll obviously be looking to get great returns on invested capital.’

Unless their new smartphone and pay TV service is crap, in which case, maybe not…

sky BSkyB do 7bn deal with Murdoch to create SKY EUROPE The media powers that be have been cooking up schemes to take over the world again, and it’s now been announced that BSkyB have agreed with Rupert Murdoch to buy Sky Deutchland (owned by 20th Century Fox) and Sky Italia for £7bn.

This pan-European media conglomerate will henceforth be known as Sky Europe.

The plan is to create a pay TV and broadband behemoth in countries that are currently less developed (ie: people don’t stream Game of Thrones episodes directly into the brains every night).

In the UK, their satellite subscription service has reached saturation point, so they need new markets to take over with evil Murdoch-tastic Skyness.

Jeremy Darroch, CEO of BSkyB said:

‘The three Sky businesses are leaders in their home markets and will be even stronger together. By creating the new Sky, we will be able to use our collective strengths and expertise to serve customers better, grow faster and enhance returns.’

Meanwhile, James Murdoch, Fox’s co-chief operating officer and celebrity bender of the truth, said:

‘Ultimately, a pan-European Sky is good for customers, who will benefit from the accelerated technological innovation and enhanced customer experience made possible by a fully integrated business.’

Slovenia, prepare yourselves for loads of brand new episodes of Dance Moms.

sse Its payback time for SSE after winter storm cock ups Ofgem has slapped SSE and UK Power Networks on the wrist for their inept handling of last year’s winter storm damage, and ordered them to pay out an extra £3.3million to the people affected – that’s on top of the £4.7m they’ve already paid.

Ofgem added that they would be doubling the minimum amount energy companies should pay out for storm-a-geddon power fails and warned that energy companies need to pull their fingers out and get their customers re-connected more efficiently.

They said that SSE and UKPN ‘could have done more to get customers reconnected faster and to keep them better updated on what was happening.’

Last year, thousands of SSE customers were reduced to shivering in the dark and huddling around a candle on Christmas Eve, but Ofgem said although SSE and UKPN were specifically and adversely affected by the weather, they were a bit crap at fixing things.

Meanwhile, SSE has reported a loss of 110,000 customers over the last three months. But they’re still not exactly cash strapped. It’s reporting a slight rise in earnings per share.

Will the Big Six profit bandwagon ever be derailed? Only the Competition and Markets Authority knows the answer…

Mobile phone holiday beach GUIDE 01 Tour operators ripping you off for your family holiday?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.

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.