Posts Tagged ‘News’

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 1 Comment 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.

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 1 Comment 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?