Posts Tagged ‘News’

Sat navs send homeowner round the bend

August 20th, 2014 4 Comments By Ian Wade

TomTom 281x300 Sat navs send homeowner round the bendA lady in Somerset has pleaded with drivers to ditch their sat navs.

This isn’t as some kind of ‘be free of technology! Throw off your mental chains!’ type nonsense, she’s just a bit pissed off with lorries driving into her cottage.

Caroline Cockman, reckons lorries have caused £50,000 of damage to her home in Coxley, Somerset, due to believing everything that the sat nav tells them.

Cockman has lost count of the amount of vehicles that have got stuck up her lane.

It’s an ongoing hassle for the poor woman, claiming that just this week, there’s been three large vehicles trapped in her narrow strip of road.

“Their sat navs direct them down the lane and they ignore the evidence of their own eyes that it’s too narrow and just carry on until they get stuck.”

“The worst incident happened a couple of years ago when a big lorry blew out my back wall – it cost £33,000 in repairs. There have been many other incidents – I can’t remember them all. It must be well over £50,000 of damage in total.”

Understandably Cockman is now pleading with council officials to make signs at the top of the lane more obvious.

“The trouble is some drivers still use domestic sat navs instead of commercial ones. I’m told the commercial ones do carry warnings about the lane’s width but the domestic ones don’t.”

“Last Monday we had a big sewage tanker, with an escort to make sure it travelled safely, and it took him half-an-hour to reverse out. Then on Wednesday night someone collided with our low wall which stops vehicles coming off the lane and into our courtyard.”

“Another guy was trapped for six hours. If only truck drivers used their common sense as the lane got narrower and narrower.”

Perhaps we do need those new robot lorries after all?

pensioner 242x300 You can benefit from next years pension changes even if youre retiring nowThey don’t make old people like they use to do they? Once upon a time they were all hunched over and angry, and now they’ve all got tracksuits and dancing lessons.

Either way, if you’re old and planning to collect your pension next year, you’ll have more options than ever to take your cash and run. If you’re retiring this week, you can also benefit from the new rules that are coming in next year.

There’s a relaxation in pension rules from next April, which means it is easier for old people to take their entire pot in cash (income tax pending, naturally). If you’re retiring before April you can still take advantage if you rest your cash in a ‘capped drawdown’ scheme until next year.

What’s that when it’s at home?

Well, capped drawdown pays out income from a pension based on the GAD rate set by the Government Actuary’s Department (GAD) and at the moment, allows retirees to take 150% of the equivalent annuity rate.

A company called Hargreaves Lansdown has launched a simplified capped drawdown plan called ‘retirement bridge’ (don’t worry, there’s not many steps for you to walk up) which provides you codgers access to your money, with a 25% tax-free lump sum and access to income if you need it (that’ll be taxed though).

Tom McPhail, head of pensions research at Hargreaves Lansdown, said there were many people retiring who want to take advantage of next year’s flexibility, but didn’t want to buy a pricey drawdown product or short-term annuity.

“There are relatively few ways for people to access some, or all, of their pension now,’ he said. “Insurers have come up with temporary solutions [such as short-term annuities] but in the main you need to go through an independent financial adviser and the costs of doing that are not insignificant.”

“I am quite concerned that a lot of people are hitting retirement today who are not being offered this option,” he said. “They think their options are either annuity or [full] drawdown, which will be complex and expensive. There are a huge number of people just treading water who are not sure what their options are. Some people do need to access the money… and others are waiting to see what happens and are reluctant to commit until they know what the rules are.”

Check the charges though – if you have a smaller pension, drawdown might not be the thing for you.

You should check your pension contracts before moving your money around though. Some older pensions have guarantees that can offer good annuity rates or the ability to take more than 25% tax-free cash, which you might lose if you move your money.

Always check your old policies before doing anything and phone up your provider and ask them if you can have the tax-free cash and leave the balance of your pension in scheme.

xbox one square Dad called cops after sons Xbox extravaganceA dad shopped his own son after he blew nearly £3,000 on Xbox games.

Using the family business card, Daniel Holmes managed to make 77 payments to the Xbox Live network.

Naturally, dad Ian hit the roof, and called the police when he discovered the payments on his card statement.

Daniel  made 77 payments to Xbox live, which came to £2,400. With interest this totalled £2,800, North Devon Magistrates’ heard on Friday.

While Daniel had an investment in the family business, and had the card legitimately, once confronted by his dad about it, did not deny it, but admitted that he couldn’t pay it back.

Tim Hook, defending Daniel, said: “The defendant continued to use it, on each occasion buying Xbox games and carrying on a form of gambling which increased into a relatively substantial sum.”

His father asked him to repay it. He said he was extremely annoyed and “could hit him”".

He also realised that Daniel – then unemployed – would be unable to pay £200 a month. Hence a court case. Holmes Jnr, of Ilfracombe, Devon, was ordered to do 100 hours of unpaid work and pay compensation of £2,097.88.

Don’t let your children use your credit cards. That’s the blindingly obvious lesson here.

Train fares to increase today: protests likely

August 19th, 2014 2 Comments By Mof Gimmers

traintrack 300x225 Train fares to increase today: protests likelyToday’s the day when we all find out how much train fares are going up by, not that train travel is a rip-off as it is. But as morning follows night, train companies put prices up year on year when the RPI inflation figure is announced.

The formula used allows prices to be increased by an average of RPI plus 1%, but train companies have the option to add another 2% to some fares, just as long as the overall average remains in line with the formula.

Next year’s price rise could well take the overall increase to around 24.7% during this Parliament, according to the Campaign for Better Transport (CBT) and protests are expected at stations across the UK.

In addition to that, Shadow transport secretary Mary Creagh reckons there’ll be a further rise of 24% by 2018 if the Tories stay in power. She’s obviously forgotten about the Lib Dems being in the coalition as well, but that’s British politics for you.

The CBT are right to point out that, in the same period train fares have risen by upwards of 24% since 2010, wages had only risen 6.9%. Everyone knows that the UK has some of the highest train fares in the world and as a result, customers don’t think train companies are at all trustworthy.

Rail Minister Claire Perry did acknowledge that “we have had inflation-busting fare rises almost every year over the last decade” but insisted the Government is committed to “fair fares”.

She said: “What we have got to do is make sure rail passengers, who could be forgiven for thinking ‘What on earth am I getting for these rises I’ve seen over the last decade?’, start to realise that they are paying fair fares for comfortable commuting.”

“Passengers are paying for the “biggest investment in the rail network since Victorian times”, she added while yammering on Radio 4.

Do we want robot lorries to roam the roads?

August 18th, 2014 3 Comments By Mof Gimmers

lorry 300x268 Do we want robot lorries to roam the roads?There’s plans to have computerised truck convoys which are controlled by a single driver and they look like they’re going to be tested on British roads as soon as next year.

Of course, with robot lorries, school children on coach trips will miss the opportunity to moon at drivers, get lorries to beep their horns at them or, in some cases, get mucky drivers to show off centrefolds from dirty magazines at them while everyone cackles on the back seat.

These driverless trucks will be electronically linked together, so that the driver in the front vehicle will control the lot. Could be nightmarish if they’re falling asleep at the wheel and working through a hangover.

The Mercedes-Benz Future Truck 2025 prototype has already been trialled in Germany.  Scania have also been doing their own tests for the last couple of years. It looks like the automated lorries would have to have humans in them, just in case there’s an emergency, which means that they’ll either have to do admin work or just drink strong tea from a flask while looking at dirty pictures on their phones.

The idea is that these lorries would cut down on congestion. The reality is that businesses will opt for the cheapest thing.

A government source told the Times: “There are potential benefits, notably reduced costs for haulage firms and reduced congestion for motorists, so there is sense in looking into it. Equally we have to be cautious and ensure that safety isn’t compromised in any way.”

There’s going to be inevitable issues with other drivers trying to enter and exit motorways and being able to see the road signs behind a train of robot trucks.

What do you make of it all?

 

The car insurance postcode lottery

August 18th, 2014 11 Comments By Mof Gimmers

scrapped car The car insurance postcode lotteryCar insurance is unfair, everyone knows that. However, someone’s gone to the trouble of finding out just how unfair it is.

Take two drivers with identical cars, spotless driving history who park their cars on their respective drives, but in different areas, and you’ll find there’s a discrepancy in how much their car insurance costs.

For example, someone who lives in London will pay three times the amount of someone in the Isle of Man. It doesn’t matter if you’re a responsible driver – if your car has a greater chance of being nicked, then you have to pay for it.

Central London motorists pay an average of £922 a year on insurance, whereas those in the Isle of Man pay just £231, according to figures from the AA.

London boroughs and those just outside it attract top premiums, while in the North, Manchester residents will pay £821, and folk in Bolton and Liverpool will cough-up £737 and £720 respectively. Meanwhile, up in Scotland, someone in Aberdeen will pay £286 on average, while someone who drives in the Orkney Islands will pay just £252. The cheapest rates in England can be found in Truro, Cornwall (£280) and Dorchester, Dorset (£286).

It seems that, where car insurance is already cheap, the premiums are most likely to fall as well. Not in London. Drivers in the capital are just going to be asked for more and more as time goes on.

Janet Connor from AA Insurance said that insurers are looking to put their prices up across the board: “I believe that this time next year, the AA’s Index will be reflecting a rising trend (in cost). But I don’t expect to see the sharp premium inflation we saw between 2009 and 2011, when over a 12-month period premiums rose by more than 40 per cent.”

“The premium reflects the likelihood of a claim being made and, in some urban areas, there is much greater risk of a collision taking place, or of car crimes such as theft. Sadly, the criminality of some people has a detrimental effect of the premiums paid by honest motorists in such places.”

 

People think train companies are untrustworthy

August 15th, 2014 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

train People think train companies are untrustworthyNews that will shock you to your core, it turns out that people who use trains think that the train companies are not on their side, according to a large survey from customer watchdog Passenger Focus.

So why don’t people trust them? Well, the survey showed that many don’t trust train companies to provide a decent service, day-to-day. They also don’t trust them to tell the truth about anything, or communicate well or generally be fair with anyone.

The survey looked at punctuality/reliability, value for money, problem resolution, helpful staff on trains and helpful staff at stations.

The firms that inspired the least trust were in London and south east England, but that’s not good news for the rest of the country’s train companies. Grand Central, Merseyrail and ScotRail got reasonably positive scores when it came to service, but Southern, First Great Western and Southeastern were the ones who came off worst.

Regarding trust in relationship (which focused on being truthful, acting with honesty and integrity, building long-term relationships, treating customers fairly and communicating well), the best scorers were Grand Central, Virgin Trains, Merseyrail, Chiltern and ScotRail. Down the bottom were Southern, Southeastern and Northern Rail.

Passenger Focus concluded: “To build greater trust with passengers, it is important not only to deliver a punctual and reliable service but also to build a stronger relationship with passengers, this being based on communicating openly and honestly.”

“Most TOCs (train operating companies) can also increase satisfaction by focusing on passenger engagement, as customers do not currently feel that TOCs are ‘on their side’, acting with their interests at heart. In particular, there is the potential to improve satisfaction by increasing the amount of TOC communication and being proactive, communicating with openness and transparency, particularly when things go wrong.”

This survey comes days before the announcement of July’s RPI inflation figure, which is the number used to work out how much rail fares will increase next year.

Mick Cash, acting general secretary of the RMT transport union, said: “This survey does not surprise us in the slightest. Why would people trust private train companies whose only objective in life is to hack back staffing and services to the bone while whacking up fares for the travelling public in the name of pure and unadulterated greed?”

“Passengers are set to get hit with another inflation-busting fare increase when the figures are announced next Tuesday, while the private operators are laughing all the way to the bank.”

Nokia to release a £15 handset

August 12th, 2014 1 Comment By Ian Wade

Nokia have unveiled their cheapest handset yet!

The Nokia 130 is aimed at customers in emerging markets such as Africa and the Middle East. It comes as both single and dual-SIM card varieties, and costs a sniptacular $25 (or £14.50).

nokia 130 500x281 Nokia to release a £15 handset

It doesn’t have the internet, which is now obviously the first thing one wants when looking for a phone, but is optimised for music and video playback, with up to 46 hours worth of music playback time and 16 hours of video. Music and videos can be stored locally on the device with an SD card (the phone itself can store up to 32 GB).

Before you say “Well that just sounds like an elderly iPod you can chat on”, it also comes equipped with an FM radio, flashlight and 1.8-inch LCD display.

Nokia’s daddy Microsoft is quite keen to engage with people who have yet to own a Microsoft or Nokia gadget.

In a rather creepy interview with Recode, Microsoft’s Jo Harlow said: “Microsoft doesn’t have any other project that can reach these consumers.”

“These consumers will create a Microsoft account and become part of the Microsoft ecosystem.”

There’s no release date as yet for the Nokia 130, but it will be available in Africa, the Middle East and a handful of European countries. And pretty soon, you can probably “source” one off eBay.

smily death 300x200 You might have to pay inheritance tax while still aliveThe Government have been messing around with inheritance tax and one of the things that is stirring up interest is that those who who try to reduce their inheritance tax bill might have to pay the levy up front.

Thanks to people using complex schemes to cut what they pay in taxes after their death, HM Revenue & Customs want those suspected of avoiding inheritance duty to pay it in full up front.

This is the latest idea the Government have had with the problem of tax avoidance.

 

Basically, the HMRC thinks that people who are suspected of using tax avoidance schemes should be liable to an ‘accelerated payment’ of inheritance tax during their lifetime. If they’re innocent, then they’ll get the money back after investigation.

A spokesman said that this only affects “very small numbers” of rich people, but you can imagine that the wealthy have the kind of accountants clever enough to get around any new rules, and added: “We are seeking views on tackling inheritance tax avoidance schemes. This is an ongoing consultation and no final decisions have yet been taken.”

“The proposals in the consultation paper will only affect a small minority of wealthy individuals who actively seek to avoid Inheritance Tax. Couples would still be able to leave up to £650,000 tax free to benefit their children or grandchildren.”

telesales telephone Charity fundraisers are misleading vulnerable peopleCharity is obviously a good thing and getting funding is increasingly difficult thanks to the sheer number of charities around and, of course, people are tired of being charity-mugged in the street and having justgiving accounts shoved up their noses online.

However, there’s something worse than being-a-bit-annoyed going on as fundraisers are under fire for the way they’ve been treating the elderly and vulnerable.

Channel 4′s Dispatches have done an undercover investigation and found one company telling the undercover reporters (posing as fundraising staff) to make sure a woman suffering from depression and another caring for a terminally-ill daughter got repeat calls asking them for money.

Dispatches reporters worked at NTT Fundraising in Bristol and London-based Pell & Bales, who raise funds for charities including Oxfam, the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), Unicef and Barnardos.

The show also spoke to a family who claim that a firm exploited a family member with dementia. A lady called Emma Frost was outraged when she found out how many charity direct debits were being taken from her late father’s bank account. He suffered from Alzheimer’s disease.

 

“I think really his vulnerability which would have been very clear because he was so confused – he couldn’t string a sentence together – must have been exploited because nobody could possibly have missed that,” she told Dispatches.

As we all know, and was backed up by the investigation, fundraising firms will resort to the dark arts to get what they want. Customers saying that they didn’t want call-backs were indeed on the end of repeat calls, and one NTT supervisor said someone who was suffering from depression should not be deleted from their database because being depressed was not a “get out of jail free card”.

One of the undercover reporters was told that they were expected to meet targets despite the fact that a statement on the Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity website clearly says that “our fundraisers are not given personal financial targets”.

The show will be broadcast at 8pm tonight on Channel 4. It is clear that an urgent review of the sector is needed.

Courier leaves parcel on roof

August 11th, 2014 3 Comments By Mof Gimmers

It is annoying when you find the ‘sorry, you were out’ slip when you’re waiting for a parcel (especially when you were in at the time), but a chap called Benjamin Ward shared something on Twitter that was quite unique.

A courier tried to deliver a parcel to him, and finding that he wasn’t in, decided to lob his package on top of Ward’s house with a note that said “stuck on roof – sorry!”.

ad 142705401 333x500 Courier leaves parcel on roof

Courier service myHermes found out about this and tweeted him: “Please accept our sincere apologies. This is unacceptable and we’re on it.”

And indeed they were – they sent their courier back with some ladders and made him fetch it according to Ward’s Twitter account.

Ward saw the funny side of it though, saying: “It was super-awkward. It was more funny than anything else, so I don’t really want to make a big deal of it.”

Boots: Now half-American

August 7th, 2014 2 Comments By Mof Gimmers

boots logo 300x182 Boots: Now half AmericanBoots are about to be swallowed by American drug giant Walgreens, with the sale going through after being on the cards for around for a couple of years.

You may recall that in 2012, Walgreens bought a 45% stake in Britain’s biggest biggest pharmacy chain. With the completion of the merger, Walgreens will implement a number of cost-reduction initiatives.

The company is aiming for revenue of around £75billion for 2016, which means there are going to be savings at ‘corporate, field and store level’.

Walgreens reckon this is going to create a global leader in “pharmacy-led health and well-being retail”, which we think means ‘some people are going to have a great sense of well-being with all the fantastic amounts of money there is to be made from medicine and pumice stones.’

Importantly, this deal’s going to create the world’s largest pharmaceutical wholesale and distribution network which will deliver the goods to more than 180,000 pharmacies, doctors, health centres and hospitals in 20 countries. Ker-ching!

This newly formed company will be called Walgreens Boots Alliance and the new headquarters will be in Chicago, which is unusual as most American companies move to Europe after a takeover of a British firm as they have to pay less tax.

Greg Wasson, who will become president and chief executive of Walgreens Boots Alliance, said that the company have set up an independent committee to analyse if they should move their tax base to Switzerland or wherever, but have decided against it to avoid any political controversy and a threat of litigation by the US Internal Revenue Service.

So there you have it. Boots is half American now. There’s going to be some changes to the best known pharmacy on the British high street.

christmas tree 300x214 Selfridges open up a Christmas shop in the middle of a heatwave‘It’s nearly Christmas!’ you almost certainly haven’t thought as you find yourself in the middle of a load of sunny weather and the kids having their school holidays.

However, that hasn’t stopped Selfridges opening their Christmas store, serving as a timely reminder that you better hurry up and buy your loved ones a festive gift, what with over 140 days to go until Christmas.

Selfridges’ London shop has in advance of 700 sq ft of Christmas happening on their fourth floor, which will see snow and scarves greeting shoppers who are wearing shorts or speedos or something.

Geraldine James, Selfridges Ms Christmas, said: “Despite the summer weather, we’re in full festive mode here at Selfridges. We’ve been working on this year’s Christmas Shop since Christmas last year.”

They’re not the only ones. In the Trafford Centre, Clintons have also started rolling out their Christmas junk as well.

The Mail asked a bunch of people what they thought about it all. One shopper said: “I normally buy my cards two weeks before so to see them on sale now is quite laughable.”

“It’s too far ahead, we haven’t even got summer out of the way. I actually came out into town to buy a barbecue and popped into this shop for a birthday card. I couldn’t believe it when I saw these Christmas cards – no doubt the Christmas trees will be out on sale soon.”

Of course, there’s always the option of completely ignoring all the Christmas stuff, but there’s nothing quite as British as moaning about Christmas coming too soon.

google plus logo Google are scanning emails... but catching child abusersGoogle have been relatively open about how they scan everyone’s emails – it is so they can tailor adverts to customers and make loads of money. However, not everyone is happy about that, especially with all that NSA business.

However, reports say that a Google tip-off from the contents of a Gmail account ended up in the arrest of a child abuser from Texas. Police say Google told the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) about the content in an email sent by John Henry Skillern, who is a registered sex offender.

“He was trying to get around getting caught, he was trying to keep it inside his email,” said Detective David Nettles. “I can’t see that information, I can’t see that photo, but Google can.”

So what’s going on?

Pictures are hashed which creates a unique code for an image. The hash is compared with a database of known child abuse images and, if they match, details are passed to the NCMEC (or, if you’re in Britain, the Internet Watch Foundation, who Google actually give funding to). Then, a trained expert looks at the case and decides whether or not to pass it on to the police.

AOL also employ a similar system and they caught someone sharing illegal images last year.

The moral quandary is that, while the capture of child abusers is absolutely good and noble, Google and others are sifting through everyone’s correspondence and repacking it for advertisers. With Google’s buying of Nest, some people even think that they’ll be able to spy on you via your thermostat (a bit like the Piers Brosnan robot house in The Simpsons).

So what’s the trade off? If you’re not doing anything wrong, should people be scanning your emails? Do you not mind because child abusers can be caught? Is this case being crowed about in a bid to try and distract users from something a bit dodgy going on? Or do we just accept it because this is how the internet works?

What do you want from your mobile phone?

August 5th, 2014 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

mobile What do you want from your mobile phone?When you get a new mobile, what are you really after?

A new survey asked, and the answer wasn’t anything to do with eyeball scrolling, indestructible glass or voice control. When it comes to having a phone you’re happy with, it seems all you want is something that won’t run out of battery anytime soon, is easy to use and can get a signal most of the time.

There are figures to look at as well. Despite all the whistles and bells of new smartphones, 29% of those asked said that an easy-to-use phone was most important, while a decent signal is the primary interest of 19%, with battery life hot on its heels.

A decent amount of memory/storage is something people should want, because there’s nothing as frustrating as when you download a couple of apps and your phone starts acting like it is having a massive seizure.

The most useful fancy-feature is fingerprint scanning technology, with 56% of people using it more than once a day. More than a fifth of those in the survey said they liked having and using a camera too.

“It’s becoming increasingly hard for smartphone makers to differentiate their handsets from those of their rivals. They hope that flash features like Fingerprint ID on the iPhone 5S, or Amazon’s Fire Phone and its ‘Dynamic Perspective’ display, will give their phones the edge,” said Ernest Doku, telecoms expert at uSwitch.com (who conducted the survey).

“However, our research shows that many Brits can spot a gimmick from a mile away. It’s actually the basics that affect the every day user experience – like long battery life and a robust design – that people really care about.”

So Google Glass isn’t going to take off with the general public, is it?