Posts Tagged ‘News’
Since the switching guarantee scheme came in, over half a million people have decided to move their accounts, rather than slavishly sticking with the same crap bank for life. That’s according to the Payments Council, who counted 609,300 switches in the six months to the end of March – up 14% from a year ago.
Before the Switching Guarantee, customers were basically held to ransom by their banks. It took 30 days to switch, they would bombard you with tearful ‘please come back’ calls, and it was easier to stick with the same old, same old than venture forth and move your money.
But is it enough to open up the banking industry?
Even so, the Payments Council was delighted with the news. Gary Hocking, its managing director said:
‘By making the Current Account Switch Service quick, hassle-free and removing the fear factor, we’ve taken away the barriers customers told us they had when it came to switching. There’s also been a noticeable surge of advertising activity from current account providers, big and small, suggesting that the new service is helping foster competition and choice for customers.’
But critics say that 14% doesn’t exactly herald a competitive banking market. Consumer Batman Ricardo Lloyd of Which!, is taking a very dim view.
‘Despite an increase in public awareness and confidence, switching levels are still low, suggesting that the new seven-day service is not the game-changer that can significantly increase competition in banking.’
I know what’ll stimulate competition. Barclays’ new and outrageously steep overdraft charges, due to be introduced in June, will have customers flocking to switch to ANYWHERE ELSE.
M&S have been in the wars of late, reporting wishy washy figures and falling sales over 11 consecutive quarters. Are other stores just doing it all better – or cheaper?
Whatever is wrong, they’ve reported that like for like sales fell by 0.6% in general merchandise over the last quarter, blaming heavy discounting over the last six months.
BUT, they’re also keen to point out that there’s a silver lining. Despite nobody knowing who those people are on the adverts, apart from that woman who may or may not be Annie Lennox, and a heavily airbrushed Emma Thompson who looks a bit like a bloke, M&S clothing sales are up by 0.6%.
M&S don’t normally separate their clothing figures from their general merchandise, so you could deduce that they’re desperately clutching at straws.
Still, they have to find a way to justify their million pound ad campaign and design overhaul somehow.
But there are other positives, too. Even though the British public seems to have gone cold on Marks and Spencer, internationally their rep is glowing, with overseas sales up 4.7%. And online sales aren’t too shoddy either – rising by a very healthy and un-Twiggy like 12%.
CEO Marc Bolland, waving his hands about and yelling ‘look over here!’ said that womenswear was showing ‘clear signs of improvement.’
Still, whatever you do, don’t mention the word ‘Next.’
Notice anything different about today? Just an average Thursday, isn’t it? It’s not Black Friday, or Terrific Tuesday or Super Saver Saturday. Just an ordinary day.
Ha Ha – fooled you! Yes, the relentless trying-to-make-days-happen machine has been cranked up again, and today is MORTGAGE FREEDOM DAY!
Does that mean we don’t have to pay our mortgage and we can just sit in the park taking the air and kicking pigeons? Well, no. This particular day – made up by the Halifax – represents the day of the year when the average new borrower has earned enough to pay off the annual cost of their home loan. This is based on the average annual mortgage repayment cost of £6954, and the average earnings of £25603.
However if you live in London, you won’t get a mortgage freedom day until May 20 – or the end of time – depending on where you live.
Craig McKinlay, mortgage director at the Halifax says:
‘Our research shows that today, if people had put everything they’d earned since the start of the year towards their mortgage, the average homeowner would be mortgage-free for the remainder of the year, which is a reassuring thought.’
But nobody would be able to put everything they earn towards their mortgage anyway, because there are massive amounts of bills to pay. And is this really ‘a reassuring thought’? Or is it just a random and entirely hypothetical load of billy bollocks to try and allay our fears about the housing bubble?
There’s not even a cake or balloons. GO AWAY MORTGAGE FREEDOM DAY. YOU SUCK.
Do you remember what you spent your student loan on? Rent? Bills? Hydroponic equipment and Aftershocks? Well, even though the money is long gone, it will haunt you forever, according to a study by independent education group, the Sutton Trust.
It seems that three out of four students who took out a student loan while at college or university won’t pay off their loans until they’re 51. And if you managed to get yourself a decent job in the interim, you’ll be paying around £2,500 a year off during your 40s.
This follows changes to the system in 2012, when universities almost tripled their fees. But it’s OK. Many graduates will manage to escape penury by qualifying for it to be written off at the 30 year time limit, simply by not earning enough to pay it back.
Conor Ryan from the Sutton Trust explained:
‘There has been a lot said about the lower repayments that graduates make in their 20s under the new loan system, but very little about the fact that many graduates will face significant repayments through their 40s, whereas many would previously have repaid their loans by then.The new system will benefit graduates who earn very little in their lifetime.’
YAY! Let’s bum about and not earn anything! Anyone got a bag of weed and a bottle of White Lightning?
They’d also failed to give some companies any notice that their contract was due to end, which meant that customers weren’t able to shop around for a better deal.
The arm of British Gas has already paid out around £1.3m to affected firms, but has a further £3.45m to pay into an energy efficiency fund, as well as a £800,000 penalty. If British Gas Business hadn’t co-operated with investigations, the fine would have been much more.
Ofgem found that the company had been pulling a fast one for five years, which seem to be down to a fault in their computer systems.
“The ability for consumers to switch easily and fairly is key to a well-functioning energy market,” said Sarah Harrison, Ofgem’s senior partner in charge of enforcement. ”In these cases British Gas Business failed these consumers who were wrongly blocked from switching, many of them small businesses, and denied others the chance to switch to a better deal at the end of their contract.”
The managing director of British Gas Business, Stephen Beynon, said: ”We’re sorry these errors occurred and have worked swiftly to change our computer systems and processes, putting controls in place to stop this happening again. We take any failure to meet our obligations very seriously and will ensure that the new energy efficiency fund we have set up will be a real help to hundreds of small businesses”
Google’s Chromecast is a pretty great piece of kit, allowing you to stream from your phone, tablet or computer, straight to your TV set. BT Sports users who only have the app, will now be able to watch live sports on their tellies, or stream full length films from YouTube.
The homepage, which you see on your screen when not in use, is a selection of typical vistas designed to exude calm through nature, is pretty and all, but not particularly useful (apart from having a clock on it).
However, that looks like it is about to change.
There’s weather related icons, as well as the current temperature in a given region, but mainly, it’ll tell you what it’s like outside – either coat weather, t-shirt weather and so on.
On top of that, there’s also code which looks like Chromecast will eventually give users the opportunity to have custom wallpapers, instead of the various streams and horizons which Google love so much.
While these aren’t hugely exciting, you hope that this at least vaguely points to the idea that Google are willing to do much more with Chromecast. You could use your TV screen for reminders, checking messages and whatnot. Basically, you could make your television set a second dashboard, which is exciting if you like that sort of thing.
The kerrrazy world of science has now harnessed the ever expanding population of cockroaches – and turned them into nanobots with the computing power of a Commodore 64 or an Atari 800.
Nano sized entities – made of DNA, and capable of carrying out basic computing logic – have been injected into cockroaches by scientists at Bar Ilan University in Israel.
The DNA computers are called ‘origami’ robots because they work by folding and unfolding strands of DNA around the cockroaches body. They travel around the insect, and interact with its cells, and as the markers are florescent, you can actually watch it happen.
But here’s the most insane part – when the DNA strands unfurl, they can dispense drugs on contact with specific molecules – ie, a diseased cell.
Daniel Levner, a bioengineer at the Wyss Institute at Harvard University said: ‘DNA nanorobots could potentially carry out complex programs that could one day be used to diagnose or treat diseases with unprecedented sophistication.’
The DNA technology could help target cell-specific ailments, like cancer, with great accuracy. But before you decide to inject it into a human being, you first have to get past our body’s inbuilt immunity to foreign objects. However, the scientists say that trials on humans could be a reality in about five years.
Still, even if it doesn’t work, Commodore 64 cockroaches sound pretty exciting. Maybe you could play Chuckie Egg with them?
Wonga is in hot water again, this time for an ad that claimed that their flabberghastingly high APR of 5853% wasn’t really that important and you should just forget about it – la la la.
The rubbery puppets of doom are shown ‘simplifying’ the terms of Wonga loans, thus: ‘Right, we’re going to explain the costs of a Wonga short-term loan. Some people think they will pay thousands of per cent of interest. They won’t of course – that’s just the way annual rates are calculated. Say you borrowed £150 for 18 days, it would cost you £33.49.’
BUT, 31 people complained to the ASA, saying that they were misleading customers with a confusing message which encouraged them to disregard their insane interest rates.
Wonga said that they were only trying to give a transparent example of a typical Wonga loan but they regretted confusing customers.
However, the ASA said they understood that APR did not apply for the time period for a short term loan, but banned it anyway, because it irresponsibly encouraged people to take out loans without considering the APR. They said:
‘We considered that, though it attempted to clarify the costs associated with a Wonga loan, the ad created confusion as to the rates that would apply. On that basis, we concluded that the ad was misleading.’
Maybe if Wonga are looking for an example of a representative loan, they could show the puppets struggling to make ends meet and turning to rubbery prostitution to pay it back?
The Co-op have been having a bleak time, what with losing loads of money and being involved in drug scandals and the like. So, as well as turning some pubs into shops, they’re hoping to revive their fortunes by getting in on some hot phone action.
The group have launched their own PAYG SIM card, where they’ll piggyback on EE’s network. It’ll be launched in their stores across the country and is going to make bold claims about cheap national and international rates, especially if you are ringing someone else who also has a Co-op SIM.
One thing they won’t do, like other services, is get extra pennies out of customers by rounding up calls to the nearest minute.
Vivian Woodell, founder and CEO of The Phone Co-op, says: “Up to now, consumers have been forced to accept that if you want to get very good national rates, you’ll have to pay a lot for an international call, and vice versa, or that you’ll be charged an arm and a leg for calling 0800 or 0845 numbers. Some providers have low ‘headline rates’ but then charge for a whole minute when you’ve just spoken for a few seconds.”
“With The Co-operative Mobile that won’t happen, and it’s the combination of all these features that makes us so different. We’re proving it’s possible to have all these benefits in just one SIM card.”
The Co-op SIM card will start from 99p.
The hotdog is a singularly successful snack. Why? Because of the bun. The bun contains the sausage and the toppings and condiments and allows you to hold it comfortably in your hand. It is a perfect symbiosis of carbohydrate and protein which can be conveniently eaten on the move, and as such is the favourite snack for busy fatties everywhere.
But now two insufferable sounding advertising execs – one of whom is called ‘Didz’ – have decided to dispense entirely with the bun and just serve up a big wet mash up of sausage and mustard in a cup and call it Potdog.
David ‘Didz’ Parker and his pal Alex King have a stall at Borough Market (where else?). They use gourmet artisan sausages to create such delicacies as the ‘Randy’ which contains a gloopy blob of sausage, fried onions and hash browns. To be frank(furter), it’s a MESS.
Sadly, such is the appetite for street food amongst the young wanker population, that the Potdog could soon be a British food phenomenon. The stall turns over £600 a day, and the owners think that the Potdog is far superior to the hotdog.
‘The fillings always drop out and you end up eating a horrible stale bit of bread,” said ‘Didz’. ‘We wanted to raise the game.’
*beats Didz to death with a stale bun with an iron bar in it*
Another day, another dodgy invention that wouldn’t look out of place on an ancient episode of Benny Hill. Alongside the heat sensor bra that unhooks itself, we now have the very useful and not at all stupid Intimacy 2.0 dress, which becomes transparent when you’re turned on.
Aside from looking completely hideously unwearable, like it was fashioned from the plastic bendy bits you get inside a new pair of shoes, the dress also responds to heart rate and temperature. When the temperature is raised, the ‘e-foils’ that it is made up of start to become opaque and turn into clear plastic.
In order to pretend that this is some kind of technological/design milestone, and not a useless perv dress that will also become transparent when you’re running for a bus or cleaning out the guttering, Netherlands-based designer Daan Roosegaarde calls it ‘techno poetry.’
‘Technology is used here not merely functional but also as a tool to create intimacy as well as privacy on a direct, personal level which in our contemporary tech society is becoming increasingly important.’ He said.
Blah blah blah…tits.
Mmm, don’t you just love a tasty burger? Well, maybe you won’t any more, if the latest warning from UK food inspectors turns into a reality. They’re concerned that more infected animals could enter the UK food chain thanks to a proposed change in abbatoir inspection processes.
In the last two years, inspectors have successfully thrown out the diseased and infected carcasses of animals with many delicious types of pestilence, including tapeworm, peritonitis, milkspot, tumours, and – everybody’s favourite – FAECES CONTAMINATION.
However, new rules from the EU are diluting inspectors powers and shifting responsibility onto the food companies involved. Unison are concerned that the industry is incapable of policing itself and needs inspectors to act as independent quality controllers. And you only have to look at the horsemeat scandal to see that they have a point.
Pig carcasses have already been affected by the European Commission rules – inspectors would cut into their heads to examine for diseases, but now they are only required to give a visual inspection.
Heather Wakefield from Unison was pretty graphic about the changes, saying:
‘The UK government’s agenda will result in food that repulses us being dished up on our plates. Most people do not know that there are a small group of meat inspectors and vets that keep them safe from harmful and repulsive additions to our sausages, Sunday roasts and beef pies. They work in some of the most awful conditions in blood and animal discharges every day. They are always the first to come under attack, not only from the food business operators, but also from our government.’
Who fancies a kale smoothie?
Sainsbury’s have reported soaring sales in fresh produce as concerned middle class shoppers fend off imminent death by eating as many green things as they can cram into their gullets.
So how are we choosing to face down the Grip Reaper using the power of antioxidants? Well, green beans and celery top their veg list, with sales up by 116%, followed by onions, carrots, cucumber and red peppers.
Sainsbury’s fresh produce robot Charlotte Rhodes said:
‘We’ve long been committed to helping customers to eat their five a day and it seems that this new study has sparked some new enthusiasm for the challenge. They are certainly taking full advantage of our new 69p promotion which we’re running across a range of different produce from every day carrots to more exotic aubergines.’
(Aubergines are EXOTIC? Since when?)
Still, it’ll be interesting to see how long this lasts before everyone realizes that a life spent eating celery is a life wasted. In about two months time, they’ll probably be reporting an upturn in sales of Mr Kipling.
Google are riding high on the success of their Chromecast dongle, which has sold millions and become the best-selling technology product on Amazon since its launch in the US last summer.
So now they’re going to do what Amazon and Apple did and launch Android TV. And although it’s yet to be publicly announced, they’ve rather Partridge-ly described it as an ‘entertainment interface’, rather than a platform. They’ve also said it will be ‘cinematic,’ ‘fun’, ‘fast’ and ‘fluid’ (ewww), ‘with the least amount of friction.’ (Wait a minute. We ARE still talking about TV, aren’t we?).
It looks the same as other ‘entertainment interfaces’ – a bunch of horizontal tiles you can swipe through with a remote control, which has a navigation pad which goes in four directions. You can scroll through apps, and third party TV streaming services like Netflix.
One of the big differences, though – this being Google – is the ‘search’ function. They’re hoping that they’ll do such a good job with their predictive recommendations that you won’t even need to search.
How this all chimes in with Chromecast, though, is anyone’s guess. Won’t it leave their dongle dangling?