Posts Tagged ‘News’

Are energy companies ripping us off?

May 22nd, 2015 1 Comment By Mof Gimmers

energy Are energy companies ripping us off?It goes without saying that energy companies in the UK have been charging everyone a lot of money in their bills, and there’s a good chance they’ve been overcharging too. Legally, we leave the latter statement ambiguous, but you get where we’re coming from.

Ofgem, who are looking into all this, has referred the entire energy market to the Competition and Markets Authority, because there needs to be a formal investigation over the prices that everyone is paying. Are they artificially high?

Someone thinks so.

All eyes are on how much money is being made, and concerning SSE, they’ve seen profits shooting up by 40%, leaving everyone to wonder how they managed it. Of course, they’re not alone and data from Ofgem shows that (click here to see Ofgem’s lengthy report, complete with some graphs).

The Indy decided to crunch some of the numbers and statistics and came up with their own graph, which is more digestible.

energy graph Are energy companies ripping us off?

Basically, the energy companies get £120 from your combined gas and electricity charges every year, which is up from 2009′s figure of £10. That’s a big ol’ jump. The problem is that The Big Six have lowered their prices, but no nearly as much as the drop in wholesale prices. If you look at gas, bills have fallen by a couple of percent, while the cost of the companies buying it has dropped by 20% – the savings are not being passed on.

An Ofgem spokesperson says: “Falls in wholesale energy prices have resulted in significantly better deals for consumers on fixed tariffs but the majority of consumers who are on standard variable tariffs do not appear to have benefited to the same extent. We look forward to seeing the CMA’s draft findings and recommendations in the coming weeks.”

tanned Leading sun creams failing to protect from UVWhen you slather yourself in sun cream, you hope that it is protecting you from that flaming great orb in the sky. However, it looks like some of them don’t.

Feel free to add your own ‘don’t get burned by sun creams’ joke at any point during this article.

According to the folks at Which!!!, two leading sun creams don’t provide the UV protection that they say they do. If you’ve been smearing yourself in Boots Soltan Protect & Moisturise Lotion SPF30 and Hawaiian Tropic Silk Hydration Lotion SPF30, then you might want to consider another product.

The watchdog says that both of these offered only about two-thirds of their claimed SPF and are now referring to these products as “don’t buys”, adding that the Silk Hydration Lotion was “worryingly” the second Hawaiian Tropic product to fail their tests in the past two years.

Not only that, it is “more than four times as expensive as some of our Best Buys”.

Last year, Piz Buin Ultra Light Dry Touch failed the tests undertaken by Which!!! and apparently, the old formula is still available to buy now, where the others that didn’t pass the UV tests last year, have since been reformulated.

Which!!! executive director Richard Lloyd said: “We’re very concerned that a further two popular sunscreens have now failed our tests. Consumers must be able to trust and rely on the information provided by manufacturers so it’s disappointing to see well-known brands falling short.”

“We want them to take action to ensure their products deliver the promised protection.”

Hawaiian Tropic defended itself, saying that all their products are rigorously tested, meeting all SPF, UVA and EU requirements and regulations. A spokesperson said: “Hawaiian Tropic invests considerable resources and research in product development and testing to ensure consumer safety, and guarantees the SPF and UVA claim on all products.”

“Consumers can fully rely on Hawaiian Tropic products, safe in the knowledge they are protected against the sun to the level they want, need and expect.”

A Boots UK spokesperson, also said: “Customer safety is paramount and we rigorously and independently test our products to ensure the appropriate level of safety and efficacy in compliance with EU Regulations. We are confident that all of our sun care products, including Boots Soltan Protect & Moisturise Lotion SPF30, meet the SPF labelling claim and customers can rely on them to provide the level of protection expected.”

“We believe that it’s better to use sunscreen that will offer some protection rather than none at all,” said Lisa Bickerstaffe of the British Skin Foundation, adding that customers could also “look for a four- or ideally five-star UVA rating on the bottle which will help protect from UVA radiation, associated with skin ageing.”

So there you go.

banks Overdrafts stop people from switching accountsHave you wanted to switch bank accounts, but felt you couldn’t because you have an overdraft? Well, it seems that this is quite a common feeling in the UK, according to research.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) have found that people aren’t looking around for better deals or looking to switch, even though a number of banks to accept customers who are overdrawn.

There aren’t any regulations that prevent you from switching accounts if you have an overdraft, according to a spokesperson from the Payments Council. Of course, there are some banks that might turn you down or ask that you pay off your overdraft first, but some are actually willing to take on the debt.

A lot of banks will be happy to take your overdraft because, instead of having to pay you interest, they can charge you for being overdrawn. It really is that simple.

This is all part of the CMA’s research into the competitiveness of UK banks, as consumers are really not keen on changing who they bank with, despite the change in rules which got rid of a 30 day switching period to a 7-day one. The figures show that only 3% of customers surveyed had actually bothered to change banks, with over half staying with the same bank for 10-or-more years.

The CMA said it hasn’t reached any conclusions and will carry on looking at customer perceptions of switching, and whether having multiple products from the same bank makes it harder to move.

There’s a myriad of emulators on the internet, that allows you to play old video games consoles. If you have an Android mobile, you’ll know that you can get Mega Drive and NES emulators on your phone, so you can relive the glory years by playing Alex Kidd or Super Hang-On or whatever.

That said, nothing quite matches up to the thrill of playing these things on your television set. Of course, there’s official recreations of these things, be it through bundled games on disc, or indeed, through retro-joypads that you plug-in, and go.

However, here’s a thing that knocks them all into a cocked-hat.

The Retro Freak 500x332 Amazing machine that is 11 games consoles in one!

The Cyber Gadget Retro Freak is a great little thing that houses 11 different games consoles in one unit!

So, if you get one, you can play games from the Mega Drive, Famicom, SNES, Game Boy, Game Boy Colour, Game Boy Advance, PC Engine, TurboGrafx-16 and PC Engine SuperGrafx and more. If you like, you can use the original controllers through an adapter and you can even install games onto the console itself, so you don’t have to muck about with cartridges.

If you can read Japanese, find out more here.

Bank Holiday rail strike is officially off!

May 21st, 2015 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

train1 297x300 Bank Holiday rail strike is officially off!After all that fuss about the strike that was happening on the railways this Bank Holiday weekend, with people thinking they wouldn’t be able to ride the rails to fun and sunshine (or, seeing parent and being rained on), worry no more!

The strike by various unions has been called off and suspended after Network Rail put a new pay offer on the table. Whether you think they deserve a pay-rise or not, is beside the point – you can catch trains this weekend and worry about it another time.

Meanwhile, the Tube drivers on London Underground are still to be balloted for strikes in a squabble over pay for new all-night services, but that won’t have any impact in the immediate future.

So, will all the trains be running as normal this weekend? Well, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be, but keep an eye out for announcements.

The RMT’s general secretary, Mick Cash, said: “Following the Acas talks, RMT has received a revised offer that enables us to suspend the planned industrial action while we consult in full with our Network Rail representatives.”

Lugging a TV out of the shop is still a pain in the hole. Even though they’re getting lighter and thinner, they’re still pretty cumbersome. However, LG might have just the solution as they’ve come up with a television set that is so light and so thin, it bends like paper.

The TV is less than 1mm thick, and so light that you’d only need a couple of magnets to mount it on the wall. And if it fell off, it’d probably float like a feather or something.

Of course, this is just a concept at the moment, but it looks like this is the future of TV sets.

LG display 500x375 LG makes TV so thin, you can bend it like paper

This TV uses OLED technology, which LG are really keen on. This means that displays can be much smaller because there’s no need for a backlight, like LCD screens have. And to show off, you can bend it while it is switched on.

Seeing as LG do displays for people other than themselves, you can imagine that a load of electronics companies are going to be sniffing around this. Someone will make a phone that is as light as a cigarette paper – just you watch.

Anyway, technology is getting lighter and thinner, so good news for removal men!

loadsamoney 300x187 Cash   no longer the payment everyone loves

The best things in live are free – but you can give keep them for the birds and bees, I want… well… a card transaction or an online payment would be nice, actually.

You see, for the first time, cold hard cash is not the favoured method of paying for stuff in the UK, as cards and online transactions have overtaken the use of coins and notes. You want stats? Figures show that, last year, £19.8bn was spent using cards, online payments or cheques while £18.3bn was paid in actual physical money.

Of course, this doesn’t mean cash is going to vanish overnight – it is really pathetic to see someone trying to ‘make it rain’ in a stripclub by sending money via PayPal. No-one ever flaunted their wealth by simply pointing at the banking app on their mobile. You can’t really 2p someone with BitCoins.

Either way, the Payments Council reckon that, by 2024, less than a third of the money we spend will be in cash. And it looks like, with the advent of contactless payments and Click And Collect services, that people will have less reason to carry loads of money about their person, which is obviously bad news for muggers.

Stats show nearly 1-in-10 people say they now use cash machines less than once a month.

Prosecco drought to hit this summer?!

May 21st, 2015 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

Screen Shot 2015 05 20 at 14.12.37 250x300 Prosecco drought to hit this summer?!Even though there’s some dangerous bottles of prosecco knocking about, the world isn’t showing any sign of stopping drinking the fizz (which, effectively, is wine for dicks).

However, the appetite for prosecco is causing a problem and there might be a shortage of it this summer!

Roberto Cremonese, export manager of Bisol says: “Last year’s harvest was very poor, and down by up to 50% in some parts, so there is a very real possibility of a global shortage.”

“We’ll find out how big the problem is in August when the brokers release their stock. At the moment we don’t know how much Prosecco they’re holding on to. Because there is such a demand for Prosecco, the négociants are releasing it onto the market slowly and are taking it as an opportunity to put prices up, in some cases by 50%.”

“The négociants hold the power at the moment as they bought all of the stock. It might turn out that some of them have no fizz left but we’ll have to wait and see.”

Of course, when there’s a shortage afoot, another thing happens – suppliers capitalising on the demand and start putting their prices up and holding out on sales.

If people don’t want to drink champers and can’t get hold of any prosecco, it looks like everyone is going to be going hard on the cava.

spotify logo Spotify   now with video and original content!Spotify have clearly noticed that Jay Z’s Tidal is coming after it, and have decided to shake things up a bit. Of course, Tidal hasn’t exactly set the world alight (yet), but shows signs of what it can do when it streamed Beyonce and Nicki Minaj’s ‘Flawless’ video, sending social media into a mild hysteria.

With that, Spotify have announced that they’re expanding into video and original content themselves, going beyond simply streaming albums. With a number of artists showing allegiance to Jay Z, Spotify need to think of other ways of turning a profit.

Now, Spotify will support videos and offer news as well as other non-music content, with chief exec Daniel Ek keeping an eye on everyone’s mobile phone use: ”There is an incredible opportunity to soundtrack your entire day and your entire life in all of its complexity,” said Ek at some conference or other.

Ek says that Spotify have buddied up with a load of media companies, including some big US networks, the BBC, Vice and, most interestingly, the comedy network Adult Swim. They’ll be providing podcasts and other productions from their media pals, and they’re going to be providing their own material as well.

It seems to be working for Netflix, so why not Spotify?

If you’re one of those appalling people who likes to go for runs, then you’ll be interested in Spotify’s new function that will detect motion through your smartphone and select music based on the pace you’re running. Is there any music that is 23 bpm?

“We think that music is moving beyond just linear, one-way playback,” said Spotify’s chief product officer, Gustav Soderstrom. ”We’re going to take this approach to many more parts of your life very soon.” We assume they’re doing to do something relating to your activities in the bedroom, which matches the rhythm of your love-making. Do they make music that’s 7 bpm?

Along with an increased social element, this gives Spotify the opportunity to make more money from advertising and the like. Earlier this week, Spotify announced that they were teaming up with Starbucks, which will give staff the chance to choose tracks you hear at the coffee chain’s outlets.

So, for now, it is Spotify versus Tidal. All eyes on Apple’s updated streaming service, which should be coming soon.

It isn’t good to mess around on your mobile while your hands are covered in chicken grease. With that in mind, KFC are pulling a stunt where they serve fried chicken on trays that come with disposable Bluetooth keyboards.

The tray syncs up with your mobile, allowing you to troll friends and be ignored by celebrities on Twitter without making your touchscreen a complete mess.

It has been named the ‘Tray Typer’, the mega-slim Bluetooth keyboard is so thin and flimsy that it can be folded up.

KFC Keyboard 500x332 Finger clickin good disposable keyboards from KFC

Regrettably, this was only available in KFC Germany for a week, but we do hope that this gets tried out elsewhere, so we can try it out. It was so popular in Germany that every single keyboard was taken home (aka ‘nicked’).

WE WANT ONE.

sse SSE loses half a million accounts (and blames everyone else)SSE have managed to lose 500,000 accounts, blaming what they call the “increasingly challenging and highly competitive market conditions”.

Maybe people were ditching them because they kept putting their prices up, and overcharged tens of thousands of customers, and were investigated for alleged breaches in competition laws.

That said, SSE won’t care because, despite losing half-a-million customers, they still managed to report a 39% increase in profits through their retail arm. After a number of price hikes, they pledged to freeze prices until next summer.

That’s if the government makes things easier for them.

The company said: “SSE would like to extend its price freeze again, or even cut prices if further costs can be taken out of energy supply, and will work with the new UK Government or indeed any stakeholder to find such solutions.”

While all this is going on, the Competition and Markets Authority is currently in the middle of an in-depth probe into the energy market, as there are suspicions that customers have been treated unfairly by the UK’s dominant big six energy suppliers. We’re expecting a lot of fines to be handed out in 2015/6.

car Drivers fined by police after insurers stop cover with no warningDrivers are finding themselves being stopped and fined by the police thanks to insurers cancelling their car cover without telling them.

The Financial Ombudsman Service says that they’ve seen a spike in complaints about policies being stopped without any warning and that, in the worst instances, motorists only find out about it when they’ve been pulled over for driving with no insurance.

The Ombudsman says that those who allow their insurer to renew their policies automatically, but don’t realise that they must declare any change in circumstances since first purchasing the cover, are the people most at risk.

Basically, if your insurer thinks that things are different, they may cancel your policy and there’s a chance they won’t tell you. It seems that motorists who have benefited from reduced premiums for having a no-claims discount are also at risk from getting their policy cancelled without being told.

And this is not to be sniffed at, as the penalty for driving without insurance is six points on your licence and a £300 fine. The Financial Ombudsman says: “These types of communication breakdowns can have very serious consequences for the people affected.”

So if your car insurance automatically renews, it is worth contacting your insurer and seeing if you can change that option or, indeed, ask them to provide you with clear correspondence of any changes in your policy.

£20 note 300x180 Who would you like to see on the new £20 note?The public – aka ‘you reprobates’ – are going to be asked to choose someone to be the face of the new £20 note. Sadly, we’re not going to get rid of the Queen, but rather, whichever pin-making pillock currently resides on the reverse.

Sadly, you can’t just choose anyone you like, so don’t think we’ll all be able to get together and rig the result and end up with Bananaman or Sam Allardyce on the back – The Bank of England has launched a consultation to nominate a painter, sculptor, photographer or fashion designer who has made a great contribution to British society to appear on the money.

Want in? Well, nominations should be made over at the Bank’s website and you’ve got until 19th July to do it and the new note will come into circulation for three to five years, just in case everyone chooses someone rubbish.

Nominations can only be made for dead people, so don’t think about choosing anyone alive.

At the launch of the nomination thingy, governor Mark Carney said: “There are a wealth of individuals within the field of visual arts whose work shaped British thought, innovation, leadership, values and society and who continue to inspire people today.”

“I greatly look forward to hearing from the public who they would like to celebrate.”

So who would we like to see? Well, for starters, we’d like to see Alfred Hitchcock in silhouette form, possibly surrounded by a load of evil crows. In fact, we refuse to think of any other people. That’s clearly the best answer.

Deathwatch: loaves of bread at Greggs

May 20th, 2015 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

bread Deathwatch: loaves of bread at GreggsHorrifying news everyone! Greggs – the baker – may well stop selling loaves of bread. There’s going to be riots about this. We can see people chaining themselves to the front doors of Greggs up and down the country. We really can.

Greggs said on Twitter that they’d removed their loaves from one store to ‘allow for other products to be sold’ after someone complained that their local shop didn’t stock them anymore. Greggs added: ‘If products aren’t selling well, we take them off.’

Now, you’re thinking ‘cuh! One store? Why should anyone care?’ Well, crusty cobblers and the like, may be on the way out as Greggs said that they’re focusing on things that are quick and easy lunchtime snacks, rather than mucking about making loaves.

A Greggs spokesperson said: “Many customers are now coming to us for bakery food-on-the-go products, including sandwiches, which are freshly prepared in store every day and made using our own bread.”

“While loaves of bread can still be purchased in a number of our shops where we see high levels of customer demand, we also understand that customer shopping habits and needs are changing and have adapted accordingly.”

This is our generation’s JFK moment.

google Google to tackle Amazon with Buy button?Soon enough, when you’re shopping for a new pair of shoes or wanting to buy some movies, when you search in Google, you might have the option to buy it directly through them, rather than messing about pressing buttons to get to Amazon or eBay and wasting your valuable minutes on this planet.

That’s right – the search behemoth is apparently looking to rollout a ‘Buy’ button on its Shopping tab. Google say they won’t get any commission on this and they’re thinking about doing it to help you out. They’re selfless like that, clearly.

That, or they’re going mine all that lovely data and sell it on for a wad of money from someone.

Anyway, according to various reports and mutterings, these buttons will appear alongside paid search results in the ‘Shop on Google’ section.

Seeing as Google have Google Wallet, you’d think that they’ll store your payment details in that, so you don’t need to enter your payment details all the time. That means you might have to be signed-in with Google all the time, which again, works in their favour massively and will no doubt annoy people who don’t have a Google account.