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Chase Bank Limits Cash Withdrawals, Bans International... Before you read this report, remember to sign up to http://pennystockpaycheck.com for 100% free stock alerts Chase Bank has moved to limit cash withdrawals while banning business customers from sending...

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Richemont chairman Johann Rupert to take 'grey gap... Billionaire 62-year-old to take 12 months off from Cartier and Montblanc luxury goods groupRichemont's chairman and founder Johann Rupert is to take a year off from September, leaving management of the...

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Cambodia: aftermath of fatal shoe factory collapse... Workers clear rubble following the collapse of a shoe factory in Kampong Speu, Cambodia, on Thursday

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Spate of recent shock departures by 50-something CEOs While the rising financial rewards of running a modern multinational have been well publicised, executive recruiters say the pressures of the job have also been ratcheted upOn approaching his 60th birthday...

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UK Uncut loses legal challenge over Goldman Sachs tax... While judge agreed the deal was 'not a glorious episode in the history of the Revenue', he ruled it was not unlawfulCampaign group UK Uncut Legal Action has lost its high court challenge over the legality...

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Openreach leaves customers unconnected and angry

Category : Business

Frustration over endless waits for Openreach to instal phone lines is made worse by being unable to complain directly

Letters about the unreliability and inscrutability of Openreach, the division of BT which, in theory, provides access to the national phone network, has unleashed a torrent of woe from readers stranded, often for months, without phones. The complaints have a common thread: Openreach is unanswerable to the customers it lets down because grievances must be channelled through their own service provider, some of whom seem equally unable to communicate with the company they rely on to install new lines.

MN of London

has been waiting since November for his Sky telephone and broadband to be installed: “Appointments have been made, and each time the engineer failed to show. In desperation, I cancelled my contract with Sky and placed a new order with BT in February. I’m still waiting and was recently asked by an amused BT operative what life is like without a phone line.”

Primus customer VC of Althorne, Essex,

lost her line in January and is still awaiting reconnection. “We feel powerless before these faceless organisations,” she says. Londoner LN-C has also been waiting since January for a new line. Engineers have either turned up with the wrong parts or qualifications, arrived unannounced and were unable to gain access or did not come at all. “We have wasted more than 40 hours waiting for BT to show up, or telephoning them to complain. BT’s delays are also costing me thousands of pounds in lost productive working hours as we are unable to conduct our business effectively without the internet,” she writes. “One of the telephone lines awaiting installation is for our Dualcom alarm system, which is necessary to comply with our insurance requirements.”

SC of Colwyn Bay, Conwy

ordered a new line through Sky in January and was told she would have to wait seven weeks. Snow meant the engineer was a no-show and she was told the next available appointment was in May: “We have been told that you can’t contact Openreach, you have to go through our provider – Sky – but then all Sky will say is ‘sorry’ this is the first available appointment.”

SC of London

complained to his provider Zen of a slow broadband connection in December. “Zen has been fighting hard to get Openreach to resolve the issue… Openreach has no telephone number or email address for end user complaints and insists we must go through our ISPs. It seems absurd that Openreach has been set up as a monopoly supplier of the communications infrastructure without there being any way for the end user to complain to them directly about their services, or for there to be an external body to which we can seek redress.”

Telecoms regulator Ofcom tells me it doesn’t publish complaints about Openreach as the number is so small. Of course it is. Because of Ofcom rules, Openreach gets to skulk behind the service providers who have to deal with customer complaints on its behalf. However, even Ofcom has realised that Openreach’s performance has “deteriorated” since the summer and it is reviewing the wholesale access market – ie Openreach’s monopoly on installations agreed with Ofcom in 2006 – to enable service providers to access BT’s national network. It is planning to introduce new rules such as payouts for customers who suffer delays.

Meanwhile, Openreach blames last year’s wet weather for a backlog of delays, including SC of Conwy’s five-month wait (her appointment was brought forward a month thanks to press office muscle) and says it has appointed 1,000 new engineers and carried out 1.7m visits in the last quarter. It blames MN’s saga on the fact that both Sky and BT coincidentally committed an “administrative error” when processing the order. His line has now been installed.

VC is the victim of a faulty telephone pole, which requires input from the electricity company and the council to remedy. The council also had to be invoked in LN-C’s case because it had concreted over relevant manhole covers and she now has a working line. SC of London apparently suffered delays because of the technical complexity of the problem which necessitated several visits.

Although customers’ contracts are with their own service provider rather than Openreach, it’s worth complaining to Ofcom if Openreach irks you. While unable to intervene on an individual basis, it will add it to the growing tally. For mediation when you reach deadlock, turn to the telecommunications ombudsman,

BT wants a broadband bounce from sport, but may have scored an own goal

Category : Business

The complex relationship between BT and BSkyB rests on gaining new customers for the former, rather than advertising

BT and BSkyB are at loggerheads. BSkyB is refusing to allow BT to advertise its new sports channels on Sky Sports, and BT has complained to Ofcom. Now leaving aside the fact that BT can (and does) advertise on any of BSkyB’s other channels, and that BSkyB and BT have both previously declined advertising from direct competitors – so there is plenty of precedent for BSkyB’s position – this dispute really is a storm in a teacup. What lies behind it, however, really couldn’t be more serious and the key questions are all for BT.

BT has spent upwards of £1bn on sports rights – mainly 38 Premier League games a year, top-flight rugby and WTA tennis. When you throw in production and other costs some analysts’ estimates put the total bill at nearly £450m annually. Sky has between five and six million sports subscribers and recent history with Setanta and latterly ESPN suggests that maybe a million of them will pay extra for the additional content BT will offer. Of course in addition to recruiting Sky customers BT will hope to attract new subscribers too, but even if it doubles that number to two million, simple arithmetic suggests it would have to charge them close to £30 per month just to cover costs.

Since no one seriously expects anyone to pay that much just for BT’s sports channels – which are still no real match and certainly no substitute for Sky’s – some analysts expect BT to lose in excess of £200m a year on them.

The only way of making sense of this from a BT investor’s point of view is to see it not as a loss but as an investment in improving the position of BT’s core business – broadband, and especially high-speed broadband. BT has been losing broadband market share to BSkyB – which from a standing start has gone to second in the market behind BT, the legacy operator, in just eight years.

The sharp end of that battle is the 2.5 million Sky TV customers who currently take their broadband from BT. Were BT to lose them, or even many of them – and on today’s trends that could happen – the loss of revenue (line rentals and broadband fees) could top £700m a year. Which is why BT really wants to package up its sports offering with its broadband services. In other words, for BT this is not about sport or even pay-TV, it is about broadband.

Which brings us back to the current spat over advertising. After Ofcom’s pay-TV review, BSkyB faced being compelled to wholesale its premium sports channels to BT at regulated prices. But with no obligation running the other way – on BT to wholesale to BSkyB – BT would then have been in the enviable position of promoting its YouView platform service as the only place to get all Premier League football. And that was the position last year when BT spent its £730m on football rights. But the Competition Appeals Tribunal decision to upend the Ofcom ruling means there is no obligation on BSkyB to wholesale its channels to BT at all.

BSkyB is now saying it will wholesale its premium sports channels to BT – allowing BT to sell them on to its customers – but only if BT will allow BSkyB the same arrangement with its sports channels. If such an arrangement was agreed, BSkyB would almost certainly drop its objection to BT running adverts on Sky Sports as the rivals would in effect be commercial partners.

But the problem for BT is that if BSkyB retails BT Sports as part of its offer to its customers, the telecoms company gets the money but not the customers – they belong to Sky. And no customer data means no capacity to try to sell them broadband packages. Which defeats the strategic point of spending £1bn on sports rights. Which could lead investors to wonder what else BT might have done with all that cash.

TalkTalk fined over silent calls

Category : World News

Telecoms operator TalkTalk has been fined £750,000 by the regulator Ofcom for an excessive number of abandoned and silent calls.

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Clearer phone charges ‘on the way’

Category : World News

Customers who use phone numbers beginning with 08, 09 or 118 should in future have a much clearer idea of how much their calls will cost, Ofcom says.

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Government urged to take action to stop nuisance phone calls and texts

Category : Business

Consumer rights group Which? blames claims management companies for plaguing people with unwanted communications

The government must take immediate action to curb the spread of nuisance calls and texts, a leading consumer rights group has urged. Which? blames claims management companies for plaguing consumers with the majority of the UK’s unwanted communications.

The organisation says the Information Commissioner’s Office, the Ministry of Justice, Ofcom and the Office of Fair Trading must set up a joint taskforce to stem the problem, with a particular focus on the personal injury and payment protection insurance claims industry.

Research published by Which? suggests that seven in 10 people received unsolicited calls and four in ten received an unwanted text during the last three months.

The watchdog found that one in four of its members who made a claim on their car insurance were contacted by a claims management company within three months. Nearly half of these were contacted in a week, and many were bombarded by repeated calls and texts – 22% received 10 or more texts and 12% received 10 or more calls.

Currently, a number of leading insurers all take fees for referring customers to claims management companies (with customers’ permission), including: the AA, Admiral, Direct Line, eSure, Lloyds TSB, Tesco and Zurich.

But from April 2013, new legislation will ban any insurer from receiving payment for passing on customers’ details to a claims management company or a legal firm following a personal injury claim, although this doesn’t cover non-injury claims such as car repairs.

Richard Lloyd, executive director of Which?, said: “Unwanted calls or texts are not just a nuisance, they can be intrusive and distressing. Many of us have been bombarded with spurious claims of PPI or injury compensation, and people are telling us they are totally fed up with this nuisance and want to see action.

“We want the regulators to work together to properly police and punish those responsible for unwanted calls and texts, using the existing law. If they are unwilling or unable to enforce the rules, the government should step in.”

Earlier this year Ofcom monitored a six-month period in 2012 and found that 71% of people with a landline received an unwanted marketing call and 63% encountered a recorded message.

Which? says a new joint taskforce should “proactively and forensically” scrutinise the activities of claims management companies over the next 12 weeks to expose the source of the problem and punish those found breaking regulators’ rules with substantial fines and suspension of licences. It also wants to see tougher regulation from the government to clean up the claims management industry.

The organisation advises consumers to never opt in to third party marketing when they take out an insurance policy and to always tell their insurer that they don’t want to be contacted by a claims management firm or a legal firm.

Consumers can also register with the Telephone Preference Service (an organisation run by the Direct Marketing Association on behalf of phones regulator Ofcom), which can help cut nuisance calls by a third. If you are registered with the TPS and still receive calls, you can complain to the Information Commissioner’s Office on 0300 123 3000. You can also forward spam texts to your mobile phone network provider.

4G auction: Treasury could have raised £3bn more

Category : Business

Telecoms watchdog Ofcom has published data showing the theoretical maximum – £5bn – the chancellor could have received, rather than the £2.3bn actual total

George Osborne’s takings from the 4G mobile spectrum sale were nearly £3bn lighter than the top prices bid by operators.

In a flourish similar to the classic Bullseye gameshow, in which the host showed losing contestants a car or luxury holiday with the catchphrase “and here’s what you could have won”, telecoms watchdog Ofcom has published data showing the theoretical maximum the Treasury could have raised.

The figures show that the highest bids for 4G spectrum, which will be used for faster mobile internet services, came to £5.2bn.

The total dwarfs the £2.3bn that will actually be paid into the public purse and tops the £3.5bn the chancellor had budgeted for in his autumn statement.

However, Ofcom says the maximum bids were only theoretical. This is because the auction used a second price rule, in which winners only pay a little more than the sum offered by the second highest bidder. This supposedly made the auction harder to rig.

Insiders and analysts countered that with different rules the amount would have been closer to Osborne’s original estimate. “Ofcom over-engineered the auction and it neither raised the amount that the government was looking for nor did it ensure that spectrum found its way into the hands of everybody who wanted it,” said a source at one bidder.

The format is not unusual, with Ireland, the Netherlands and Denmark all having used it for their spectrum sales. One element that unarguably kept prices low was Ofcom’s decision to set aside spectrum for Three, the smallest network, which only paid the reserve price for its slice of airwaves.

Ofcom also imposed caps on the amount of more valuable low-frequency bands that Vodafone and O2 were allowed to buy, because they already owned significant amounts before the auction.

“We are entirely comfortable with the rules that we put in place on the caps and the reserved spectrum to ensure that there is effective competition in future to the benefit of UK consumers and businesses,” said Ofcom.

Vodafone, which emerged with more airwaves than other bidders having spent £790m, submitted a £2bn maximum bid, while Telefónica, owner of the O2 brand, was prepared to pay up to £1.2bn.

Daniel Gleeson, telecoms analyst at research firm IHS, said the Treasury’s loss should be the consumers’ gain because winners would have enough spare change to invest in masts and equipment.

“The second price rule decreases the amount for the Treasury but operators also have an extra £2bn or £3bn to spend on building out the networks,” said Gleeson. “The 3G auction worked out well for the Treasury in 2001 but it meant the operators were very slow in rolling out the networks because they burned so much cash. Ofcom wanted to be sure that didn’t happen this time.”

Ofcom 4G auction winners announced

Category : Business

Telecoms regulator Ofcom announces the winners of its 4G mobile auction, raising a lower-than-expected £2.34bn for the Treasury.

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Ofcom 4G auction winners announced

Category : Business

Telecoms regulator Ofcom announces the winners of its 4G mobile auction, raising a lower-than-expected £2.34bn for the Treasury.

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Ofcom names 4G auction bidders

Category : World News

The seven companies bidding for the upcoming auction of bandwidth for 4G mobile broadband services are named by telecoms regulator Ofcom.

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UK ‘nation of internet shoppers’

Category : Business

According a survey from Ofcom, UK consumers indulge in more web shopping and mobile downloading than any other nation.

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