Month: August 2014

EE Introduces Queue Jumping Charge

EE Introduces Queue Jumping Charge

EE Introduces Queue Jumping Charge
Mobile phone company EE has introduced a charge for jumping the queue on customer service calls. Callers are invited by an automated message to use the priority service for a flat fee of 50 pence.

Some customers, especially those who have been with the company for years, are unhappy that calls are not treated equally.

But EE said that they had set high standards for their customer service operations.

One customer – Andrew Griffiths – told BBC Radio 4?s You and Yours that he would consider switching if EE was the only firm to do this. It added that the “small charges” for certain services contributed to the investment in this side of the business.

The priority answering system is similar in some ways to queue jumping charges at airports and theme parks.

The service has been available for a week to customers on pay monthly on Sim-only plans.

“I thought it was a bad idea for a company to offer to provide what really ought to be a standard level of customer service for a fee,” he said. “It makes you think that perhaps they might not be trying too hard to answer the non-prioritised calls.”

Sony Reveals PlayStation TV Launch Dates in the UK and US

Sony Reveals PlayStation TV Launch Dates in the UK and US

Sony Reveals PlayStation TV Launch Dates in the UK and US
Sony has revealed autumn launch dates for its PlayStation TV in the US, UK, and Europe. Available in Japan since last year, the micro-console is the firm’s efforts to take on other streaming television consoles like AppleTV and Roku.

Unlike those, Sony’s offering will allow gamers access to PlayStation games.

Sony said consoles will go on sale in the US on 14 October and in the UK on 14 November. They will cost $99 (£59) in the US and 99 euros (£78) in Europe, and will include three games. The UK price has not yet been announced.

The console will allow users access to Sony’s games library via Remote Play, and it will also offer access to third-party applications like Netflix. In the US, it will also offer access to Sony’s game-streaming service, PlayStation Now, which will be coming to Europe and the UK in 2015.

Sony has previously announced the existence of the PlayStation TV at various events.

Many analysts seem optimistic about the device’s prospects, despite earlier failed streaming games efforts, such as OnLive, which was forced to lay off all of its employees in 2012. “This TV could be a proper streaming device, one that could compete well with the other ones that are out there – the Apple, Roku, even things like Amazon FireTV,” Brian Blau, research director of consumer technology at Gartner, told the BBC. “It’s not the most robust streaming service and it’s not the most robust gaming device but it’s enough of both for the price,” he added.

Analysts say that the device is not necessarily intended to appeal to serious gamers, but to those who are looking for a second-screen or the ability to play older PlayStation games.

“Sony is trying to introduce a broader audience to PlayStation, so with PlayStation TV, they can address a lower income or more casual market and provide access to a huge library of games,” said Michael Pachter, research analyst at Wedbush Securities. However, Mr Pachter cautioned that simply appealing to gamers would not make the device a runaway success. “It’s an odd device, and will be hard to explain to many people,” he said.

The announcement was made during the PlayStation press conference at the Gamescom trade fair in Cologne in Germany, where Sony also announced it had sold 10 million PlayStation 4 consoles, better than rival Microsoft’s Xbox One.

Full Economic Recovery Will Not Solve Youth Unemployment

Full Economic Recovery Will Not Solve Youth Unemployment

Full Economic Recovery Will Not Solve UK Youth Unemployment
Centre-left think tank the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) says that a full-blown economic recovery will not resolve the UK’s youth unemployment problem. Its latest report says despite steady falls in unemployment, there are still 868,000 out-of-work 16 to 24-year-olds.

Later on Wednesday, the latest official UK unemployment figures will be revealed. They have been falling steadily for the last year.

The IPPR highlights a striking mismatch between what young people are training for and the types of jobs available. For example, it says, 94,000 people were trained in beauty and hair for just 18,000 jobs, while only 123,000 were trained in the construction and engineering sectors for an advertised 275,000 jobs.

The IPPR says youth unemployment is lower in countries where the vocational route into employment through formal education and training is as clear as the academic route. It says this helps, as it puts the two on a higher perceived footing.

Although the youth unemployment rate has fallen sharply from 20.9% a year ago to 17.8%, the IPPR says there are still 868,000 unemployed young people aged 16 to 24 and 247,000 of them have been looking for work for more than a year.

About 700,000 young people have never had a job.

A Work and Pensions Department spokesperson said the IPPR’s report was “misleading”, arguing that the number of unemployed young people who are not working full time had dropped to about 530,000. “Youth employment is up, youth unemployment has been dropping for 10 months in a row and the number of young people claiming the main unemployment benefit has dropped for 31 months in a row to around 250,000,” a spokesperson said.

Tony Dolphin, IPPR chief economist, said: “We can learn lots from countries like Germany and the Netherlands. “A strong workplace-based vocational education and training system, with high employer involvement, contributes more to a smoother transition from education to work and a low rate of youth unemployment than anything else.”

The official figures are expected to show another fall in unemployment and in the numbers claiming jobseeker’s allowance.

German Industrial Output Fuels Slowdown Concerns

German Industrial Output Fuels Slowdown Concerns

German Industrial Output Fuels Slowdown Concerns
German industrial output rose 0.3% in June from May as concerns over the Ukraine crisis weighed on the economy. The Economy Ministry figure was lower than many economists forecast and comes after a 1.8% fall in output in May. The ministry said that, after strong output data in the first three months of 2014, weaker growth was expected.

It comes as the European Central Bank (ECB) prepares to announce its latest interest rate decision, and a day after Italy fell back into recession.

According to the Economy Ministry, manufacturing output edged up by 0.1% and construction output rose by 1.2%. Taking the period from April to June, industrial output fell by 1.5% compared with the preceding three months, the ministry said.

“The second quarter was weaker, as expected, after the first quarter was exceptionally strong,” the ministry said. “The positive basic trend will continue.” However, “geopolitical developments may have had a dampening effect,” the ministry said.

Christian Schulz, analyst at Berenberg Bank, said the June data were “less than expected… and it is too little to turn the second quarter into a growth quarter. “The Putin-factor plays a role because of the Ukraine crisis. Some export firms have become more cautious and are ordering less, so less is being produced,” he said.

Meanwhile, Spain’s industrial output rose 0.8% year-on-year in June, data from the National Statistics Institute.

June’s rise marked the eighth straight month of expansion and compared with growth of 2.5% in May.

The figures come ahead of an interest rate announcement later on Thursday from the ECB.

Worries about an economic slowdown in the eurozone, persistent low inflation, and the Ukraine crisis, have dominated discussions about the direction of rates.

However, the ECB is expected to hold its main rate at a record low of 0.15% as it waits to assess the impact of stimulus measures announced previously.

“After the fireworks in June, it is not the time to take fresh measures because the ECB wants to wait and see how things develop,” said Reinhard Cluse, economist at UBS. “The ECB wants to keep its powder dry.”

Nick Clegg; Homeowners may get Payouts for Garden City Developments

Nick Clegg; Homeowners may get Payouts for Garden City Developments

Nick Clegg; Homeowners may get Payouts for Garden City Developments
Homeowners could be compensated if the value of their property falls when new garden cities are built, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has suggested.
Mr Clegg told the BBC’s Countryfile the government could buy homes blighted by developments or offer owners council tax cuts while building takes place.

He said he did not want anyone to “lose out” as a result of garden cities, intended to curb the housing shortage. The housing minister said this was an interesting contribution to the debate.

Brandon Lewis agreed with Mr Clegg that the government’s planning around garden cities should be “locally led” and “working with local communities”.

The government has plans in place for three new developments with about 15,000 homes each. It is thought two of them are to be built in south-east England.

Mr Clegg said it was important to safeguard house prices in areas pegged for the projects. “We could maybe give deductions on their council tax for the period of time during which the garden city’s being built,” he said. “We could possibly also say to those homes where they think the price of their home will be affected, we will guarantee the price of their home by buying it, if you like, upfront.”

He said the cost to the public purse of compensating homeowners would not be as great as people would think. “We are actively looking at things like that to show that we will go the extra mile to allay those concerns of people who feel that their property or the price of their home might be affected,” he said. “We don’t want people to lose out.”

He suggested the government could offer full market price for a home that could lose value due to disruption caused by construction. This was the sort of thing the country did anyway with big infrastructure projects, he said.

The Lib Dems leader also told the Sunday Telegraph that he wanted a shortlist for the locations of the three new communities published by the end of the year. He said the point of them was they would be “well-designed, support jobs, contain top-quality green space and services – the best of town and country in one place”.

Meanwhile, Mr Lewis described Mr Clegg’s suggestions as an “interesting contribution” to the debate on garden cities. “The bidding process is still open for communities with proposals for ambitious, locally led developments that have the backing of existing residents,” the housing minister said.

Mr Clegg announced the three garden city projects in April. He said they would tackle the UK’s “chronic” housing shortage.

Funding from an existing £2.4bn pot is to be made available for the developments being built up to 2020.

In 2013, the construction of 109,370 new homes was completed in England – the lowest figure for four years. Yet the number of households is expected to grow by 221,000 every year this decade.

Twenty-seven new towns were built across the UK after World War Two, including Stevenage, Harlow, Milton Keynes, Corby, Cwmbran, Newton Aycliffe, Peterlee and Cumbernauld. They were called garden cities because their layouts included large amounts of green space and were designed to deal with an accommodation shortage caused by bomb damage, stagnation in the construction industry, returning service personnel and a baby boom.

Stop Dithering over Airport Capacity, Business Leaders tell Politicians

Stop Dithering over Airport Capacity, Business Leaders tell Politicians

Stop Dithering over Airport Capacity, Business Leaders tell Politicians
Harrods’ managing director, Michael Ward, will this week front a new campaign warning that political indecision over airport expansion is harming Britain’s economy.

Let Britain Fly, a campaign trying to build cross-party support for extra runways in the capital and the South-east, has enlisted 10 business figures to make video appeals for more airport capacity.

In video rushes seen by The Independent Newspaper, Mr Ward said that “increasingly the luxury and international traveller is very time poor, so direct flights for us are hugely important”. He added that cities such as Paris and Frankfurt would take over “where we [London] once led” as a luxury destination. “If politicians continue to dither on a decision on airport capacity we will start to prejudice London’s premier position, certainly as an international luxury destination,” he said.

Paul Mansi, chief operating officer at the Radisson Blu Edwardian hotel group, argued that a decision was “long overdue and this procrastination needs to stop”. He added: “We used to be competing with local hotels, now we’re competing globally on location.”

The campaign does not just include well-known luxury and consumer companies. Louis Kunzig, managing director at Berkshire-based Sciaky Electric Welding Machines, warned that “the cost of doing business globally will go up” without a quick decision on airport expansion.

Let Britain Fly director Gavin Hayes said: “This is about the wider business community ramping up our campaign message as we approach the party conferences and a looming general election campaign, which is now just months away.”

Sir Howard Davies, a former chairman of the Financial Services Authority, published his interim airports report at the end of last year, making it clear that the choice for a new runway was between Heathrow and Gatwick.

A second runway at the latter would cost about £8bn, considerably less than Heathrow. However, a third runway at Heathrow would confirm the airport’s standing as one of the world’s premier hubs. But the final report is not due until after next year’s general election, infuriating businesses that believe more airport capacity is needed now if the UK is to compete with growing hubs like Schiphol in the Netherlands and Dubai.

Politicians from all parties are concerned about publicly committing themselves to expansion as they are worried about losing the votes of constituents living near the airports. Expansion is also heavily criticised by environmental groups.

In May, Willie Walsh, chief executive of International Airlines Group, owner of British Airways, said he believed Gatwick would eventually be chosen because it is less politically sensitive. “My view is that the third runway at Heathrow is not going to happen,” he told The Independent. “We will be making a mistake we will live to regret. We will look back 20 years from now and ask, ‘How did we allow ourselves to get into this position?’ We will lose out in terms of economic growth. A lot of airlines want to fly to Heathrow: not the UK but Heathrow. If they can’t fly to Heathrow they will go somewhere else like Paris or Amsterdam.”

Away from the main two airports, the Government has approved plans to expand London Luton Airport in a move that could allow 45,000 extra flights and create 5,000 new jobs. Among the planned changes at the airport are increased retail, catering and seating areas and more screening lanes.

India Bank Chief Arrested over Bribery

India Bank Chief Arrested over Bribery

India Bank Chief Arrested over Bribery
Indian police have arrested the chairman of state-run Syndicate bank, Sudhir Kumar Jain, and several others over allegations of bribery. Mr Jain has been accused of taking bribes to raise credit limits of firms.

The Central Bureau of Investigation said it recovered 5m rupees ($82,000; £49,000) allegedly paid to Mr Jain.

The raids are being described as the first large scale anti-corruption moves since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took office earlier this year. “We are determined to fight corruption at high levels,” Ranjit Sinha, director of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) was quoted as saying by the Press Trust of India (PTI) news agency.

The CBI said it had seized cash, documents and computer records after conducting raids across 20 different locations in Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Bhopal.

The PTI quoted Mr Sinha as saying that other banks were also involved in the conspiracy.

A total of 12 people, including Mr Jain, are being investigated.