Nearly half of drivers risk lives for a phone call

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Nearly half of drivers are putting lives on the line by chatting on their phones at the wheel, according to a survey out today by road safety charity Brake and Direct Line.

Almost half (48%) admit risking their own and others’ safety by chatting on a phone while driving, of which two in three (65%) flout the law by using a hand-held phone, which has been illegal since 2003. A huge proportion (25%) talk on their phone at the wheel at least once a week, suggesting phone addiction is getting the better of many.

Brake and Direct Line are launching a campaign urging drivers to ‘drive smart’ by putting their phones out of sight and out of mind while driving. They are warning that using a hands-free or hand-held phone at the wheel can lengthen reaction times to a similar extent to drink driving, significantly increasing the risk of a devastating crash. Hard-hitting billboard adverts by Brake and Blue Hive will be displayed across London next week to get the message across that using a phone while driving can be fatal.

Unlike many other types of deadly risk-taking on roads, male and female drivers, young and old, are almost equally guilty of phone use at the wheel, showing widespread misunderstanding of the dangers. Men are slightly more likely to chat on a phone than women (50% compared to 47%) and young drivers are slightly more likely than older drivers (52% compared to 48%). However, far more young drivers than older drivers break the law by using a hand-held phone (41% compared to 30%).

Young drivers are also far more likely than older drivers to use their phones to text, email or surf the web at the wheel. A horrifying 44% of young drivers admit texting at the wheel, compared to 27% of older drivers, while 21% of young drivers email, go online or use apps, compared to 9% of older drivers.

Julie Townsend, Brake deputy chief executive, said: “Use a phone while driving and you are taking a horrendous risk with your own life and the lives of others. Many drivers who wouldn’t dream of drink-driving are using phones while driving, oblivious that the effect on your reaction times can be similar. We’re urging people to drive smart, recognising that phone use at the wheel can and does destroy lives, and no call or text is ever that important. If you need to use your phone urgently, pull over somewhere safe first: it’s as simple as that. We are also calling on the government to do more to tackle phone use at the wheel, including banning hands-free phones and bringing in far stiffer penalties.”

Andy Goldby, Director of Motor Underwriting and Pricing, said: “Driving whilst using a hand-held phone is against the law, yet many drivers continue to flout it. Whilst it is legal to speak ‘hands-free’ it’s just as distracting, and even the slightest distraction whilst driving can have the gravest consequences.

“Much more needs to be done to deter motorists from the dangers of using mobile phones whilst driving, as any action that involves taking your eyes off the road or your mind from the task increases your chance of a collision. Too many people are either still unaware that using a mobile phone can be a major distraction to their concentration while driving, or are simply ignoring the rules of the road. Mobile phones have now become such an intrinsic part of many people’s lives; unfortunately they can also be a way of ending them.”

Using a phone while driving significantly reduces drivers’ ability to focus on the road ahead and react to hazards. Drivers who use either a hand-held or hands-free device while driving are four times more likely to crash. When using a hand-held phone drivers take half a second longer to react than normal.

A study by Direct Line, carried out by Transport Research Laboratory, showed driver reaction times, are 30% slower when using a hands-free mobile phone than when over the legal alcohol limit.

Research into the impact of sending or receiving text messages among young drivers found the amount of time drivers spent with their eyes off the road increased by up to 400%. Drivers made 28% more lane excursions and 140% more incorrect lane changes.

Drivers caught using a hand-held phone at the wheel (to call or text) face a fixed penalty notice of £60 and three points. In May 2011 the government announced this fine is will increase to £80 – £100. In some cases drivers may go to court and face disqualification and a maximum fine of £1,000. But it could be much worse. If you kill someone while using a phone you could face up to 14 years in prison, as well as the knowledge that someone died because of your decision to pick up your phone at the wheel.

Research shows a clear and significant difference in safety terms between speaking on a phone at the wheel and chatting to a passenger. Drivers on phones have slower reaction times and worse speed control, while those speaking to passengers perform nearly as safely as drivers with silent passengers.

Advice to drivers – However much you love your phone, when you are driving you need to put it out of sight and out of mind. Texting, emailing, taking or making a call (on a hand held or hands free phone), inputting details into an app, repeatedly glancing at the screen: all are major distractions that put your life and the lives of others at risk. Driving is the most dangerous and complex activity most of us do on a daily basis and it requires your full concentration. Your phone can wait.

Brake is urging the government to:

Ban the use of hands-free mobile phones when driving in line with research showing it dramatically increases crash risk.

Change the law so being caught using a mobile phone while driving results in a disqualification for a minimum 12 month period, to provide a real deterrent from this dangerous behaviour; failing this, at the very least we need a far higher fixed penalty fine for this offence.

Make traffic policing a national policing priority, to enable an increase in traffic police, enforcing mobile phones offences and providing an effective deterrent to drivers who would flout the law.

Conduct widespread media campaigns that highlight the dangers of mobile phone use at the wheel, alongside other distractions, and the consequences of causing a serious crash or being caught.

Incorporate road safety into the national curriculum to ensure the next generation of drivers understands the dangers of using a phone at the wheel.

On 23 August 2010, Lorna Foley’s life changed dramatically. Lorna was a passenger in her boyfriend’s car on the A6, when a car travelling in the opposite direction pulled out into their path, hitting them head on.

Lorna was pinned between the engine and her seat. She sustained serious injuries including a six inch gash on her head, deep lacerations on her left arm, a broken wrist, and dislodged vertebrae in her back. Lorna has been told that her head injury will take at least two years to recover from, while the damage to her back is likely to cause her problems with walking and exercise for the rest of her life.

The driver was later found to have been talking on her mobile phone at the time of the crash.

Lorna said: “When I see drivers talking on their phones it frightens me this could happen to someone else. I know I was very lucky: I suffered awful injuries, but I’m still alive. Lots of people aren’t so lucky. Many drivers seem so confident about their driving they think it’s ‘second nature’, and okay to do other things at the same time, but they’re kidding themselves. If you drive and use a phone you can’t be paying full attention, and in the blink of an eye it could lead to tragedy. I never use my phone when driving because I understand the consequences. I urge all drivers to commit to never using their phone at the wheel either. It just isn’t worth it: find a safe spot, pull-up and make your call then.”

The report is based on a survey of 841 drivers and riders carried out by Brake volunteers, at a range of locations across the UK. Every effort was made to ensure that a wide variety of people responded. Brake thanks all volunteers who helped conduct the survey and collate the results. For more results from Brake and Direct Line surveys on safe driving, see www.driverpoll.com.

 

 

 

Warning over ‘scam’ that charges users to receive texts

Smartphone users are being warned about a new type of premium rate text scam. Industry watchdog PhonepayPlus says people are being tricked into signing up, often by typing in their mobile number online, for services they don’t want.

 
Messages are then sent out which can cost users up to £4.50 per text to receive. Unless people keep a close eye on their mobile phone bills those charges can add up very quickly.
 
Twenty-four-year-old Beth Coundley from Chichester got caught out after receiving around five texts a month for five months.
 
“The text came with a link on it which I thought I could get charged for if I clicked on it so I just deleted them straight away. Because I don’t check my phone bill, one day I called up my mobile phone company and found out they’d been costing me £4.50 a text.”
 
In total she says she was charged around £130 despite insisting she never signed up for any services. “It’s terrible, [I felt] really, really angry, absolutely horrendous. I’ve not got much money, so that’s really bad.” Beth did try to get in touch with the company sending her the texts to complain and demand her money back. I contacted their email and spoke to them and they couldn’t help me at all. They wouldn’t answer anything, it was automated replies by email and on the phone they were useless.”
 

Beth says she’s finally been promised a refund but three weeks on from getting that promise she’s yet to see any money.

 
Sometimes all companies need to start sending people expensive texts is a phone number on a website. Often consumers are tricked after falling victim to so called typo-squatting. PhonepayPlus says that’s when people mistype common web addresses by as little as one letter. They can then be directed to look-a-like sites that promise cash or expensive gifts where all people have to do to claim is enter their mobile number.
 

PhonepayPlus says it’s only had 38 formal complaints about this type of scam but is worried the problem could be much more widespread. Shirley Dent is the watchdog’s director of communications: “We’re not talking about the vast majority of good [premium rate service] providers. We’re talking about the few problem providers who cause problems for consumers, problems for the industry and problems for us as the regulator.”
 
In February, PhonepayPlus fined two companies £100,000 each for breaking its code of practice after it typo-squatted several sites.
 

Tesco Mobile Beats ‘Big Four’ for Customer Satisfaction

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Supermarket’s Mobile Phone Network Ranked Number One in Which? Annual Mobile Phone Satisfaction Survey.

 

Tesco Mobile has topped the 2012 Which? Annual Mobile Phone Satisfaction survey for contract and SIM-only*; marking a great start to the year for the fast growing virtual mobile network.

Tesco Mobile was also the only network to achieve a five star rating for cost; beating off competition from industry Goliaths such as Vodafone, T Mobile and O2.

The network was also named as a recommended provider in the Pay as you go category – customers were more impressed with the customer service received from Tesco Mobile than the ‘big four’ mobile phone networks.

In addition to a focus on supreme service, initiatives such as triple credit on Pay as you go tariffs and a capped service for any Pay Monthly tariff have enabled Tesco Mobile customers to have control of their spend and get fantastic value.

Roger Fogg, Chief Executive Officer, Tesco Mobile & Tesco Telecom says:
“We know that consumers are increasingly shopping around for the best value and the best service when it comes to their mobile choices and we know that by offering the best of both worlds we can be the number one choice for families.

It’s fantastic to get an accolade like this from Which? recognising our commitment to customers.”

The Which? Survey asked 8,012 mobile phone users about their experiences with mobile networks to form the customer satisfaction score. They were asked how satisfied they were with their provider, their store and how likely they were to recommend the network to a friend.

Tesco Mobile is a 50:50 joint venture between Tesco and O2. The company sells exclusively Tesco Mobile branded services in Tesco stores, online and through Tesco Direct, across the UK using O2’s technology and network. The service gives Tesco Mobile customers value, simplicity and choice, offering them simple, great value tariffs with rewards such as free credit and Clubcard points.

Tesco Mobile has been awarded the Best Mobile Service Provider by Which? Consumer Group and selected as the number one mobile network for customer satisfaction for both Pay as you go and Pay Monthly by J.D Power and Associates Group in 2011.

*Joint first with O2

German HTC retailers are threatened with patent lawsuit

German retailers have been caught up in HTC’s battle with patent owner Ipcom.
  
German retailers have been caught up in HTC’s battle with patent owner Ipcom.
 
Ipcom has threatened the stores with legal action if they continue to sell the Taiwanese firm’s smartphones and other 3G devices. Ipcom said HTC had refused to pay a licence to use its intellectual property, adding that the manufacturer was subject to an injunction by a German court. However, HTC claimed the patent claim in question was invalid.
 
The case relates to a wireless patent originally developed by the German conglomerate Bosch for use in a car telephone system. After exiting the sector, the firm sold the rights to Ipcom in 2007. Ipcom challenged HTC in the courts over its use of the technology in 2009 and won. HTC appealed, but dropped the case just as it was about to come to court last month. Ipcom said it had given HTC every chance to pay a “fair” fee, but now felt it had no choice but to act to defend its property.
 
“First, Ipcom has written to retailers and wholesalers demanding they stop selling HTC’s 3G mobile devices,” a statement said. “If they continue, they are effectively making themselves accessory to HTC’s patent infringement, and face legal action themselves. Second, Ipcom has asked the Mannheim District Court to initiate penalty proceedings and contempt of court against HTC.”
 
However, HTC claimed that Ipcom was trying to misapply the original court ruling. “[The] case relates to only one, now-obsolete, handset, which is no longer being sold in Germany,” the company said. “It is regrettable that Ipcom has demonstrated that it is prepared to go to any lengths, including contacting our customers, to advance what we consider to be disproportionate and unjustifiable claims.”
 
Ipcom’s co-founder, Bernhard Frohwitter, claimed in turn that HTC was “playing legal tricks”, adding that there would have been a clear ruling on whether the original patent ruling applied to all HTC’s devices had the firm not dropped its appeal. “These wilful infringers need a lesson,” said Mr Frohwitter.
 
Consultant Florian Mueller, who writes a widely-read patents blog, said that German retailers would now have to decide whether to risk becoming embroiled in the dispute. “The agreements retailers conclude with vendors usually contain hold-harmless clauses under which HTC would have to bear the costs and risks of any such legal issues,”he wrote. “While there’s strong demand for HTC’s products in the German market, the legal departments of some retailers might be uncomfortable with this situation and prefer not to be drawn onto litigation.”
 
The research firm IDC estimated that HTC shipped 1.43 million devices to Germany in the first nine months of 2011, representing a 14% share of the country’s smartphone market. The Taiwanese firm also faces the prospect of a sales ban in the US.
 
The US International Trade Commission plans to announce its final ruling in a patent dispute between Apple and HTC on 14 December. The decision was postponed from its original date this week. In June the court issued a preliminary judgement that HTC had infringed two of the 10 patents that Apple had complained about.
 
 

BT sues Google over Android ‘patent infringements’

UK-based telecoms group BT is suing Google in the US over claims that six of its patents have been infringed.
  
UK-based telecoms group BT is suing Google in the US over claims that six of its patents have been infringed.
 
The British company’s complaints centre on technologies at the core of Google’s Android mobile system, search site, and a wide range of other services. BT is seeking unspecified damages and an injunction against Google’s continued use of its innovations. The move marks the latest patent attack on Android following legal action by Apple, Microsoft, Oracle and others.
 
BT said it currently had a portfolio of around 5,600 patents and patent applications. Its complaint states that it has invested heavily in mobile technologies and related services over the past two decades. It then claims that its resulting patents have been infringed by Google’s search engines, Android system, Google+ social network, eBooks, Maps, Offers, Docs, Places, Gmail, Doubleclick advertising management system, AdWords advertisement listing program and other services.
 
The six patents involved relate to location-based services, navigation and guidance information and personalised access to services and content. One example of an alleged infringement is Android’s ability to allow a music download if a smartphone is connected to a wi-fi network, but to prevent it when the device only has access to a 3G data link. Another example is Google Maps ability to make different information available at different levels of zoom.
 
“BT can confirm that it has commenced legal proceedings against Google by filing a claim with the US District Court of Delaware for patent infringement,” a company statement said. “This is about protecting BT’s investment in its intellectual property rights and innovation. It is a well-considered claim and we believe there is a strong case of infringement.”
 
Google said it planned to fight the lawsuit. “We believe these claims are without merit, and we will defend vigorously against them,” a Google spokesman said.
 
Legal experts say Google’s rapid expansion into a wide range of technologies has made lawsuits of this kind all but inevitable. “There is a lot of money and a huge market in the delivery of mobile phone services and there is a huge battle to achieve marketshare,” Vicki Salmon, chair of the UK Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys (CIPA) said. “In amongst this BT may have licensed its technology to some people and is not yet getting the royalties it wants. So there are a lot of battles over who gets what cut out of the market.”
 
A spokesman for BT could not confirm to whom it had licensed its mobile technologies, but noted that the firm had sold patents to third parties in the past.
 
Consultant, Florian Mueller, has flagged up on his Foss Patent blog that Apple launched a complaint against the Taiwanese Android-device maker HTC five months agousing a “portable computers” patentit bought from BT in 2008.
July’s $4.5bn (£2.9bn) sale of Nortel’s data networking and other patents highlighted how much value companies attach to these kinds of property rights.
 
BT would not confirm whether it intended to launch parallel legal action in the European courts. Patent watchers said it may be content to bide its time. “If they get an injunction against Google in the States, in a sense it’s cutting off the Hydra at its head,” said Ms Salmon. “When you are looking at the sale of products sometimes you need to go around country by country and knock out each sale, but if you can knock out the manufacturing base then you don’t have to litigate in each country”.
 
BT’s previous efforts to defend its patents have not always been successful. In 2002 a US judge struck down a legal challenge against Prodigy Communications in which BThad claimed to own the patent to internet hyperlinks.
Google’s takeover of Motorola Mobility may also complicate matters.
 
The deal is set to deliver the search giant more than 17,000 patents – potentially providing an opportunity to countersue if it can find an instance where BT has infringed one of Motorola’s innovations.
 
 

Nearly a third of Brits hanging up the home phone in fear of calling mobiles

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Orange Broadband today revealed that confusion over call costs is preventing Brits from calling friend and family on their mobiles from their home phone.

According to findings from a new independent survey from YouGov, almost a third of British adults refused to call mobiles from their home phone as they were confused over costs (29%), with over half of those with a landline (55%) agreeing that this wouldn’t be the case if calls to mobiles were included in their landline bundle. The report surveyed 2,004 adults from across the country and reflects Orange’s own customer feedback, so it’s decided to launch the UK’s first home landline calls plan which includes inclusive mobile minutes to any network in the UK.

When asked who they would speak to more if calls to mobiles were inclusive in their broadband and home phone plan, 43% of the nation who have landlines said their friends and other family over parents (16%) and children (19%). Over a third (36%) of the over 55’s, however, would opt to spend more time catching up with their children, many of which could have flown the nest clutching their mobiles.

The research also showed that households with children were the most likely to stop landline calls to mobiles in a bid to keep household costs down during tight economic times. Nearly a third of adults with children in the household (32%) admitted that they were preventing home phone to mobile calls over cost confusion and 43% of these adults who have a landline stated that they were put off using the landline more as they felt these calls were far too expensive.

What’s more, cost confusion appears to be sweeping the nation, as nearly three quarters of Brits (74%) couldn’t identify how much it really costs to call a UK mobile in peak time from a home phone. From a list given, 32% of those surveyed thought it cost 20p, 50p or £1 per minute, and another 29% admitted to not knowing at all.

The research supports the brand new Orange Broadband and Anytime Mobile Calls plan. For just £15 per month, customers and their families can now benefit from a 12 month unlimited home broadband with inclusive anytime calls to UK landlines and calls to 30 international countries, as well as 500 inclusive minutes to mobile phones on any UK network for the first time. On top of this, anyone taking up this plan in March will actually receive 1000 inclusive mobile minutes as a part of their package.

Sylvain Thevenot, Director of Marketing & Propositions, Orange Broadband said: “We all enjoy the comfort of using our home phone to chat, but sometime a fear of costs can prevent us from contacting friends and family when they’re out and about. So we’ve decided to offer Brits peace of mind and take home phone calling to the next level by creating the UK’s first home phone package that meets customers calling needs”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Which? says mobile phone providers must stop bill shock

Which? is calling on mobile phone providers to be more transparent about their charging policies following a report on unexpectedly high mobile phone bills, released by Ofcom today.

Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd, says: “Ofcom’s report confirms what consumers have been telling us for years – that bill shock is a big problem with as many as 1.4 million mobile phone customers affected in the last six months alone.

“We want clearer information for customers from the phone companies about what they charge for services in the UK and abroad, plus greater protection for consumers from hefty data charges.

“Ofcom must stand by its promise to investigate data roaming measures in the UK if EU negotiations fail and we want to see more pressure put onUKoperators to adopt data caps and spending alerts.”

 

Jersey telecom firm JT Global fined for price fixing

Telecom company JT Global, which is owned by the States of Jersey, has been fined £2,500 for breaking competition law.
 
Telecom company JT Global, which is owned by the States of Jersey, has been fined £2,500 for breaking competition law.
 
The Channel Islands Competition and Regulatory Authorities (CICRA) said the firm had set a minimum price for sim card packs in the island. It also ordered JT to tell distributors to supply sim packs to any retailer which wanted one. CICRA said it was the first time it had fined a Jersey firm for price fixing.
 
In August 2011, CICRA was contacted by the owner of a store in St Helier who complained that JT had ordered its wholesaler to refuse to supply sim packs to his shop. He said this was because he wanted to sell the packs at a price below the minimum set by JT.
 
Under the Competition Law, CICRA can fine a company up to 10% of its worldwide turnover for the duration of a breach.
 
John Curran, director of CICRA, said: “In this specific case, JT was clearly aware that its conduct was illegal yet went ahead and engaged in this practice. However JT has co-operated with our investigation and because this appears to have been an isolated incident, the fine is relatively modest. This decision should be a warning to all suppliers operating in Jersey – they must allow distributors and retailers to decide what price to charge to customers or face the prospect of significant fines.”