Switching broadband is too costly, claims watchdog

peoples-phone-broadband-internet

Tens of thousands of broadband customers in the UK are having to pay “costly” charges to change supplier, Citizens Advice has warned.

It says the average cost of ending a contract is £190, with some fees said to be as high as £625.

Often consumers are faced with such charges after having received poor service from their existing internet provider, it claimed.

But the internet industry said termination fees are always made clear.

“People are finding themselves held captive by bad broadband services,” said Gillian Guy, the chief executive of Citizens Advice.

However, the industry argues that termination charges are necessary, because of the high initial cost of supplying a connection.

“The cancellation policies on contracts generally require the remaining subscriptions to be paid off, and reflect actual costs,” said a spokesman for the Internet Service Providers’ Association (Ispa).

In many cases, those who fail to pay the fees are being referred to debt collection agencies.

Brian Ing, a 79-year-old from High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire, tried to switch supplier in March this year, after poor service from his provider. He was given a bill for £211, which was subsequently passed to a debt collection agency. Mr Ing had been a customer for seven years, so should not have been liable for termination fees.

“I really got the feeling that they knew how old I was,” he said. “They started to bully me,” he claimed.

Having received a demand for £231 from a debt collection agency, Mr Ing passed the letter to the Ombudsman and Citizens Advice, and the company involved agreed to suspend the charges.

Citizens Advice is asking internet providers to stop cancellation fees when customers have “persistent” problems with their service. One big provider said it would be happy to comply.

In the meantime the regulator, Ofcom, provides guidance for consumers. Its guidelines require companies to issue contracts for a maximum period of 2 years. It says consumers must be given “clear, comprehensible, prominent and accurate” information on termination fees, which can never be greater than the payments they are due to make for the remainder of the contract.

Ofcom says it has made switching broadband provider much easier since the introduction of “migration authorisation codes” (macs), which providers have to give out. Since the start of the year, customers who wish to switch provider because of an unexpected price rise, must be able to do so, free of charge.

 

 

Three reports continued growth in profit and innovation

peoples-phone-3-logo-store

Three UK delivered an operating profit of £123m for the first six months of 2014. This compares to £86m in the first six months of 2013 and £121m in the second six months of 2013.

The improved profit was driven by both growth in customer numbers and growth in data usage per customer. The average data usage per customer remained significantly higher than the industry average and stood at 2.6GB per customer per month in June compared to 1.8GB and 2.2GB in June 2013 and December 2013 respectively.Over the last six months Three has introduced a differentiated range of benefits to improve customer experience.

New contract handset and SIM-Only plans now include unlimited free 0800 numbers and a number of new tools to help people manage their spending to prevent bill shock.

In June, Three extended its industry leading roaming initiative to include France and four other new countries, increasing the number of countries to 16 where customers can use their UK allowance for data, calls and text at no extra cost while overseas. Other notable countries included are the US, Australia and Italy.

Finally, this week Three launched a new App called Three inTouch, which seamlessly enables customers to use their existing phone and phone number for calling and texting using Wi-Fi.

Dave Dyson, Chief Executive Officer, said: “We have delivered a huge amount in a short space of time and I am particularly proud of the positive improvements we have continued to make to our customers experience. We have recently won awards for our 3G and 4G network coverage and speed and our Three inTouch App extends our network to areas where conventional mobile phone networks cannot reach like in the London Underground.”

Richard Woodward, Chief Financial Officer, said: “We have achieved sustained and profitable growth while introducing new tools and plans to help make mobile better for customers. The steps we have taken over the last six months have helped us attract and retain engaged and profitable customers while maintaining an efficient cost structure.”

 

 

Samsung profit hit as smartphone growth slows

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Profits at Samsung Electronics fell 20% in the second quarter, hurt mainly by a slowdown in smartphone sales and a strong Korean currency. It made a net profit of 6.25 trillion won ($6.1bn; £3.6bn) in the April-to-June period, down from 7.77 trillion won a year ago.

When compared to the previous quarter, its profit was down 17%.

Samsung is the world’s biggest maker of mobile phones and the handset division accounts for the bulk of its profits.

“The second quarter was affected by several factors including the slow global sales of smartphones and tablets and escalating marketing expenditure to reduce inventory,” the firm said in a statement.

Meanwhile, a stronger Korean currency also hit Samsung’s earnings during the period. The Korean won rose more than 11% against the US dollar and nearly 7% against the euro between July 2013 and end of June this year.

A strengthening currency hurts profits of firms such as Samsung – which rely heavily on exports – when they repatriate their foreign earnings.

Samsung said a stronger currency “amounted to about 500bn won in missed revenues”. Samsung’s growth in recent years has been powered mainly by its mobile phone division.

The success of its Galaxy range of smartphones, coupled with a growing global demand for such gadgets, saw it displace Nokia as the world’s biggest mobile phone maker in 2012. However, the pace of growth of the smartphone market has been slowing down and the competition in the sector has also increased. Various other smartphone makers including China’s Xiaomi, Huawei and ZTE have been increasing their market share steadily. That has forced manufacturers to cut costs of their devices in an attempt to attract consumers, hurting their profitability.

Operating profit at Samsung’s phone division fell 31% during the April-to-June period, from the previous three months. The firm also warned that “prospects for growth remain unclear as competition over global market share intensifies in the mobile industry”.

“Samsung expects to see its sales of mobile devices increase with the rollout of flagship products and new models, but profitability may suffer due to a heated race over price and product specifications,” it added.

 

Android Fake ID bug exposes smartphones and tablets

peoples phone android in box display case

An Android flaw has been uncovered that lets malware insert malicious code into other apps, gain access to the user’s credit card data and take control of the device’s settings.
 
BlueBox Labs said it was particularly concerning as phone and tablet owners did not need to grant the malware special permissions for it to act. The company added it had alerted Google to the problem in advance to allow it to mend its operating system.
 
Google confirmed it had created a fix. “We appreciate BlueBox responsibly reporting this vulnerability to us. Third-party research is one of the ways Android is made stronger for users,” said a spokeswoman. “After receiving word of this vulnerability, we quickly issued a patch that was distributed to Android partners, as well as to the Android Open Source Project.”
 
However, the many thousands of devices still running versions of the operating system ranging from Android 2.1 to Android 4.3 have not been sent the fix by relevant network operators and manufacturers remain vulnerable if they download apps from outside the Google Play store.
BlueBox has dubbed the vulnerability Fake ID, because it exploits a problem with the way Android handles the digital IDs – known as certification signatures – used to verify that certain apps are what they appear to be. 

The issue is that while Android checks an app has the right ID before granting it special privileges, it fails to double-check that the certification signature involved was properly issued and not forged.
 

Jeff Forristal, chief technology officer of BlueBox, likened the issue to a tradesman arriving at a building, presenting his ID to a security guard and being given special access to its infrastructure without a phone call being made to the tradesman’s employer to check he is really on its books.
“That missing link of confirmation is really where this problem stems,” he said. “The fundamental problem is simply that Android doesn’t verify any claims regarding if one identity is related to another identity.”
 
Apps that make use of Adobe’s Flash plug-in can have malware added to their code. To make matters worse, he added, a single app can carry several fake identities at once, allowing it to carry out multiple attacks.
 
Mr Forristal gave three examples of how a faked certification signature might be used to cause harm: The app pretends to be created by Adobe Systems – Adobe is granted the privilege of being able to add code to other apps in order to support their use of its Flash media-player plug-in. The malware can take advantage of this to install Trojan horse malware into otherwise authentic programs; The app uses the same ID used by Google Wallet – the search firm’s mobile payment software is usually the only app allowed to communicate with the secure hardware used to make credit card transactions via a phone’s tap-to-pay NFC (near field communication) chip. By exploiting this, the malware can obtain financial and payment data that would otherwise be protected; The app impersonates 3LM software – many manufacturers add their own skins to Android to customise their devices’ user interfaces and functions. In the past, HTC, Sony, Sharp, Motorola and others did this by using extensions created by a now defunct business called 3LM. By masquerading as 3LM’s software, malware could take full control of the relevant devices and both uninstall their existing software as well as adding spyware, viruses and other damaging content of its own; BlueBox made headlines last July when it revealed the Master Key bug – a coding loophole that could allow hackers to take control of Android devices. Cybercriminals were later spotted using the technique to target users in China.
 

Mr Forristal said he believed that the Fake ID flaw had the potential to be a bigger problem. “Master Key did allow a whole device to be taken over… but the user had to be duped into a couple of decisions before the malware would be able to achieve its goal,” he explained. “Fake ID unfortunately occurs in a manner that is hidden to the user – there’s no prompts, no notifications, no need for special permissions. The user can actually be told the app doesn’t want any special permissions at all, which most people would think makes it relatively safe. But once Fake ID is installed it’s ‘game over’ instantly.”
 

Dr Steven Murdoch, a security expert at the University of Cambridge’s computer laboratory agreed this was a serious flaw. But he added that most device owners should still be able to avoid being affected. “Google will be looking for people who are exploiting this vulnerability in applications being distributed through its own Google Play store,” he said. So, if that’s the only place that you get apps from, you are in a relatively good position. But if you download applications from other sources you will be putting yourself at risk.”
 
A spokeswoman from Google confirmed that the company had scanned all the applications in its own store as well as some of those elsewhere. “We have seen no evidence of attempted exploitation of this vulnerability,” she added. BlueBox is releasing an Android app of its own that will check whether the host device has been patched.
 

 

Android Fake ID bug exposes smartphones and tablets

peoples-phone-android-in-box

An Android flaw has been uncovered that lets malware insert malicious code into other apps, gain access to the user’s credit card data and take control of the device’s settings.

BlueBox Labs said it was particularly concerning as phone and tablet owners did not need to grant the malware special permissions for it to act.

The company added it had alerted Google to the problem in advance to allow it to mend its operating system.

Google confirmed it had created a fix.

“We appreciate BlueBox responsibly reporting this vulnerability to us. Third-party research is one of the ways Android is made stronger for users,” said a spokeswoman. “After receiving word of this vulnerability, we quickly issued a patch that was distributed to Android partners, as well as to the Android Open Source Project.”

However, the many thousands of devices still running versions of the operating system ranging from Android 2.1 to Android 4.3 have not been sent the fix by relevant network operators and manufacturers remain vulnerable if they download apps from outside the Google Play store.

BlueBox has dubbed the vulnerability Fake ID, because it exploits a problem with the way Android handles the digital IDs – known as certification signatures – used to verify that certain apps are what they appear to be. The issue is that while Android checks an app has the right ID before granting it special privileges, it fails to double-check that the certification signature involved was properly issued and not forged.

Jeff Forristal, chief technology officer of BlueBox, likened the issue to a tradesman arriving at a building, presenting his ID to a security guard and being given special access to its infrastructure without a phone call being made to the tradesman’s employer to check he is really on its books.

“That missing link of confirmation is really where this problem stems,” he said. “The fundamental problem is simply that Android doesn’t verify any claims regarding if one identity is related to another identity.”

To make matters worse, he added, a single app can carry several fake identities at once, allowing it to carry out multiple attacks.

Mr Forristal gave three examples of how a faked certification signature might be used to cause harm:

The app pretends to be created by Adobe Systems – Adobe is granted the privilege of being able to add code to other apps in order to support their use of its Flash media-player plug-in. The malware can take advantage of this to install Trojan horse malware into otherwise authentic programs.

The app uses the same ID used by Google Wallet – the search firm’s mobile payment software is usually the only app allowed to communicate with the secure hardware used to make credit card transactions via a phone’s tap-to-pay NFC (near field communication) chip. By exploiting this, the malware can obtain financial and payment data that would otherwise be protected.

The app impersonates 3LM software – many manufacturers add their own skins to Android to customise their devices’ user interfaces and functions. In the past, HTC, Sony, Sharp, Motorola and others did this by using extensions created by a now defunct business called 3LM. By masquerading as 3LM’s software, malware could take full control of the relevant devices and both uninstall their existing software as well as adding spyware, viruses and other damaging content of its own.

BlueBox made headlines last July when it revealed the Master Key bug – a coding loophole that could allow hackers to take control of Android devices. Cybercriminals were later spotted using the technique to target users in China.

Mr Forristal said he believed that the Fake ID flaw had the potential to be a bigger problem. “Master Key did allow a whole device to be taken over… but the user had to be duped into a couple of decisions before the malware would be able to achieve its goal,” he explained. “Fake ID unfortunately occurs in a manner that is hidden to the user – there’s no prompts, no notifications, no need for special permissions. The user can actually be told the app doesn’t want any special permissions at all, which most people would think makes it relatively safe. But once Fake ID is installed it’s ‘game over’ instantly.”

Dr Steven Murdoch, a security expert at the University of Cambridge’s computer laboratory agreed this was a serious flaw. But he added that most device owners should still be able to avoid being affected.

“Google will be looking for people who are exploiting this vulnerability in applications being distributed through its own Google Play store,” he said. “So, if that’s the only place that you get apps from, you are in a relatively good position. But if you download applications from other sources you will be putting yourself at risk.”

A spokeswoman from Google confirmed that the company had scanned all the applications in its own store as well as some of those elsewhere. “We have seen no evidence of attempted exploitation of this vulnerability,” she added.

BlueBox is releasing an Android app of its own that will check whether the host device has been patched.

 

 

London ‘set for 5G mobile broadband by 2020’

peoples-phone-london-view

The Mayor of London has promised ultra-fast download and upload speeds for the capital’s tablet, dongle and smartphone users by 2020.

According to Boris Johnson, 5G mobile broadband services will arrive in London by the end of the decade.

As reported by the Telegraph, he claimed network operators will work in collaboration with the University of Surrey on new technologies to deliver faster speeds.

“London is earning a reputation for being the tech capital of Europe,” Mr Johnson stated.

“That is why we need to ensure every Londoner is able to access the very best digital connectivity.”

He claimed that rapidly improving connectivity in London is “a key part” of its infrastructure plan, designed to ensure the competitiveness of the capital over future decades.

But according to the City of London Corporation, there is plenty of work to do on this front. Writing for City AM, Policy Chairman Mark Boleat claimed that businesses and households in the Square Mile are still unable to access fibre broadband services.

He called for more affordable connectivity solutions, as an alternative to leased lines, for this part of the city.

 

 

 

Apple drops Samsung sales ban request

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Apple has given up on its request that a U.S. court ban the sale of 23 Samsung products. The move forms part of a cross appeal relating to a trial two years ago, when Apple was awarded $1 billion in damages for breaches of patents by the Korean tech firm.

The move is no surprise: None of the 23 devices Apple had asked to be pulled from shelves are available to buy today. Instead, it seems Apple may now pursue sales bans of products mentioned in its most recent patent case with Samsung, which it won in May this year.

Apple’s change of tack suggests it may be finally letting go of its complaints against Samsung. It has won every major ruling in a wide–ranging legal tussle, which has been played out in court rooms across the globe.

Samsung is still demanding that the 2012 ruling that it breached Apple patents, while Apple was found to be blameless, be thrown out. This process is likely to prove lengthy and costly.

There had been hopes earlier this year that the fight would be resolved out of court, with the company’s CEOs reportedly meeting face–to–face in order to thrash out a deal. But with Samsung’s profits wobbling and Apple’s iPhone sales remaining impressively steady, it may be that this will peter out completely in the next few months.

 

 

Police to seize mobiles in every car crash

peoples-phone-texting-whilst-driving-danger

Every driver in a crash will have their mobile seized in a bid to cut deaths caused by phoning and texting at the wheel. Police have been ordered to check if motorists broke the law by using their phones in the moments before any accident.

The move is likely to see mobiles being taken away by officers as evidence in prosecutions.

Police chiefs believe it is necessary to combat the growing numbers killed or seriously injured because drivers are distracted.

The move was welcomed last night by charities and pressure groups who have accused police and politicians of failing to make road safety a priority.

The advice to check phones at the roadside was issued to officers by Gloucestershire Chief Constable Suzette Davenport.

Miss Davenport, who is responsible for roads policing at the Association of Chief Police Officers, said she is determined to reduce mobile-related accidents. The phone checks will apply to any accident. Previously they were made only in accidents where people were killed or seriously injured.

There have been growing calls for the Government to do more to stop drivers using phones at the wheel. More than 500 people are estimated to be killed or seriously injured every year because car and lorry drivers were texting, responding to emails or posting messages on social networks.

Earlier this month Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin announced that he is considering doubling the punishment for those caught texting at the wheel to six penalty points. ‘The amount of casualties has been absolutely appalling,’ he said. ‘We’ve got to change this.’

Official figures for 2012 show the use of a mobile phone at the wheel as a ‘contributory factor’ in only one fatal accident in 100. But Professor Stephen Glaister, of the RAC Foundation, said that, from what many standing at the roadside report, this is a considerable underestimate of the true figure.

‘More systematic checking of drivers’ phone records after a crash would… send out a message that police are taking this matter seriously and people who flout the law will be caught,’ he said.

AA president Edmund King said drivers do not realise their mobile phone records provide an ‘incriminating track’ of what they were doing.
He said: ‘The current deterrent just isn’t working. Many drivers seem addicted to their phones and just can’t resist looking at a text or tweet at the wheel. We need a concerted effort to crack this addiction with harsher penalties linked to an information and enforcement campaign.’

Hugh Bladon, of the Alliance of British Drivers, said: ‘I am 100 per cent against anyone texting while driving, and those caught deserve everything they get. But I’m worried police could overdo it, just because someone is involved in a minor shunt, surely it shouldn’t mean they should lose their phone.’

Ed Morrow, of road safety charity Brake, said mobile phones are a ‘menace on our roads’ with many drivers flouting the law. ‘We are fully supportive of the efforts by the police to clamp down on mobile phone use at the wheel,’ he said. ‘Offenders need to know they will be caught, they will be prosecuted, and there will be serious consequences.’

Drivers caught using a hand-held phone at the wheel to call or text face a fixed penalty notice of £100 and three points on their licence. Those who cause a crash and kill someone while using a phone could face up to 14 years in prison, but the vast majority of sentences are much shorter.

In 2012, more than 10,000 drivers caught using their phone at the wheel opted to take a road safety course instead of the points. Last year Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, the country’s most senior police officer, said drivers caught twice using a phone at the wheel should be banned.

 

 

Contactless mobile payment accepted on London underground

peoples-phone-ee-cash-on-tap-london-underground

EE, the UK’s most advanced digital communications company, today announced its customers will be able to travel on London’s Underground, DLR and Overground networks using their mobile phone when TfL’s contactless program launches on 16th September.

EE is the only UK network provider to offer a contactless payment service, and the extension of Cash on Tap to TfL’s transport network will mean no more queuing to top-up an Oyster card, or rummaging around a handbag first thing in the morning. Developed in partnership with MasterCard, Cash on Tap will also avoid the issue of card clash – where gates may not open if customers have more than one contactless card in their purse or wallet.

The service will use EE’s free Cash on Tap mobile contactless payment service app, which is due to be compatible with over 500,000 customers’ handsets this year. There will be no added charges for using Cash on Tap to pay for travel, and both daily and weekly caps ensure customers won’t pay a penny more than using an Oyster card.

Gerry McQuade, Chief Marketing Officer, EE said: “Users of the world’s greatest tube network will shortly benefit from the latest in mobile payment technology, allowing them to use their phone to pay for their daily commute.

“As more and more people benefit from the simplicity, convenience and security that mobile contactless payments offer, it’s rapidly becoming clear that the days of the physical wallet are fast becoming numbered.”

Launched in partnership with MasterCard, the Cash on Tap app is available free via the Google Play store and compatible with a range of Android devices direct from EE, including the Samsung Galaxy S5, HTC One and Sony Xperia Z2. EE customers can already use their phone to pay in more than 300,000 shops across the country, including Marks & Spencer, McDonald’s, Caffè Nero, Pret A Manger and Greggs.

 

 

EE Cash on Tap contactless payments now accepted on London buses

peoples-phone-ee-cash-on-tap-london-underground

EE, the UK’s most advanced digital communications company, today announced customers can use their mobile phone to pay for travel on the London bus network for the first time. Customers with Cash on Tap enabled handsets can now benefit from the simplicity, convenience and security of mobile payments, without the need for an Oyster card or contactless debit card.

EE is the only network provider currently providing contactless mobile payments, and Cash on Tap will make paying on London buses faster and more practical than ever before – with no more queuing to top-up an Oyster card or fishing around a handbag first thing in the morning. Cash on Tap also avoids the issue of card clash – where gates may not open if customers have more than one contactless card in their purse or wallet.

The Cash on Tap service launched last year, and is due to be compatible with over 500,000 customers’ handsets by the end of 2014. There will be no added charges for using Cash on Tap to pay for travel, and both daily and weekly caps ensure customers won’t pay a penny more than using an Oyster card. A bus fare costs £1.45 for any single journey, with daily and Monday to Sunday bus fares capped at £4.40 and £20.20 respectively – the same as an Oyster.

Pippa Dunn, Chief Consumer Marketing Officer, EE said: “More people use London’s buses than all the other bus services across the country combined, so the need for speedy and simple payment solutions is paramount.”

“That’s why we’ve been working hard to bring our contactless mobile payments service, Cash on Tap, to TFL’s network – removing the need for customers to queue for a ticket, or hunt through their pockets and bags to find the right card”.

Contactless payment on London’s buses is the first step in a wider roll-out across the capital’s transport network, with Cash on Tap payments due to be accepted when TfL’s contactless payment system goes live on the London Underground, DLR and Overground network from 16th September.

Launched in partnership with MasterCard, the Cash on Tap application is available free via the Google Play store and compatible with a range of Android devices, including the Samsung Galaxy S5, HTC One and Sony Xperia Z2. EE customers can already use their phone to pay in the likes of McDonald’s, Caffè Nero, Pret A Manger and Greggs at over 300,000 locations across the country.