Amazon launches ‘Dash’ home ordering kit

In an attempt to attract more household goods shoppers, retail giant Amazon has unveiled a device that can place orders to replenish items such as washing powder and razors.
  
In an attempt to attract more household goods shoppers, retail giant Amazon has unveiled a device that can place orders to replenish items such as washing powder and razors.
 
The Dash Button can be attached to appliances around the home, and when pushed, processes a delivery request. The service will only be available to users of Amazon’s premium subscription service, Prime. The tech giant has recently focused on speeding up its ordering processes.
 
Prime Now, which guarantees one-hour delivery on essential daily items, is available in four US cities, and the company has also been trialling deliveries by drone. On Monday, the firm launched Amazon Home Services, which allows customers to order professional services such as a handyman or computer technician. The timing of Dash’s launch led some to initially believe it might be an April Fool’s joke. Even after it was confirmed as real, some were uncertain what to make of it.
 
“I’m not sure whether this is genius, or the stupidest thing Amazon has tried yet,” commented John Gruber on the Daring Fireball blog.
 
But one expert was impressed. “This is absolutely not a gimmick,” Aidan Bocci, chief executive of the Commercial Advantage consultancy, said. “It may have to go through iterations before it really works, but this is a way to disrupt the linkage that exists between consumption and purchase. People typically write a shopping list and then go to the supermarket, but this gives Amazon a way to break in before any of that happens. And it’s exactly what the firm should be doing if it wants to have a different approach in the grocery sector.”
 
 

 
 

Jay Z announces new music subscription service ‘TIDAL’

Jay Z along with some of the biggest artists in music made waves on Monday with the announcement of TIDAL, the first-ever artist owned streaming service.
 
Jay Z along with some of the biggest artists in music made waves on Monday with the announcement of TIDAL, the first-ever artist owned streaming service.
 
“We come to you with one voice in unity,” artist Alicia Keys said during the live event. “The first ever artist owned global music and entertainment platform!”
 
The event brought together likes of Kanye West, Daft Punk and Madonna along with a ton of hype. For example, a clock on the service’s site was counting down to the live streamed event, and the rapper’s entertainment company, Roc Nation, tweeted Saturday about a “special announcement.”
 
It also came with many of the same artists turning their Twitter avatars blue to bring attention to Jay Z’s streaming service. “Together, we can turn the tide and make music history,” West tweeted. “Start by turning your profile picture blue. #TIDALforALL”
 
As for the service itself, TIDAL is a subscription-based music service offering high quality music and sound. This differs from other streaming music providers, such as Spotify, that offer both premium and free, ad-based options.
 
“This is a platform that’s owned by artists,” Jay Z said in an interview to the New York Times. “We are treating these people that really care about the music with the utmost respect.”
 
The argument over artist compensation and music streaming has been a large point of contention. It was one of the reasons one of the music industry’s most popular artists, Taylor Swift, said she pulled her music from Spotify in November. Swift’s catalogue (with the exception of her latest smash album “1989”) has been streaming on TIDAL since Tuesday morning.

HWL reaches agreement with Telefónica to acquire O2 UK

peoples phone three logo

£9.25bn deal will create the number 1 mobile operator in the UK with the financial strength to drive competition.

(25 March 2015, Hong Kong) – Hutchison Whampoa Limited (HWL), parent company of UK telecom operator Three, has entered into an agreement with Telefónica to buy its UK subsidiary, O2 UK, for £9.25 billion (approximately HK$106.75 billion) which will be paid at closing, and deferred upside interest sharing payments of up to a further £1 billion (approximately HK$11.54 billion) in the aggregate payable after the cumulative cash flow of the combined businesses of Three and O2 UK has reached an agreed threshold. The timing and amounts of these payments will depend on the actual cash flow positions of the combined businesses.

The acquisition of O2 UK will create the number 1 mobile operator in the UK with almost 33 million customers and the deal is expected to generate significant synergy potential. This combination will provide our business with the scale and financial strength necessary to be an even more effective and aggressive competitor in the rapidly evolving UK telecommunications sector. The combined business will have a much stronger ability to compete and businesses and consumers alike will benefit from the combined networks which will deliver better network coverage and quality of service.

Commenting on the deal Canning Fok, Group Managing Director of HWL, said: “We are proud of the business built up by Three in the UK. It is a market leader in mobile data and customers benefit from a superior high speed mobile data network. The signature of definitive agreements with Telefónica today is a major milestone.  Completion of the transaction is expected in 2016 as it is of course subject to conditions, including most importantly, satisfactory approvals from competition regulators. The combination of Three UK and O2 UK will create a business with unmatched scale and strength that will allow us to better compete against other operators in the marketplace and will also enable us to provide even better service and innovation to UK customers in a market that will remain fully competitive. This very significant investment for Hutchison also reflects our continued confidence in the UK economy and its commitment to maintain and foster a dynamic telecommunications sector.”

Commenting on the deal David Dyson, CEO of Three said: “Three’s leadership in mobile data together with O2’s strength on network coverage is a great combination that will bring very real benefits to businesses and consumers throughout the UK. The highly complementary network assets will deliver market leading coverage and capacity for talk, text and data and will be well placed to satisfy rapidly growing demand.”

The completion of this transaction remains subject to EU competition approval.


BT fined over text relay

peoples phone ofcom logo

Ofcom has today fined BT £800,000 for failing to provide an improved text-to-voice service for its customers with hearing or speech impairments between April and September last year.
 
The service, called ‘Next Generation Text Service’, helps users have more natural conversations using speech as well as text, and is accessible on devices such as PCs, laptops, tablets and smartphones.
 
In October 2012, Ofcom told all UK landline and mobile phone providers to launch their service by 18 April 2014. BT missed the deadline having encountered technical problems with the sound quality of emergency calls. It launched Next Generation Text on 24 September 20141.
 
In June 2014, Ofcom opened an investigation into why the improved text relay service was not available as required from April. BT said that the delay was a one-off incident, which was caused by problems identified with the sound quality of emergency calls.
 
Ofcom acknowledges that the emergency calls problem became apparent late on and the level of financial harm to consumers was limited.
 
However, providing an improved text relay service is an important requirement designed to ensure that people with hearing or speech impairments have equivalent access to phone services. BT had 18 months to meet that requirement and did not do so for five months after the deadline for complying.
 
Claudio Pollack, Ofcom’s Consumer and Content Group Director, said: “The size of the penalty imposed on BT reflects the importance of providing an improved text relay service to its customers with hearing and speech impairments. However, BT has invested significantly in launching the new text relay service, which allows users to have conversations more easily and fluently and on new devices. We welcome the fact the service is now operating successfully.”
 
BT must pay the £800,000 financial penalty to Ofcom and it will then be passed on to HM Treasury.
 
Ofcom has published a consumer guide to text relay to help users make the most of the additional benefits offered by the next generation service. BT’s text relay website also provides advice and instructional videos on next generation text relay.

Amazon opens second shop on Alibaba’s Chinese Tmall.com

Amazon, the US online retail giant, has opened another shop on rival Alibaba’s Tmall marketplace in China.
  
Amazon, the US online retail giant, has opened another shop on rival Alibaba’s Tmall marketplace in China.
 
Amazon is offering food, women’s footwear, toys and kitchenware on the platform in an attempt to expand further into the huge Chinese market. It launched a shop for its Kindle e-book reader on Tmall last year and has had an online presence in the country since 2011. Tmall hosts nearly half of all Chinese business-to-consumer transactions.
 
“China’s e-commerce industry is fast-growing and nobody wants to miss it,” said Yang Xiao of e-commerce services provider HC International. “Amazon wants to add an additional distribution channel in China.”
 
Tmall.com acts as a marketplace for online retailers and offers payment processing services for them as well. It does not sell its own products. In 2004, Amazon bought Joyo.com, the Chinese books, music and video retailer, then rebranded the company as Amazon.cn in 2011. But a presence on Tmall gives it a potentially valuable extra channel for reaching Chinese consumers.
 
Other Western retailers, such as Asos, Burberry and Inditex, which owns the Zara chain, have also set up shop on Tmall.
 
“We welcome Amazon to the Alibaba ecosystem and their presence will further broaden the selection of products and elevate the shopping experience for Chinese consumers on Tmall,” an Alibaba spokeswoman said. But in other areas Amazon and Alibaba are arch rivals.
 
This week, the Chinese online retail giant founded by Jack Ma, said it would open a data centre in Silicon Valley, further encroaching on Amazon’s cloud computing business run by Amazon Web Services (AWS). Alibaba’s Aliyun division already competes with AWS in China and plans to offer cloud services to US firms.
 
 

Amazon Prime 30-day trial advert ‘misleading’ says ASA

The Amazon Prime 30-day free trial advertisement was “likely to mislead” customers, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) says. Today’s ruling means the advert must not appear again in “its current form”.
 
The Amazon Prime 30-day free trial advertisement was “likely to mislead” customers, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) says. Today’s ruling means the advert must not appear again in “its current form”.
 
Six customers complained to the ASA over the Amazon trial, saying that it was not clear “that a paid subscription would automatically start” if not cancelled during the free trial. The ASA ruling does not influence current payments or refunds.
 
As well as upholding that complaint, the ASA also ruled that the price of the subscription was not made obvious enough, as it was not in the original advert. A 12-month subscription to Amazon Prime cost £79.
 
Last month many users took to social media to complain about the service. Reports suggested that Amazon Prime added 10 million new subscribers in the last three months of 2014 alone. It was also claimed that Amazon Prime members now represent nearly half of all Amazon customers. It’s not known how many users there are in the UK, but Amazon said it’s “millions”.
 

The complaints to the ASA centred around a letter that was sent to customers with Amazon accounts, which included a plastic card, directing people to Amazon UK. In their defence, Amazon UK’s parent company, Amazon Europe Core Sarl, pointed to some “small text” at the bottom of the letter in the offer terms, which stated: “Paid subscription starts automatically after free trial unless cancelled.”
 
They also said: “During the online registration process customers were again made aware that they would be charged a fee.” The ASA said that the small print was not enough to warn consumers that the trial would end in a paid subscription if not cancelled in time.
 
It was also ruled that the price of the subscription to Amazon Prime was “material information” that should have appeared in the advert. Amazon have been told by the ASA that in future the automatic start of the paid subscription must appear in the main body of the advert. Customers should also be told about the cost.
 

If you want to avoid your free trial being extended to a paid service go to Your Account on Amazon and adjust your membership settings within 30 days of signing up. You can cancel your membership in Your Account at any time. Full refunds are only given if you’ve not used any of the Prime benefits.