While The Last One Was A Hoax 123-reg Has Actually Deleted People’s Websites

A few days ago we reported on the fact that a company had apparently deleted itself, news which later turned out to be a hoax as part of a bad marketing scheme. For people who used 123-reg, a website hosting company in the UK, the joke may be on them as the company has actually deleted people’s websites.

123-reg has around 800,000 customers within the UK, hosting around 1.7 million sites, said that similar to the hoax, an error was made during “maintenance”, resulting in data from one of their servers being deleted.

The firm issued a statement saying that the company they were working on “restoring … packages using data recovery tools”, a process that is slow and not always effective, as people noted to the previous hoax. 123-reg has recommended that those with backups of their sites should use them to rebuild their sites, as the company itself didn’t have backups of the customers sites.

While the fault is reported to have only affected “67 out of 115,000” servers, it was caused by an automated script. An audit of 123-reg’s scripts is now being conducted and any deletion will now require human approval in the future, something that I’m sure the many companies that have lost business because of this blunder are less than comforted by.

Tesla Can Sell Direct-To-Consumers With Indiana Bill Amendment

Tesla is probably the world’s most known electric cars, with everything from everyday vehicles to supercars, all powered by electricity without a drop of petrol in their engines. Tesla is unique though in that they sell directly to customers, skipping out middlemen and offering its models and services without any additional costs. This very practice is the backbone of Tesla’s sales, and it has received criticism in some states in the U.S. where dealers have been less than pleased with the model. In a recent battle with the state of Indiana, Tesla once again comes out on top as they can continue to sell direct-to-consumers.

The recent battle focuses on an amendment to a bill that would make it illegal for any manufacturers to sell cars directly to a consumer, an amendment which has now been removed from the bill in question. Tesla stated that rival company GM, who released an elective vehicle that would complete with the Model 3, pushed the bill through the state legislature, a move that would have effectively crippled Tesla’s current model for selling its cars. A spokesman for GM even stated that they supported the amendment and that “All industry participants should operate under the same rules and requirements on fundamental issues that govern how we sell, service, and market our products”.

Tesla is obviously happy about the removal of the amendment saying that their store at Keystone will “remain open indefinitely”. While happy, you have to argue, who does it benefit other than the resellers and dealers when a company can’t provide you with the equipment directly?

Wetherspoons Reveals Extent Of Hack

From phone calls made to and from prisons, to the details of thousands of children and their parents, hacks seem to be everywhere and are affecting everyone these days. The latest one to reveal they’ve been hacked is  JD Wetherspoons, the popular pub chain.

Revealing that its old website was hacked between the 15th and 17th of June, but only learning about the attack on the 1st of December, Wetherspoons called in security specialists before informing customers on the 3rd of December. Yet again the hack seems to have revealed a database containing numerous customer details, currently put at around 656,723 customers.

The details included in the database were the first name, surname, date of birth and contact details such as mobile phone numbers and email addresses.

If you purchased a voucher before August 2014, the last four digits of your credit or debit card could have been accessed, although they are keen to express that no other details, such as security codes or the remainder of your card details, were exposed.

Don’t pay by card? How about not using your card when you go to Wetherspoons? This doesn’t affect me? Did you sign up for their free wifi, or maybe even used the Contact us form? If you did then your data could be included in that which was revealed.

Amongst TalkTalk, Vodafone and VTech, more and more companies are finding their systems breached. Maybe now is a good time to avoid handing out any details to any company or person.

TalkTalk Boss Argues ‘Customers Think We’re Doing Right Thing After Attack’

The TalkTalk cyberattack raised serious security questions about the company’s ability to properly encrypt sensitive customer information. Despite the negative publicity and widespread outrage, TalkTalk chief executive Dido Harding claims the:

 “majority of customers support our approach”. 

She also eluded that: 

“Very early indications that customers think that we’re doing the right thing”.

“The cyber attack, while not wishing to diminish it, has been smaller than we thought,”

However, the response on Twitter is quite hostile and clearly shows how frustrated customers are:

https://twitter.com/HarringtonC0/status/664130728263839744

To be fair, Twitter isn’t the most accurate basis of judging mass opinion and usually revolves around the angry minority. However, in this case, I think TalkTalk’s arrogant management really is underestimating the scale of this problem and how damaging it’s been from a PR perspective. Harding weighed in on the company’s future and said the ISP is:

 “very confident in the medium term future of TalkTalk”.

“Yesterday’s security might have been good enough but it’s not going to be good enough tomorrow,”

“I expect we will take security considerably more seriously than ever.”

I honestly think customers are struggling to take these promises seriously and there’s a great deal of apprehension regarding network security. The company claims many people decided not to cancel their contract. Although, this might be because leaving their current contract leads to hefty fines. Additionally, a large quantity of TalkTalk’s audience doesn’t feel comfortable switching providers and needs to assistance of someone technically minded. Whatever the case, the cyberattack has dramatically altered people’s perceptions towards TalkTalk and I can’t see that changing anytime soon.

AT&T Says NO to the FCC’s $100 Million Throttling Fine

If you read about it, AT&T just got fined last month for allegedly throttling customers with ‘unlimited’ data plan. To sum it up, the FCC saw that AT&T had been “severely” slowing down users while not telling those users about the caps placed on their speed. So, they decided to fine them with a staggering $100 million.

If you think the FCC is asking for a lot of money, they apparently aren’t. According to them, they first decided to fine AT&T with up to $16,000 per violation for millions of violations, but the figures were so ridiculously high that they went with the latter sum instead. Even so, AT&T now thinks that they did nothing wrong.

“The Commission’s findings that consumers and competition were harmed are devoid of factual support and wholly implausible,” AT&T wrote in a response to the FCC. “Its ‘moderate’ forfeiture penalty of $100 million is plucked out of thin air, and the injunctive sanctions it proposes are beyond the Commission’s authority.”

AT&T now states that the FCC is infringing their First Amendment right by demanding the company to tell customers of their FCC rule violation. But let’s face it, when you say ‘unlimited’, you don’t really mention about network slowdowns. Another interesting thing is that AT&T recently changed their policy for throttling LTE users after they pass 5GB of data. This means that unlimited data LTE users now get throttled during the time when the network is highly congested. Previously, unlimited data LTE customers used to get throttled for the rest of the month after passing 5GB of download. But despite AT&T’s attempts to convince the FCC it did nothing wrong, they are also facing a court order from the commission, which aims to bring millions of dollars of refunds to consumers.

In my opinion, throttling customer speeds, either on mobile data or the fiber optic speed you ‘get’ at home is not an option. I know a lot of internet providers face huge amounts of network congestion, but is that our or the network’s fault? I think mobile and ISP providers should focus on spending that money on upgrading their networks to handle more connections instead of keeping the speed throttling habit. What do you think?

Thank you Arstechnica for providing us with this information

Amazon Accused of Spying on Users’ Social Media Profiles

If you purchased from Amazon before, you know that reviews are important to get the right customer feedback from others who had bought the same product in the past. This is a great way of knowing that your money is going towards something that deserves the price tag it comes with. However, Amazon needs to sweep through all these reviews and take down illegitimate reviews. But how do they do it? One writer appears to know the hard truth.

Imy Santiago bought a book from Amazon a while back. She apparently loved it so much that she wanted to post a good review about it on Amazon to congratulating the author and let others know a consumer’s opinion about the book. However, she was greeted with an unexpected email rather than having her review posted on the website. The email was as follows:

Dear Amazon Customer,

Thanks for submitting a customer review on Amazon. Your review could not be posted to the website in its current form. While we appreciate your time and comments, reviews must adhere to the following guidelines:
http://www.amazon.com/review-guidelines

She went back and read her review and also took a close look at the retailer’s guidelines, to which she saw nothing wrong in what she wrote. So she went on and emailed their customer service team to get a better answer. Their reply was as follows:

Hello,

We cannot post your Customer Review for (book title deleted) by (author name deleted) to the Amazon website because your account activity indicates that you know the author. 

Customer Reviews are meant to give customers unbiased product feedback from fellow shoppers. Because our goal is to provide Customer Reviews that help customers make informed purchase decisions, any reviews that could be viewed as advertising, promotional, or misleading will not be posted. To learn more about this policy, please review our Customer Review Guidelines (http://amazon.com/help/customer-reviews-guidelines) and FAQs (http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html/?nodeId=201077870).  

We encourage family and friends to share their enthusiasm for the book through our Customer Discussions feature or Editorial Reviews feature. To start a Customer Discussion visit the Meet Our Authors forum and enter your discussion title in the Start a new discussion box. You’ll find the forum here: 
http://www.amazon.com/forum/meet%20our%20authors/&cdForum=Fx2UYC1FC06SU8S

To have your Editorial Review posted to the detail page, e-mail it directly to the author so they can add it for you. 

If you believe you’re eligible to write a Customer Review for this book, send additional details to review-appeals@amazon.com

We hope to see you again soon.

Best regards,

Harm J,

At this point, Santiago wrote an email explaining that knowing an author online is not the same thing as knowing an author personally. We all have fan pages we like, authors or other public figures we add as friends, but having a website as Amazon snooping around users’ social media websites and judging by profiles is surely not a way to make sure reviewers are ‘legitimate’. Amazon also did not reveal how they ‘determine’ how accounts are related and are not able to share ‘further information’ about what made them deny a good review.

Santiago may have crossed paths with the author, may it be online or even in person at an expo for example, but Amazon’s decision to deny sharing information on how they determine this is quite unsettling. I mean, if not even the customer knows how companies find out two people are related and are not provided with an explanation, then there’s clearly a privacy violation in the middle of it. What do you think?

Thank you BGR for providing us with this information

Bowser the New VP of Sales for Nintendo?

Ironically, it’s true! Mario creators actually hired someone who bears the name of the Mushroom Kingdom’s villain. However, don’t expect him to be a turtle with spikes on his back!

Nintendo hired Doug Bowser to be the Vice President leading the United States sales organisation in charge with Sales, In-store Merchandising, Retail Strategy and Retail Marketing. In addition, Bowser (can’t stop thinking about him now and I’m sure you can agree with me) will manage Nintendo’s retail customer relationships and oversea retail marketing for Nintendo World store in new York.

Ok we now know what Bowser will do for the company, as described above, but why Nintendo, why? Bowser, really? I mean, who on this earth who actually played Mario won’t associate the name with the real Bowser character? I bet he will get more than he asked for at work too.

This may seem strange, but it could boost Nintendo’s popularity by having the company hiring people who bear the name of characters found in their titles. Now all they are missing is an Italian janitor by the name of Mario to clean their offices, and they are set! So how do you feel after knowing Bowser is now Nintendo’s VP of sales?

Thank you Business Wire for providing us with this information
Image courtesy of Fantendo

RadioShack Plans to Sell Customer Data

Radioshack is planning to sell its customer data, even with opposition from multiple US states. The bankrupt company is looking to recoup some money and has asked a bankruptcy court for permission to sell some assest, part of which are customer data.

The state of Texas is taking the lead from the opposing states, and they have found that the sale could involve as many as 117 million customers. Though contrary to this RadioShack has stated that the customer files offered for sale may be reduced to approximately 67 million. The problem is that this data contains personally identifiable information and this is what the states have a problem with. Texas is seeking with the courts to ensure that Radioshack will have to disclose what that information includes; basic information or extended information like credit card numbers or account history.

It seems that they are keen on keeping the information allowed to be sold to a minimum if they can help it. Unfortunately, we do not see that many companies upholding good moral values when it comes to making a buck and selling customer information has become a standard practice. Do you believe that companies should be allowed to sell its user data?  If so what do you think it should only cover?

Thank you PC World for providing us with this information

Images courtesy of Wikipedia

Apple Expects to Sell 1 Million Watches During Opening Weekend, 8 Million in its First Year

Gene Munster, an analyst from Piper Jaffray, has stated in his recent research that Apple Watch sales could reach over one million units in the opening weekend. The unit buyers are said to be all from pre-orders and launch sales and does not include customers who are just arriving at Apple Stores and buying the gadget after its release.

Therefore, the sales figure estimate is expected to be much higher than previously anticipated, having Muster’s numbers for his predictions coming from loyal customers who are keen to get their hands on a Watch on April 10th. He also is said to expect Apple to sell about 300,000 units in the first 24 hours, having it be a 6% attach rate on iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus pre-orders.

Muster is said to even predict that Apple is going to sell 8 million units during the first year, adding a $4.4 billion revenue to the company. Given the prediction, 40 to 50 million units should be sold by 2017, accounting for 10% of Apple’s revenue for the first year. This will also indicate that about 8-10% of iPhone users will be wearing a watch in the future.

Thank you TweakTown for providing us with this information

Valve Got an ‘F’ for Its Customer Service

Valve, the world’s biggest PC gaming service, apparently was given an ‘F’ for its Customer Service by the Better Business Bureau, while other gaming companies mostly have received an ‘A’.

According to BBB, people have filed 717 complaints about Valve and Valve-related products, 502 of which they have failed to respond to. The majority of complaints come from problems with either a product or service, having BBB stating that Valve “has failed to resolve underlying cause(s) of a pattern of complaints.”

“On June 25, 2013, BBB recognized a pattern of complaints from consumers regarding product, service and customer service issues. Consumers allege the games they purchase from Valve Corporation or Steam malfunction, do not work or have an invalid CD key. Consumers also claim the company blocks users from accessing their library of games. Consumers further allege they attempt to contact the company for assistance, but Valve Corporation fails to correct the gaming issues, does not correct credit card charges or issue a refund, or does not respond at all.”

“On July 1, 2013, BBB notified the company of the complaint pattern. To date, the company has not responded to BBB’s request to address the pattern.”

BBB has stated that they review the companies once every six months to see if there are any improvements, which is not the case in Valve’s situation from their point of view. However, to be noted is the fact that BBB is not a government agency, nor does it have any sort of regulatory power. The company is a national network of non-profit groups who seek to improve businesses.

Valve’s development authority, Erik Johnson, stated that the company doesn’t consider BBB as a priority, but users have the right of it. This is why Valve needs to throw away its faulty customer service program and start anew.

“The BBB is a far less useful proxy for customer issues than Reddit,” Johnson began. “We don’t use them for much. They don’t provide us as useful of data as customers emailing us, posting on Reddit, posting on Twitter, and so on.”

“The more important thing is that we don’t feel like our customer service support is where it needs to be right now,” he said. “We think customers are right. When they say our support’s bad, our initial reaction isn’t to say, ‘No, it’s actually good. Look at all of this.’ It’s to say that, no, they’re probably right, because they usually are when it comes to this kind of thing. We hear those complaints, and that’s gonna be a big focus for us throughout the year. We have a lot of work to do there. We have to do better.”

Though Valve is stating it will have a look at improving its customer service, we have yet to see some sort of beta testing or indications of a new or improved service being in the works. Still, it is good to see the company at least acknowledging their weakness and this might even lead to making Valve’s notorious wall of silence a little shallow.

Thank you Kotaku for providing us with this information

PayPal Offering £3 to Spend on Google Play Store in the UK

PayPal seems to be offering £3 as a Coupon Code for customers to spend on Google Play Store. All you have to do is open the promo offer page here, save the offer and have it added to your PayPal account, then go to the Google Play Store and make a purchase using PayPal as the payment method at check out.

“When a participating Eligible Customer pays with PayPal for a purchase on the UK Google Play store during the Promotional Period (“Qualifying Payment”), PayPal shall credit the Eligible Customer’s PayPal account with the amount of the Qualifying Payment up to a maximum of GBP 3.00 per Eligible Customer in total.”

PayPal isn’t known to offer free money out, but this might be your chance to spend some on that application you were so eager to buy for a long time. So if you are an Android user, this might be your chance to get it for free.

Thank you Android Police for providing us with this information

Apple Developing Algorithm System To Speed Up Genius Bar Wait Times

The quality (and the subsequent price) of Apple products means that it’s not that often that owners find themselves needing service. But when they do, the first place most turn to is the Genius Bar, at their local Apple Store. But, as the hilarious Genius Bar Tales Twitter account informs us, it can get quite busy with people asking stupid questions. So if you have a genuine issue, and want to get an appointment in-between all of the teenagers asking why Instagram isn’t working on their iPhone, it can mean quite a wait.

Well, Apple apparently has a solution to that. The ever reliable 9to5Mac reports that the company is developing a new system that will allow people to just turn up to the Apple Store with their issue. They say that a new algorithm system will mean that a customer can simply inform any staff member of their issue and they’ll immediately be given an estimate of how long they have to wait.

The staff members will input the customer’s issue into a custom iPhone, and then a special app will strategically place the customer in a queue based on their complaint. If it’s a simple problem, like being unable to sign into iCloud, they’ll go straight to the front of the queue as it can be fixed and got out-of-the-way quickly. If it’s a complex issue, like a MacBook with a blinking display, they’ll be pushed further down the queue as so more time can be allocated to them. Following this, customers will then receive three text messages – one informing them of the wait time, another telling them to head back to the store, and a third informing them that the ‘Genius’ is ready and waiting.

As Apple apparently deems most Genius Bar visits to be minor and quick to fix issues, the notion of putting those appointments first makes sense.

Source: 9to5Mac

Oculus Support – “This is Steve”

Company image done right – Wednesdays ‘South Park’ episode ensured that all Oculus support tickets on the following day were answered quickly and efficiently by “Steve”.

Steve ensured he took “care of all your customer needs in a timely and satisfactory manner” – providing a humorous and different Easter egg for those who wished to email in with a query. If you’re sitting here rather confused as to exactly what we’re talking about, it’s about time you caught up on some South Park re-runs. You may do so through their official website, or maybe ask your nearest fan.

The responses were first seen around social media, seeing many users post up their varying experiences with Steve. Later confirmed by the Uploadvr team personally, it’s obvious that the team at Oculus understands their audience and consumer base.

We’re seeing more companies adopt this kind of ‘new-age marketing’, seeing positions open up in large scale corporations for dedicated social media operators, community managers and various similar positions. Not only does it provide something that’s actually funny to look at, but gives users the impression that the company ‘gets’ it’s audience – something that’s not often enough seen in this day and age. You wouldn’t hire a Football coach to run a baseball team, so why would you hire an out-of-touch sales rep as your marketing manager?

Back to Oculus however, it seems that this Easter egg was only applicable to their ticket support service – choosing not to budge on their social media platform. As for the episode itself, the main South Park characters saw themselves enter a never-ending customer service loop thanks to “Steve” from the Oculus support team – being unable to escape unless they agree they’ve received “satisfactory customer service”.

GG, WP Oculus. We’re interested to see if there’s similar things planned for the future.

Image courtesy of BGR

Australia Wants To Cut Internet Connection for People Downloading from Torrent Websites

There have been some talks about the high number of pirates in Australia, having the government worried about what to do in response to the piracy activity. Earlier this year, Australia is said to have had the highest number of illegal downloads of Game of Thrones: Season Four.

A leaked document entitled “Online Copyright Infringement Discussion Paper” appears to show some of the government’s future consideration towards piracy. The document is said to point out the main reasons why Australians choose to download content illegally, which are cost and availability. The government however appears to be more keen on enforcing the law instead of addressing the real reason which leads to piracy in the first place.

The document is also said to be discussing the role of the ISPs to place restrictions, such as lowering downloads speeds or blocking internet availability in some cases, on customers who are accessing and downloading content illegally. The ISPs however cannot do anything about it, according to the paper, since if they were to allow their customers access to pirated content without punishing them, it is said that rights holders can then take legal action against the ISPs themselves.

“The Copyright Act would be amended to enable rights holders to apply to a court for an order against ISPs to block access to an internet site operating outside Australia, the dominant purpose of which is to infringe copyright.” the paper states.

Experts say that the options outlined in the paper are too harsh compared to international standards and are not addressing the problem of Australians being unable to access content legally when it is currently available in other markets. They say that the law enforcement underlined in the paper would only give power to copyright owners over consumers, while also having large-ranging impacts on the free and open internet.

Thank you Mashable for providing us with this information

Titanfall Currently Free on Origin for 48 Hours

Steam Summer Sale has started and the craze has begun, drawing gamers and ‘wallets’ alike towards Steam’s Store for opportunities to buy everyone’s favourite game(s) or at least get a great deal for game(s). However, Electronic Arts has something up its sleeve to draw gamers away from Steam’s hypnotizing sale event.

The company has apparently added the Game Time, a feature which allows users to play game titles for a limited period time. Along with its latest addition, EA has made Titanfall free for everyone for a 48 hour timeframe. It is said that once the timer starts, it will start counting down even though you are not playing. Comparing the new promotion offer from EA with Steam, it looks and sounds somewhat similar to Steam’s Free Weekend offer.

“We’re launching Origin Game Time for Titanfall across the world over the next several hours, so if you don’t see it available yet in your territory, you will soon,” Electronic Arts stated on Origin’s blog. “Origin Game Time games will appear on our Free Games page when they’re available to download.”

Electronic Arts has also stated that this is just the beginning of Game Time, having more game titles in mind to add with Game Time. Also, achievements and progress for users who choose to play the 48h version can be carried over should users choose to buy the game at the end of the ‘preview’.

In addition to the new feature, the timing is also interesting, having Electronic Arts release the Game Time at the same time as the Steam Summer Sale. This move is without question an ‘offensive’ towards Steam’s deals and an attempt to ‘steal’ potential Steam clients and draw them towards EA’s Origin platform.

Thank you Eurogamer for providing us with this information