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The Consumerist

South Carolina Orders Uber To Cease Operations Until Proper Certificates Are In Place

Fri, 2015-01-16 15:33
(Ken Shelton)

(Ken Shelton)

The list of cities, states and countries that have ordered ride-sharing service Uber to halt operation in their area continues to grow. The latest service issue comes from South Carolina as the state’s Public Service Commission sent the company a directive to cease and desist service immediately.

WLTX-TV reports that the service was ordered to stop operations until it gets proper certification by the state.

Commissioners say Uber must acquire a certificate of public convenience and necessity, which is required by law before any motor vehicle service – including taxis – can start business in the state.

“Consumers benefit from, and deserve choices in, the marketplace,” the commission wrote. “However, those choices must be consistent with state law intended to protect the public.”

Commissioners tell WLTX that Raiser LLC, the wholly owned subsidiary of Uber, is in the process of applying for the certificate.

Uber launched in the Charleston, Columbia, Myrtle Beach and Greenville areas of South Carolina in July.

A spokesperson for the ride-sharing company says the cease and desist order was shocking and Uber plans to fight it.

“Despite working closely with the PSC for the past several months on a permanent solution for Uber in South Carolina, today’s actions are unexpected and not reflective of the progress made thus far,” spokesperson Taylor Bennett tells WLTX. “We will challenge the order and remain committed to providing South Carolinians with greater opportunity and choice.”

This isn’t the first issue Uber has encountered since starting service in the state over the summer.

WLTX reports the City of Columbia announced in August that it would not issue work permits for Uber until it got clarification from the Public Service Commission that Uber could be classified as a passenger carrier.

Uber Ordered to Stop Operating in South Carolina [WLTX]

RadioShack Putting Off Paying Rent For Some Stores In Midst Of Restructuring

Fri, 2015-01-16 15:20

(JeepersMedia)

(JeepersMedia)

After the news that RadioShack is in the midst of preparing to file for bankruptcy soon comes more evidence that the struggling chain is trying to get itself set aright: A new report says RadioShack is saving cash by putting off paying rent.

In an effort to scrape together what cash it has, the Texas-based company, the Wall Street Journal cites people familiar with the matter who say RadioShack has delayed payment on the rents of some of its stores for January amid restructuring efforts.

RadioShack could file for bankruptcy protection as early as next month, as reported earlier, after 11 straight quarters of bleeding money.

The company didn’t comment on the rent delays, and it’s unclear which stores out of its 4,300 North American locations (and that’s aside from dealers and franchisees) are involved or how far the delays reach.

One source said the chain has paid its rent on time, at some locations, at least, and there have reportedly been discussions of Sprint acquiring the leases to some of the stores.

“We plan to come out a smaller and stronger brand from these changes,” a RadioShack leasing representative told a landlord in an email cited by the Wall Street Journal.

RadioShack Delays Some Rent Payments Amid Restructuring [Wall Street Journal]

1800Flowers Sends Grandma Small, Non-Seasonal Christmas Bouquet

Thu, 2015-01-15 23:50

Reader Philip likes to send people flowers, and that includes his grandmother. He used the 1800Flowers.com website to send her a very festive arrangement for Christmas, and she was pleased enough to post it on Facebook. Philip wasn’t pleased, though. What he saw online wasn’t what he had paid for. He tried to get 1800Flowers to explain what went wrong. They gave him a refund, but no explanation.

On the left is what he ordered, and on the right is what his grandmother received. He also wasn’t pleased with the card, which he thinks looks like it was scrawled by a child in elementary school.

1800flowersreality

We have to wonder whether dissatisfaction with flower arrangements is a relatively new phenomenon: in 1995, not many Americans had digital cameras on hand or an Internet connection fast enough to transmit digital photos. If you sent someone flowers, you really had no way to know whether they were exactly what you picked out of the florist’s catalog or requested on the phone. Today, someone old enough to have adult grandchildren can snap a photo and instantly share it with everyone she knows using Facebook.

Philip was upset at the utter crappiness of the arrangement, which he paid more than $100 for. Yes, he opted for the most expensive version. Here’s what he saw on the site:

glorious

1800Flowers offered him a refund, which was helpful, but that wasn’t all he wanted. He wanted an explanation for why they sent crappy flowers, and that’s something that 1800Flowers customer service couldn’t offer.

“I send flowers A LOT to friends and family. This is the first time they sent me a photo of what it looked like (they posted it on Facebook) and I was embarrassed,” he told Consumerist. We contacted the company with his concerns. Someone in media relations wrote to Consumerist:

I checked with our Customer Service Team and we were able to resolve the matter with this specific order to the customer’s satisfaction. As we are committed to delivering smiles on behalf of our customers, it is important that we were able to connect with the customer to help in anyway. [sic]

When we checked back with Philip, he said that he wasn’t satisfied. He was quite frowny, in fact. He wondered whether he’ll have to check up on flowers that he sends in the future, just to make sure they’re what he ordered.

Issuing a refund to a customer who complains is one thing, but florists are in the business of selling celebrations and, as that media relations representative put it, “delivering smiles.” Delivering a subpar arrangement makes the sender look bad.

GE To Sell Refrigerator With Built-In Wi-Fi-Enabled Coffeemaker

Thu, 2015-01-15 22:58

(GE)

(GE)

A few years ago, the brilliant appliance designers over at GE and Samsung introduced refrigerators with water dispensers that could carbonate and heat water, right there in the fridge door. This idea didn’t really catch on. Now built-in small appliances are about to become even more specific with GE’s new idea for a thing to install in the refrigerator door: a Keurig single-serve coffee maker.

Our convenient colleagues down the hall at Consumer Reports brought our attention to this new product. No, it’s not the DRM-laden Keurig 2.0 system, but the older single-serve K-Cup system that can also make hot chocolate, iced tea, and soup.

GE claims that this is a feature that customers have actually asked for, especially after they introduced those refrigerators dispensing hot water in 2013. These customers wanted the ability to have the fridge dispense coffee or tea without having to navigate the use of instant coffee or teabags, maybe.

In GE’s press release about this new and exciting product, they quote Keurig’s chief product officer of hot beverage systems. “As an innovator in the personal beverage system industry,” Mark Wood says, because the “personal beverage system industry” is an actual thing, “Keurig is excited to partner with GE and to be the first to offer hot single-cup technology right from a refrigerator.”

The personal beverage system refrigerators will be available in the latter half of 2015, on GE’s refrigerators that have French doors and a freezer drawer on the bottom.

3 Of The Many Times The Big ISPs Have Tried To Have It Both Ways

Thu, 2015-01-15 22:52
(Paul Fidalgo)

(Paul Fidalgo)

With the prospect of new regulations staring them in the face, big ISPs have been taking every possible opportunity to wail about how doomed they will be if anything changes. But every cable and telecom company that has spent 2014 and 2015 vowing that regulation is the worst thing ever has also spent years benefiting from exactly those regulations. Here are just a few examples.

AT&T: We can’t be sued or regulated

AT&T is currently being sued by the FTC. The gist of the lawsuit is that AT&T promised its unlimited-plan customers that they would, in fact, receive unlimited service, but that the company was misleading subscribers by throttling those customers’ data instead. The FTC is the agency that regulates false and misleading advertising and statements to consumers, so they’re the agency doing the suing.

AT&T, however, says that the FTC doesn’t have standing to sue them. Although the FTC Act says: “The Commission is hereby empowered and directed to prevent persons, partnerships, or corporations … from using unfair methods of competition in or affecting commerce and unfair or deceptive acts or practices in or affecting commerce,” there are several categories of businesses exempted from that mandate. Among those categories are banks, meat packers, and “common carriers subject to the Acts to regulate commerce.”

Telephone services are indeed regulated as common carriers, and communications common carriers are regulated under Title II of the Communications Act — FCC territory. Therefore, argues AT&T, the FCC, not the FTC, is the agency that should look into the matter if even there is a matter to be looked into. “[The FTC] asserts in this lawsuit that AT&T’s imposition of [data throttling] was unfair and that its disclosures were inadequate. But whether AT&T’s network management program is ‘unfair’ and whether its disclosures were ‘inadequate’ are issues for the FCC to decide,” AT&T’s filing says.

However, mobile phone data services are not currently considered common carriers. Like home broadband services, they are considered information services, not communications services, and are not subject to Title II common carrier regulation under the FCC.

Of course, one of the big stories of the last year is that data — both mobile and wired — may well become subject to Title II common carrier regulation in the very near future. The FCC is set to vote on a proposal to reclassify broadband, which may include mobile data, as a common carrier on February 26.

If the FCC does pass the proposal, and if mobile data is included, then AT&T will be correct that the FCC, and not the FTC, has standing to investigate the misleading “unlimited” plans. But AT&T has been arguing strenuously for months that their data services are not and should not be subject to common carrier regulation, and has threatened to sue the FCC if the commission moves forward with reclassification.

AT&T: A common carrier when they want to avoid being sued, and emphatically not a common carrier when they want to do the suing.

Verizon: We oppose and love Title II

Verizon: with AT&T, another one of Schrödinger’s common carriers. They, perhaps more than any other of the big ISPs, really hate it when the FCC tries to regulate them.

Verizon is the company that filed the suit that got net neutrality thrown out last year. Verizon was then the first company to threaten legal action again if any part of the new net neutrality proposal involves Title II classification or otherwise displeases them. Whenever there’s a chance for them to say how much they hate regulation, they take full advantage of it.

And all this time, while treating potential Title II status as the end of the world, Verizon has benefited enormously from the public assistance available to telecommunications common carriers, in order to install their wires.

Verizon relies very heavily on a technicality: while the FiOS service you subscribe to that lets you search Google and stream Netflix and upload cat videos is a Title I information service, the actual fiber cables they run under your lawn to plug you in to FiOS are regulated under Title II just like century-old copper phone wires.

A report released in late May looked at how Verizon’s FiOS rollout in New York and New Jersey relies heavily on being able to have it both ways. “It appears this was done for two reasons,” the report concludes. “It gets all of the powers of the utility, including the rights-of-way that are part of the telecommunications utility service, but it also may charge the copper-based POTS [plain old telephone service] utility customers for the development and deployment of FiOS.”

In short, Verizon gets to collect tax subsidies, rights-of-way guarantees, and fees from consumers phone bills under Title II utility regulations, but then gets to turn around and insist that they are not common carriers and that they’ll sue anyone who says they are.

Even Verizon’s own shareholders — those who benefit most when the company gets to make more money — are finding the telecom giant’s positions “inconsistent and contradictory” and are “confused by this ambiguity” that Verizon’s oscillating positions take.

Comcast: We’re buying the competition because we have no competition

Comcast doesn’t want internet service to be regulated under Title II any more than Verizon and AT&T do, but compared to their telecom brethren they’ve been moderately more circumspect with their objections. That’s because they have plenty of other things to be two-faced about, as they push hard to be allowed to buy Time Warner Cable.

Comcast’s greatest hypocrisy this year is not around whether their industry should be regulated as a common carrier or not, but rather around the entire nature and history of that industry.

The biggest claim? Comcast’s oft-repeated mantra that since they and Time Warner Cable do not have any geographic overlap, they are not in competition and therefore should be allowed to merge.

It’s true: there is no geographic overlap. But it’s not due to some fortunate quirk of gee-golly happenstance, as Comcast execs have enjoyed pretending: it was an entirely deliberate move on the part of Comcast and its smaller predecessors.

Back in March, Comcast chief executive Brian Roberts lamented to the New York Times that cable “is a relic of an antiquated model,” and that — oh, too bad, so sad — Comcast never had a chance to go compete in major Time Warner Cable towns like New York and Los Angeles.

But of course they didn’t. Cable has been a system of competition-free local monopolies entirely by design, and extreme industry consolidation has left only a very few players remaining.

The lack of geographic competition is disastrous for consumers, but for Comcast it’s absolutely a feature, not a bug. If consumers actually had any real choices, they wouldn’t be trapped in customer service nightmares or voluntarily putting up with the worst-rated companies in America.

Google To Stop Selling Current Version Of Google Glass On Jan. 19

Thu, 2015-01-15 22:17

google-glassIf you’ve been holding off on purchasing Google Glass you may have waited too long, you don’t have much time left. Google announced plans Thursday to stop selling the product to consumers on January 19 as it prepares for big changes to its wearable-computing project, including new leadership. 

Google announced today that it is moving Glass from the Google X research lab to a stand-alone unit while the company determines the best way to expand the product into the hardware arena.

The new stand-alone unit will report to Tony Fadell, who heads the Nest Labs, the smart-home device company Google acquired last February.

As part of the company’s changes to the division, it will stop selling its initial version of Glass to individuals through its Explorer program after January 19. However, Google will continue to sell the device to companies and developers for work applications.

The company says it has plans to release a new version of Glass sometime this year, but has yet to provide specifics on a date or the new device’s capabilities.

The WSJ reports that the latest changes to Google Glass signify a new strategy that will move away from using large, public tests of hardware prototypes in favor of keeping gadgets secret until they are fully finished products.

Google Glass was first offered to consumers who applied for the $1,500 Explorer Program in April 2013. About a year later it went on sale to the general public.

Sales of the gadget have been relatively small, thanks in part to privacy complaints, technical shortcomings and a lack of obvious uses, the WSJ reports.

Additionally, a number of businesses have either banned or strongly suggested the patrons not use the devices.

Google Makes Changes to Its Glass Project [The Wall Street Journal]

California Chefs Sell Foie Gras Again, Claim Activists Are Sending Death Threats

Thu, 2015-01-15 22:10

(kulinarno)

(kulinarno)

Back in 2012, it became illegal to serve foie gras in the state of California. A law passed eight years earlier went into full effect. Last week, a federal judge overturned the statewide ban, and restaurants can serve foie gras again. A few animal rights activists who find the spread immoral are taking their objections to chefs serving it by making threats against them. Violent threats.

Foie gras means “fatty liver,” and it specifically means the fatty liver of a duck that has been gorging itself far beyond how a goose would normally eat. (There is theoretically a way to make captive geese eat to excess on their own, but the method has flaws and still ends with slaughtering the geese.) The methods used to cram food down the animals’ throats are very controversial, and the Huffington Post reports that chefs who are delighted to be serving the end product again are now the targets of scary phone calls.

“I’m gonna find you; I’m gonna murder you; I’m gonna find where you sleep and shove a pipe down your throat,” one chef paraphrases threats that he has received. Another chef reports receiving similar threats, and one particularly disturbing message threatening to hang him from his ankles and slit his throat without knocking him out first. You know, like slaughtering birds.

Activists have been engaging in normal activism by holding protests outside of restaurants that are serving foie gras, and a demonstration in San Francisco. For their part, PETA doesn’t believe that anyone, let along their own members, is really making any threats against the chefs. “PETA is skeptical of the claim that threats are being made,” the group’s president, Ingrid Newkirk, told the Huffington Post in a statement. “Anyone who’s desperate enough to want to serve up the diseased, fatty livers of tortured birds is certainly not above making up a fat lie.”

The statewide law was overturned because a federal judge ruled that only the U.S. Department of Agriculture can regulate poultry production. People and groups against the creation of more foie gras hope that the state appeals the decision to the next level, the federal circuit court.

California Chefs Face Death Threats For Serving Foie Gras [Huffington Post]

Southwest Fined $1.6M For Lengthy Tarmac Delays

Thu, 2015-01-15 21:34
(Douglas Muth)

(Douglas Muth)

Southwest Airlines is once again feeling the ire of federal regulators, as the Department of Transportation on Thursday imposed a $1.6 million fine against the airline for forcing passengers to stay on planes for hours at Chicago’s Midway airport in January 2014.

The Chicago Tribune reports that the $1.6 million fine is the largest ever civil penalty levied by the DOT under a 2009 rule that prohibits tarmac delays of more than three hours without allowing passengers to get off the aircraft.

DOT officials say that on January 2 and January 3 of last year, 16 Southwest flights experienced lengthy tarmac delays exceeding three hours at Midway.

The holdups occurred when severe weather and a malfunction of Southwest’s crew scheduling systems created a shortage of staff. The shortage particularly affected the carrier’s ramp-crew, which prevented Southwest from being able to clear aircraft from the gates in a timely manner.

“Airline passengers have rights, and the Department’s tarmac delay rules are meant to prevent passengers from being stuck on an aircraft on the ground for hours on end,” Anthony Foxx, U.S. Transportation Secretary, says in a statement. “We have aggressively enforced, and will continue to aggressively enforce, our tarmac delay rule to ensure carriers have adequate resources to minimize passengers’ exposure to lengthy tarmac delays.”

The DOT said it assessed a larger penalty against Southwest because the tarmac delays involved more flights and impacted more passengers than previous cases.

Since the rule took effect, the DOT has issued 17 orders assessing a total of $5.24 million in civil penalties.

The largest previous fine of $1.1 million was handed down to United Airlines for the 2012 delays experienced at Chicago’s other airport, O’Hare.

Thursday’s fine represents the second multimillion penalty Southwest has received from federal regulators in the last six months. Back in July, the Federal Aviation Administration imposed a $12.6 million fine against the airline for alleged improper plane repairs. The FAA filed a lawsuit against the carrier in November for nonpayment of that fine.

Consumerist readers recently selected Southwest as the most likely company to have a turnaround year after a not-so-great 2014. Since this fine involves incidents from last year, we won’t hold it against the airline for 2015.

Southwest hit with record fine for delays [The Chicago Tribune]

Why Dish’s Sling TV Is A Factor In Pending Comcast/Time Warner Cable Merger

Thu, 2015-01-15 21:03

moviesslingLater this month, Dish will finally launch its much-awaited Sling TV streaming service that gives subscribers live online access to a dozen cable channels. And even though Sling has yet to go live, it’s already being factored into the pending mega-merger between Comcast and Time Warner Cable.

Yesterday, the FCC sent Dish a request for information [PDF] as part of its deliberations on the Comcast/TWC deal.

It seeks info from Dish on its programming agreements and documentation of negotiations with A+E Networks, CBS, Comcast, ABC, E.W. Scripps Company, and Turner as they relate to Sling TV.

It’s worth noting that most of these companies are not on Sling. While ABC’s parent company Disney made a deal that includes the Disney Channel, ABC Family, and two ESPN channels, the ABC broadcast network itself is absent from Sling. Disney also owns part of A+E Networks, but none of that company’s cable offerings are currently part of the new streaming service.

No channels from Comcast-owned NBC are available on the service, nor are any from CBS. And though Sling does have HGTV, Food Network, Travel Channel and Cooking Channel from Scripps Networks Interactive, the SNI operation is no longer part of the E.W. Scripps Company which owns many local network affiliate stations around the country.

Dish has been a vocal opponent of the Comcast/TWC merger, arguing that an even-larger Comcast does not benefit the public interest and would harm competition in both the TV and broadband spheres.

The FCC has already heard from Dish, most recently in a 266-page filing that details the satellite company’s opposition to the deal, so why the sudden interest in Sling?

Because Sling, even though it’s currently quite spare, represents a direct challenge to the traditional cable industry model — No contract, no cable box, available on multiple devices, transportable from location to location. At the same time, it relies on the cable industry — as the way in which most consumers get their home broadband — to deliver its product.

So it may not be able to bring Sling to consumers if Comcast, Verizon, AT&T, TWC, et al, do what they did to Netflix, allowing data to bottleneck to the point where subscribers were getting a sub-standard product, or nothing at all. That is, until Netflix paid up for a better connection to these service providers’ networks.

But while Netflix gives consumers something to watch other than cable TV, it doesn’t actually compete directly with cable, in that you can’t watch live broadcasts of House Hunters or SportsCenter on Netflix. Thus, there may be even more of a motive for cable-owned ISPs to do what they can to make the Sling experience as unappealing as possible. And with a combined Comcast/TWC controlling nearly half of the market for high-speed (25Mbps or more) residential broadband in the U.S., it could easily crush Sling if it chose to.

Additionally, Dish/Sling and the cable companies are competing for carriage contracts with the broadcasters. If Comcast acquires TWC and another 10 million customers, it will have even more ability to leverage that audience and keep networks from making deals with Sling, or with the planned Sony live-TV streaming service.

As Re/code’s Amy Schatz points out, the FCC has made similar requests for information from Google, Amazon, Hulu, HBO, Netflix and others. The Commission has also requested data on peering agreements like the ones Netflix recently made to ensure that its streams get to users with minimal interruption.

Do Not Pay This Man To Mail Glitter To Your Enemies

Thu, 2015-01-15 20:59

(Shanna Waller)

(Shanna Waller)

The idea captured the imagination of much of the Internet: a business promising to send an envelope full of glitter through the mail to your enemy or frenemy for only 10 Australian dollars (about $8.22). It’s more whimsical than sending poop, and glitter is more insidious but not really harmful. What could go wrong with this business idea? Excessive popularity, as it turns out.

We don’t need to tell you about the existence of the site, because at least three of your Facebook friends have already posted a news story about it, along with a warning along the lines of, “don’t piss me off lol!!” What you may not know is that the site has closed itself to new orders and put itself up for sale, now serving as a cautionary tale for how quickly an idea can go viral, scaling up beyond what its creator is even capable of imagining.

The site’s apparent creator is a 22-year-old serial entrepreneur in Australia. He would like someone to buy the website, now, or help him fill orders. Please.

ShipYourEnemiesGlitter with 1m visits, 270k social shares, $xx,xxx in sales, tonnes of people wanting to order. 24 hours old. For sale.

— Mathew Carpenter (@matcarpenter) January 14, 2015

“I’ve received Christmas and birthday cards over the years from family and friends who put glitter in the cards,” Glittermaster Mat Carpenter explained in an interview with Slate. “I hated it, and I wanted the rest of the world to feel my pain. So that’s how the website was born.” Anyone who has ever received a glitter-laden card can understand that perfectly.

The site describes glitter as the herpes of craft supplies, which is accurate, but that’s probably why filling the orders is so bothersome. As of yesterday afternoon, pranksters had placed more than 2,000 orders.

Why did it take off? The site’s text is perfect, not over- or under-selling the product and containing a perfect mix of corporate babble and profanity.

ShipYourEnemiesGlitter.com [Official Site]
The Founder of ShipYourEnemiesGlitter.Com Wants the Rest of the World to Feel His Pain [Slate]

Health Officials: This Season’s Flu Vaccine Only 23% Effective

Thu, 2015-01-15 20:47

(catastrophegirl)

(catastrophegirl)

We were warned, and thus it has come to pass: After the Centers for Disease Control announced at the end of last year that this season’s flu vaccine might not do much to prevent people from getting sick, the agency released results today that show shots have only been about 23% effective.

Officials with the CDC say the results of its new study were among the worst it’s had since the government started tracking how well vaccines work a decade ago, reports the Associated Press.

“Commonly, it’s been closer to 60 percent,” Brendan Flannery, an epidemiologist at the CDC’s influenza division said, according to the Washington Post.

This season’s vaccine, however, doesn’t protect against the virus that’s making most people sick, prompting officials to warn consumers earlier in the season.

But it’s still a good idea to get vaccinated instead of not, as the vaccine protects against many strains of flu that could still make you sick: The CDC points out that even a vaccine that’s only 10% effective could prevent an estimated 13,000 hospitalizations in older people over the course of a flu season.

CDC: Flu vaccine only 23 percent effective; didn’t include virus making most people sick [Associated Press]
CDC: Flu vaccine only 23 percent effective this season, but still better than nothing [Washington Post]

Amazon Exec Hopes Agreement With Hachette Ushers In An Era Of Peace With Book Publishers

Thu, 2015-01-15 20:31
(Danny Ngan)

(Danny Ngan)

It wasn’t so long ago that all of the world was transfixed by the drama unfolding between Amazon and book publisher Hachette. Now that the petty fighting and shady scare tactics are in the rearview mirror, executives with Amazon have their fingers crossed for an era of peace.

The Associated Press reports that with a new multiyear agreement in place between the e-retailer and publisher, Amazon now hopes to usher in an era of only goodwill toward the publishing industry.

Speaking at the three-day Digital Book World gathering Russ Grandinetti, senior vice president of Amazon’s Kindle e-book and publishing division, addressed the standoff between the company and publisher by saying such public disputes are rare.

The feud between the two companies began during negotiations last spring when Amazon removed the “buy” buttons and delayed the shipping of some Hachette publications. The retailer’s strong-arm tactics were met with outrage by authors, customers and the publishing community at large.

In November, nearly six months after the feud, Amazon announced it had reached a multiyear deal with Hachette. However, neither party disclosed terms of the agreement.

Grandinetti said Wednesday that the company has moved on by now being “super focused on happy authors” and treating them with the same dedication the company treats customers.

If fact, Grandinetti assured audience members that harsh words and public bickering are a thing of the past for the company.

He said the retailer’s interests and those of the publishing industry are “highly aligned,” creating an atmosphere “focused on growing the business.”

According to the AP, in an attempt to grow its publishing division, Amazon plans to experiment with new business models, such as the recently launched Kindle Unlimited subscription that allows readers to pay $10 a month to access a library of thousands of book title that can be downloaded for free.

“More approaches to publishing I think is pretty healthy: The more competition there is, the more choices there are for authors, the more we figure out what succeeds,” he said. “It’s hard to predict when things emerge that cause you to have to change the business.”

Amazon executive hopes for era of peace with publishers [The Associated Press]

Comcast Customer Says Company Pulled Credit Report Even After He Paid It Not To

Thu, 2015-01-15 19:34

(Xavier J. Peg)

(Xavier J. Peg)

When a Chicago man recently contacted Comcast to set up a new broadband account, he was told the company would have to run a credit check — or he could pay a $50 deposit to waive that requirement. But the customer claims that Comcast went ahead and pulled his credit anyway, which is why he’s now suing the nation’s largest consumer broadband provider.

According to the suit [PDF], filed earlier this week in a U.S. District Court in Illinois, the customer never authorized Comcast to pull his credit report in spite of the waiver.

Additionally, the complaint cites multiple posts in the forums on Comcast.com as evidence that Comcast has repeatedly pulled credit reports for other customers who paid to get around the credit-check requirement.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act generally requires that a consumer must authorize the release of a credit report, though it can be released without explicit authorization in cases where “the transaction consists of a firm offer of credit or insurance.”

The lawsuit claims violations of the FCRA, along with Breach of Contract, and Unjust Enrichment on Comcast’s part. It seeks to define the class of plaintiffs from Comcast customers who paid to not have their credit reports pulled but had them pulled anyway.

Comcast may have a card up its sleeve that could short-circuit this lawsuit. Its consumer agreements include a mandatory arbitration clause that compel customers into binding arbitration and prevent them from joining together in class-action lawsuits.

We contacted Comcast regarding this story, but a rep for the company says it can’t comment on pending litigation.

[via IBtimes.com]

Woman Suing Clothing Company After Tights Failed To Deliver A Happy Ending For Her Feet

Thu, 2015-01-15 19:25

kushyorgWe all want the products we buy to provide a certain sense of satisfaction, but one New York woman is claiming that the makers of tights she bought did not bring her the nearly orgasmic return on her investment she says the company promised in its ads.

According to the lawsuit filed by a Queens woman against Gildan Outerwear’s Kushyfoot Shaping Tights, the company used “deceptive and otherwise improper business practices” in its ad for the product, saying it did not improve her “overall psychological and bodily comfort,” reports Gothamist.

She purchased the brand of tights based on the package’s claims that its zigzag massaging sole would provide comfort beyond other brands, the complaint says.

But alas, relief was not to be found.

“Plaintiff used the Products as directed for approximately a week, but did not observe any tension relief or additional support from the zigzag or massaging soles. As a result of such deceptive language used by the Defendants, Plaintiff expected her feet to feel more comfortable in the Kushyfoot® brand Products than in her regular tights and socks without zigzag or massaging soles. “

The complaint points specifically to an ad for the product that built up the customer’s expectations. Describing the ad that “has been suggestively named ‘Super Satisfied’ and features an attractive and confident young woman walking through a neighborhood in a dramatic and sultry fashion,” the lawsuit calls attention to the orgasmic nature of the commercial.

“As she makes her way through the streets, she moans and utters highly sexually charged phrases to herself, including ‘That’s the spot’ and ‘So good,’ as a song with the lyrics ‘I feel super satisfied, super satisfied” plays in the background to further the sexual angle of the advertisement,’ ” the complain says.

By the end of the ad, she’s attracted an envious horde of women who want to know how she was able to achieve such relief — in her feet, mind you! — just by walking down the street, and “she eagerly tells them, “Oh, it’s Kushyfoot®,” and distributes their Products from her shopping bags to each of the women,” the complaint reads.

The woman claims that she “relied on the commercial and believed in the effectiveness and comfort of the Products. To her disappointment she found that the Purchased Products did not even feel different from her regular socks and tights.”

Had she “known the truth about Defendant’s misrepresentations and omissions, she would not have purchased the premium priced Products but would have purchased less expensive sock, tights and hosiery products,” the complaint adds.

The lawsuit is seeking class-action status and unspecified damages.

Watch the ad in question below:

Queens Woman Sues Tights Company Over Lack Of Orgasms [Gothamist]

Verizon Investors Worried Company’s Anti-Neutrality Stance Could Backfire

Thu, 2015-01-15 18:48

(chrismar)

(chrismar)

Since 2010, when the FCC introduced its first go at net neutrality rules, Verizon has led the charge to gut the regulations. And Big V ultimately succeeded in early 2014, when a federal appeals court ruled that the FCC didn’t have the statutory authority to enact such strict guidelines. And now that the FCC is taking another stab at neutrality, Verizon is once again dangling the threat of legal action, even though it claims the proposed new rules won’t hurt its business. But what may hurt Verizon’s bottom line, say the company’s investors, is its reputation as a neutrality foe.

Earlier this week, Verizon investors from the Nathan Cummings Foundation and Trillium Asset Management LLC, resubmitted a shareholder proposal [PDF] that had previously received approval from 26.4% of investors, representing around $30.6 billion in company shares.

“We believe open Internet policies help drive the economy, encourage innovation and reward investors,” reads the proposal, which criticizes Verizon for being “inconsistent and contradictory” with its position on the issue.

“Company representatives have expressed clear support for ‘paid prioritization’ of Internet content,” continues the proposal. “Verizon wants a ‘two-sided market’ involving payment for Internet service by subscribers and by the companies who want to reach them… Yet in October 2014, Verizon’s corporate web site stated that Verizon ‘has no plans to undertake the hypothetical ‘paid prioritization’ business model.'”

The investors say they are “confused by this ambiguity and troubled by the potential negative impact that paid prioritization could have on innovative technology start-ups, which drive so much economic growth.”

The proposal expresses concern that Verizon’s current policies regarding network management leaves the company exposed to “potential regulatory and legislative risk.”

“There may also be reputational and commercial risk in not providing customers with evidence of open Internet policies that apply to wireless communications and preclude business models based on paid prioritization,” explain the investors, who ask the Verizon Board of Directors to issue a report on “how Verizon is responding to regulatory, competitive, legislative and public pressure to ensure that its network management policies and practices support network neutrality and an Open Internet.”

Verizon is not commenting on the proposal as it’s still pending before the company’s board.

Verizon investors say net neutrality opposition could harm its reputation [Ars Technica]

Shareholders Press Verizon Board on Net Neutrality Stance [OpenMic.com]

How Blackberry’s Official Account Ended Up Tweeting From An iPhone

Thu, 2015-01-15 18:32

(Ninja M.)

(Ninja M.)

On Tuesday, sharp-eyed users of third-party Twitter programs noticed something very telling on Blackberry’s Twitter feed. A Tweet urging users to download the official Twitter app for Blackberry phones had been posted from an iPhone. Yeah, why should the company’s representatives use a Blackberry to make a Twitter post urging customers to tweet from a Blackberry?

If you’re not familiar with Twitter, here’s how this flub happened. When you look at a post on Twitter’s site or through its official apps, information about how the tweet got there isn’t displayed. For example, here’s what the information at the bottom a recent tweet on Consumerist’s account looks like:

consumerberry

The tweet was posted to our account by our blog platform, WordPress, but you wouldn’t know that from looking at it on Twitter’s site.

However, that information is available in the data that Twitter keeps, and some third-party Twitter clients display it for their users. Here’s a screen grab of what the fateful Blackberry tweet looked like from inside one of those programs posted by The Verge:

blackberry.0

The tweet has since been deleted, and Blackberry quite understandably is not keen to talk about what happened here. However, CNET was able to get one key piece of information out of the company: a Blackberry representative confirmed that the fateful iPhone tweeter was working for an outside agency, and not for Blackberry directly. That could be an ad agency or a specialized social media agency.

This gives the company plausible deniability, and explains why the tweeter wouldn’t have a company-issued Blackberry. On the other hand, though, someone who tweets on behalf of brands for a living should know what information will be visible to users. That’s the kind of expertise that companies hire social media agencies for.

We can’t help but remember a similar and more amusing Twitter mistake five years ago from another brand, Chrysler, that occurred when an employee of a social media agency in Detroit thought that they were posting to their personal account, but instead dropped an f-bomb and insulted all of the drivers in the Motor City while logged in as the automaker. Maybe it’s not such a good idea to log in as a client on your personal phone at all.

How did BlackBerry end up tweeting from an iPhone? [CNET]

Passengers Sue United Airlines Claiming Cancellations Led To 28-Hour Delay, Poor Conditions

Thu, 2015-01-15 18:23
(Adam Fagen)

(Adam Fagen)

When planning to catch a flight from Newark to Tel Aviv passengers understand they’re in for a rather long excursion. But when that trip takes several unexpected turns – two cancellations and a pilot who refused to fly – creating a 28-hour delay, it’s fairly reasonable to think travelers would be a little upset. It’s for those reasons that 71 passengers have filed a lawsuit in Israel against United Airlines seeking more than $4,000 in damages per person.

The Jerusalem Post reports that the passengers, 28 of whom are U.S. citizens, filed a lawsuit against the airline seeking more than $303,000 in compensation for what they call a travel nightmare.

The ordeal began back in June, when the passengers reported to their assigned gate at Newark International Airport to hitch a ride to Ben-Gurion Airport.

According to the complaint, flight UA-84, which was scheduled to leave at 4:45 in the afternoon and land at 10:15 a.m. the next morning, was delayed numerous times after customers had already boarded.

“Surprisingly and unexpectedly, the takeoff was delayed time and time again,” the text of the complaint said. “In this manner and despite their mood, about four hours passed from the planned departure time, but in spite of this, the plane did not begin the process of taking off. It is fitting to point out that during this time, the passengers were forced to remain in their seats without anyone coming to talk to them.”

Passengers say that during the four-hour delay flight attendants repeatedly assured them the delay was due to weather conditions.

Still, passengers reported seeing numerous other planes taking off and landing during that time.

Eventually, the flight was canceled and passengers would be reassigned to flight UA-2080, leaving at 9 a.m. the following morning.

At that time, the complaint states, the airline provided each passenger with vouchers for a hotel located about half an hour from the airport and food vouchers worth $7 per person.

Despite receiving the vouchers, several passengers found upon arriving at the hotel that arrangements for the stay had not been made; this led many to return to the airport to sleep on the floor, the Post reports.

When travelers arrived at their gate the next morning, they were told their new flight was now delayed until 12:30 p.m. due to the lack of flight staff.

According to the complaint, at 11:30 a.m. the passengers once again boarded the same plane from the day before, only to be stuck in their seats for another four hours.

At around 3:30 p.m. they were again told the flight was canceled because of a “technical issue” discovered in one of the engines. The airline notified travelers they would have a new flight time of 4:45 p.m. that same day.

“However, here too and to the chagrin of the plaintiffs the same unacceptable ritual was repeated,” the complaint said. “The feet-dragging of the takeoff began, and after several hours in which the plaintiffs again sat in their seats weak, tired and hungry, something seemingly unbelievable occurred, and the plane’s pilot decided abruptly and without explanation that he did not want to fly the plane to Tel Aviv.”

Passengers reported that even though the pilot had voiced his decision not to fly the plane, he refused to leave the cockpit. This resulted in police officers boarding the plane to forcefully remove him.

After finding a replacement for the pilot, the plane was finally allowed to take off at 8:11 p.m., nearly 28 hours after the original flight’s scheduled departure time, the complaint states.

The passengers, who filed the lawsuit at the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Magistrate’s Court, are seeking $801 for each canceled flight and $2,667 for faulty service provisions per person, the Post reports.

A lawyer for the plaintiffs says the lawsuit was filed in Tel Aviv because, unlike U.S. laws, the Israeli Aviation Services Law does not require the passengers to prove damages in order to receive compensation.

The lawyer tells the Post he is confident that the passengers will receive their compensation, as the Israeli Aviation Service Law only provides exemptions for flight companies during “extraordinary circumstances.” And according to the European Court of Justice, which the Israeli law is based on, technical difficulties do not fall under that category.

A spokesperson for United Airlines told the Post they could not comment on the suit.

Tel Aviv-bound United Airlines passengers demand NIS 1.2m. for consecutive canceled flights [The Jerusalem Post]

Car Dealership Workers Demand Pizza Delivery Guy Return His Tip, And The Internet Is Displeased

Thu, 2015-01-15 17:42


Everybody wants to go viral, but for workers at one car dealership in Massachusetts the dream of Internet popularity went totally awry after a video posted online appears to show employees stiffing the pizza delivery guy out of his tip.

First, some background on the situation: Boston.com reports that a video originally titled “irate pizza driver,” that appears to be shot from the vantage point of a camera stationed in a Westport, MA car dealership’s office was first uploaded to YouTube, but has since been deleted.

The title of the video combined with the camera angle and the fact that the video was yanked from YouTube makes one think that the workers at first intended to show how the driver was in the wrong.

Boston.com confirmed with the pizzeria that the transaction took place at the dealership, and a new video has since been posted on LiveLeak showing the testy encounter.

Here’s how it went down:

The driver shows up to deliver the pizzas, which came to a total price of $42 and some odd cents. He received $50 — two $20 bills and two $5 bills, and while this part isn’t in the video, he says he confirmed with the workers that they wouldn’t need change and left, thinking he’d gotten a $7 tip.

Instead, the dealership apparently called his manager and demanded that he hand over the change he’d absconded with.

That’s when the video starts, with the delivery guy asking the very good question of why they’d given him an extra $5 bill in the first place only to have him turn around and waste his resources to return it.

“It just doesn’t make sense why you’d hand me a bill that you were just gonna have me drive back here to give you back anyway,” the driver says in the video. “I’m not mad, I just had to waste my resources coming back here.”

In turn, the office workers lay into him for daring to take the change in the first place.

“So listen: The manager apologized once for you. Do you want him to apologize again for you?” one worker threatens.

“Out the door before I put my foot in your ass,” another says.

“Get the f—ing owner and the manager on the phone, I want that mother-f—er done,” a third man says after the driver leaves. “I want him fired.”

The pizzeria manager did hear from the dealership, with a worker claiming the driver had “verbally berated” them. But he also believed his worker, who explained the situation when asked. He said it wasn’t the first time the pizzeria has had problems with the dealership.

Since the video first hit the Internet, the pizzeria has been getting calls from around the country in support of the driver, with many offering to raise or donate money for him. The manager says now that both the owner of the dealership and his son came by yesterday to apologize in person.

“I was the manager on that night, and today they came and spoke to me, profusely apologized,” the manager says. “We both want to make things right between us. We don’t want any bad blood.”

But when the Internet wants blood, it will have blood — the dealership’s site was struggling to load and workers had stopped picking up calls, with negative reviews flooding in on Yelp and Google yesterday as well.

Westport Car Dealership Messes With Pizza Delivery Guy, Feels Internet’s Wrath [Boston.com]

Wendy’s Reportedly Dropping Soda From Kids’ Meals

Thu, 2015-01-15 17:13

(bluwmongoose)

(bluwmongoose)

More than a year after McDonald’s announced plans to remove sodas from Happy Meals, the folks at Wendy’s have reportedly decided that they should also stop including the sugary drinks in their kids’ meals.

While we’re still waiting for confirmation about this menu change from the fast food chain, the Center for Science in the Public Interest and other groups are reporting that the Ohio-based business is joining McDonald’s, Subway, Chipotle, Arby’s, and Panera on the list of eateries that don’t serve soda with kids’ meals.

If true, Burger King would remain as the only one of the big three burger chains to still include soda (or pop, Coke, cola, fizzy brown stuff) in the meals for junior diners.

“While parents bear most of the responsibility for feeding their children well, restaurant chains also need to do their part,” said CSPI senior nutrition policy counsel Jessica Almy in a statement. “Restaurants should not be setting parents up for a fight by bundling soda with meal options designed for kids.”

According to CSPI, the Wendy’s menu change came about after shareholders from the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility filed a resolution with the company regarding soda in kids’ meals. ICCR subsequently withdrew the resolution after Wendy’s agreed to rethink the inclusion of soda in kids’ meals.

“We applaud Wendy’s for prioritizing children’s health and providing more nutritious beverage options,” said ICCR member Fr. Michael Crosby of the Wisconsin/Iowa/Minnesota Coalition for Responsible Investment. “Beyond the obvious health risks for kids is the reputational risk these unhealthy drinks carry for the company. As their investors, we are pleased to see them address this important concern.”

We’ve sent multiple e-mails to Wendy’s reps asking for confirmation of this menu change but have yet to hear anything back. If we do, we’ll update this story.

Pizzeria Lets Customers Donate Extra Slices To Homeless And Hungry Visitors

Thu, 2015-01-15 16:41

(frankieleon(

(frankieleon)

Back in 2013, we had some misgivings about a message spreading around Facebook that explained the idea of the suspended coffee, and urged people to spread the idea and the idea of donating free coffees to the needy all over the world. Since then, the idea has taken off in some places, including a pizzeria in Philadelphia where customers have bought more than 8,400 slices for homeless and hungry people who stop by.

While the power of a cup of coffee to warm a person up and make them feel human is undeniable, a slice of pizza is both hot and nutritious. (More nutritious than coffee, at least.) A customer who had seen that “suspended coffee” online meme suggested the idea to the owner of Rosa’s Fresh Pizza, and it caught on.

The free slices were tracked in a very simple way at first, with Post-Its on the wall each representing a slices of pizza paid for by a customer, and available to another customer in need. Now that the program has grown to almost 1,000 slices a month, it’s part of the cash register, and remains popular with everyone.

Word spread in the homeless community, and now the walls are covered with thank-you notes from pizza recipients.

Philadelphia Pizza Lovers Pay It Forward One Slice At A Time [NPR]

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