Four British energy suppliers face investigation into claims of misselling

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Four British energy suppliers face investigation into claims of misselling

February 19th, 2019

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem), the regulator of the electricity and gas markets in Great Britain, has launched an investigation into four of the largest British energy suppliers over suspicions that they not be complying with face-to-face and telephone sales regulations. The four organisations facing scrutiny could be fined up to 10% of their annual turnover if it is found that they are breaking sales regulations. Scottish Power, npower, Scottish and Southern Energy and EDF Energy are all to face questioning by the organisation.

Ofgem has urged customers of the four companies to alert the energy regulator, “if they are concerned about the sales approach any domestic suppliers have taken when selling energy contracts, either face-to-face or by telephone,” according to a statement. “As part of the investigation process Ofgem will examine any evidence of non-compliance and consider whether there are grounds for exercising enforcement powers.”

New regulations on sales tactics by energy suppliers were recently introduced, and, Ofgem has said, energy suppliers must be “proactive in preventing misselling to customers both face to face and over the phone. Also, if suppliers are selling contracts face to face they must provide customers with an estimate before any sales are concluded. In most circumstances customers should also receive a comparison of the supplier’s offer with their current deal.” Only one in five consumers consider energy suppliers to be trustworthy, and 61% of people feel intimidated by doorstep sales people from energy companies. According to the organisation Consumer Focus, “complaints have declined since new rules came into effect this year, but suppliers still seem to be flouting the rules. Some customers are still being given misleading quotes and information, which leave them worse off when they switch provider.”

The newspaper The Guardian has reported that “householders are reporting that sales agents working for the energy suppliers are giving them misleading information and quotes which leave them worse off when they switch supplier.” Consumer Focus has said that if energy companies continue to break the rules, they could be banned from doorstep-selling completely. The report goes on to say that “new figures from helpline Consumer Direct show that while the number of complaints has fallen since last year, about 200 cases of mis-selling are being reported each month.” However, Scottish Power said it insists on “the highest standards possible for all of our sales agents”, and npower told the Financial Times that it was “confident that the processes we have in place mean that we comply with our regulatory obligations”. EDF added that it was “fully compliant with all obligations regarding sales of energy contracts”.

According to the regulator, the obligations are serious and must be followed by energy supplies, or they will face “tougher sanctions than those available under more general consumer protection law.” Ofgem has published a guide advising consumers what they should do should an energy salesperson contact them in person of by telephone. Improper sales tactics are still common in the industry—in 2008 an Ofgem investigation found that 48% of gas customers and 42% of electricity customers were worse off after switching supplier on the doorstep. Npower was fined £1.8 million in 2008 by the organisation, and Ofgem insists that they are “committed to taking action” over improper sales activities by energy companies. “Suppliers have existing obligations to detect and prevent misselling and new licence conditions were brought in following our probe to further increase protection for customers,” said Andrew Wright, a Senior Partner of the regulator. “We expect all suppliers to comply with these tougher obligations but if our investigations find otherwise we will take strong action.”

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Head of energy at Consumer Focus, Audrey Gallacher, called the investigation “a welcome step … to address years of customers getting a bad deal on energy prices on their doorstep. While many doorstep sales people will do a good job, the pay and rewards system continues to encourage mis-selling, despite years of regulation and voluntary initiatives. If better advice for customers and enforcement of the tougher rules doesn’t end the flagrant abuse of this form of selling the big question will be whether it should be completely banned.” Christine McGourty, director of Energy UK, which represents the leading gas and electricity companies, said that “the companies involved will collaborate with the Ofgem investigation and are awaiting further details from the regulator. Any sales agent in breach of the code will be struck off the approved energy sales register.” Which? chief executive, Peter Vicary-Smith, has said he considers the situation “shocking”, saying that the investigation “will do nothing to improve consumer trust in energy suppliers. We’re pleased that Ofgem has promised tough measures against any firms guilty of mis-selling. We hope it uses this opportunity to tighten rules around telesales so they are in line with those for face to face sales.”

SNP Westminster Energy spokesperson Mike Weir MP, however, said that the investigation “does nothing to tackle the real problem of fuel prices which leave many Scots facing great difficulty in heating their homes … Rather than tinkering around the edges Ofgem should be looking at how to reduce prices for vulnerable households.” Gareth Kloet, Head of Utilities at Confused.com, one of the UK’s biggest and most popular price comparison services, also welcomed the inquiry. “It is unacceptable for energy companies to mislead customers like this,” he said, adding that Confused.com has previously “urged energy providers to either stop the practice of doorstep selling or make it very clear to households that better deals are available online. There is no reason why door-to-door salesmen can’t show people online deals and even help households switch to them.”

“Our research reveals customers could end up paying £167 more than they need to as door-to-door salesmen are unable to offer the discounts that are applied online. The changes that have been made to date are a welcome addition to safeguard customers; however this review has been much needed for a long time. Hopefully it will mark the end of customers being overcharged and missold,” Kloet continued. “Our message to energy consumers remains the same: they should shop around online to make sure they’re getting the best deal possible and turn these salesmen away.”

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PM reshuffles Cabinet, Pranab Mukherjee is new Indian Foreign minister

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PM reshuffles Cabinet, Pranab Mukherjee is new Indian Foreign minister

February 18th, 2019

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Pranab Mukherjee was appointed the External Affairs Minister while veteran Congressman A K Antony took his place as Defence Minister in a minor expansion-cum-reshuffle of his 29-month-old government by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Kannada actor-turned-politician M H Ambareesh made his debut in the Union Ministry as Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting.

Jay Prakash Narayan Yadav, an RJD leader and a protege of Railway Minister Lalu Prasad, who had to resign last year following allegations of influencing the police in a case of electoral malpractices against his brother, returned to the government, again as Minister of State for Water Resources.

Oscar Fernandes took over Ministry of Labour.

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Chicago Metra considers selling naming rights for train lines, stations

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Chicago Metra considers selling naming rights for train lines, stations

February 18th, 2019

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Chicago’s Metra is currently considering the possibility of selling the naming rights to its train stations, rail lines, and even bridges to generate more revenue. 

The regional rail system for Chicago and its surrounding suburbs has been experiencing revenue shortfalls, along with other public transportation agencies such as the Chicago Transit Authority and Pace. They all rely on sales taxes and fares to fund their services, but the recent recession has reduced sales tax revenues, and unemployment has caused ridership to fall. Compared to 86.8 million trips in 2008, Metra reported that only 82.3 million trips were provided in 2009. As spokeswoman Judy Pardonnet said, “We’re looking at any opportunity to increase non-fare revenue.”

A law approved by former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich in 2008 granted free rides to all seniors regardless of income, adding to the decreasing fare revenues as well. State lawmakers are trying to restrict the free rides to low-income seniors; Metra has not yet commented on the issue, however. 

New designs put on the agency’s website last September has attracted more traffic, and Metra is considering selling advertising space online. In addition, advertising space could be sold on the outside of train cars as well. As for the naming rights to stations and routes, Metra plans to hire a consultant that would figure out the details of such a proposal. Spokesperson Meg Reihle did not know how much money Metra could gain from the sale or which organizations would be interested in buying. 

According to Ms. Reihle, public transit agencies in other cities have sold naming rights as well, such as the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority in Cleveland and Long Island Rail Road in Long Island. TECO Energy sponsors a rail line in Tampa’s Hillsborough Area Regional Transit for US$1 million over ten years. 

Throughout its 26-year history, Metra has named several of its locomotives and renamed two stations: Ogilvie Transportation Center, which was previously named North Western Station, and Millennium Terminal, which was previously called Randolph Street. No transactions were made in renaming those two stations, however. There is also a Station named after the candy maker Mars, but that station was named before Metra took it over, and the company doesn’t pay Metra for any naming rights. 

I think the business community recognizes that transit is positive for their advertising benefit

Execuive Director Phil Pagano sees the proposal as a way for businesses to advertise themselves. “I think the business community recognizes that transit is positive for their advertising benefit,” said Mr. Pagano at a board meeting. In addition to businesses, hospitals located near the train stations could purchase naming rights as well. However, Mr. Pagano has also stated that “the agency would be selective about the type of businesses it partners with.”

Metra has said that it will be sensitive to the wishes of the communities near the stops, and town names will not be removed from station names. Rather, both the municipality and the sponsoring organization would share the naming rights, such as in renaming Naperville Station to “Naperville Boeing Station”. “I’m not sure whether [the old name] is first or second, but definitely it’s going to have to be there,” said Mr. Pagano.

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Category:Music

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Category:Music

February 18th, 2019

This is the category for music. See also the Music Portal.

Refresh this list to see the latest articles.

  • 9 September 2018: US rapper Mac Miller dies at home in Los Angeles
  • 18 August 2018: Singer Aretha Franklin, ‘queen of soul’, dies aged 76
  • 15 May 2018: Netta wins Eurovision Song Contest for Israel
  • 28 March 2018: K-pop band 100%’s lead singer Seo Minwoo dies
  • 9 February 2018: Poet, lyricist, and digital activist John Perry Barlow dies, aged 70
  • 18 January 2018: Irish rock band The Cranberries’ lead singer Dolores O’Riordan dies at 46
  • 13 December 2017: Apple, Inc. confirms acquisition of Shazam
  • 24 October 2017: Five United States ex-presidents raise relief funds at hurricane event
  • 5 October 2017: US rock artist Tom Petty dies at 66
  • 30 July 2017: British dancer and talent show winner Robert Anker dies in car accident aged 27
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Russian territory expands by 4.5 square kilometres after seismic activity

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Russian territory expands by 4.5 square kilometres after seismic activity

February 14th, 2019

Saturday, November 14, 2009

According to scientists, the land territory of Russia has expanded by about 4.5 square kilometres within the last few years in the Far East due to seismic and volcanic activity.

The gained land was recorded in the Sakhalin Peninsula. Boris Levin, head of the Institute for Sea Geology and Geophysics of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said that the increase happened primarily due to two seismic events.

The first, in August of 2007, was when a heavy 6.8 earthquake near the city of Nevelsk in the Far East raised about three square kilometres of seabed above the level of the water. The second was in June of this year, when the Sarychev Peak volcano on the Matua Island erupted. GPS trackers on the Matua island were used to monitor the eruption, and the volcano changed its shape, adding 1.5 square kilometres of land, scientists said.

Geologists also reported that the Kuril Islands nearby were slowly moving towards mainland Russia at an estimated rate of eighteen milimetres per year.

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2012 Olympics clash with Ramadan

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2012 Olympics clash with Ramadan

February 14th, 2019

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Muslim groups from across the world are criticising the organisers of the 2012 Olympics in London after it was revealed that the games will take place over Ramadan. The most holy month in the Muslim calendar, which will take place from the 21 July to 20 August in 2012, involves fasting during daylight hours and will affect an estimated 3,000 athletes.

Joanna Manning Cooper, spokesman for the games said: “We did know about it when we submitted our bid and we have always believed that we could find ways to accommodate it.”Nevertheless, this will come as a huge embarrassment for the organisers who have tried to ensure the event involve all of Britain’s ethnic communities.A quarter of the athletes who took part in the 2004 Athens Olympics were from predominantly Muslim countries and the fast will put any athletes involved at a clear disadvantage.

The chairman of the Islamic Human Rights Commission, Massoud Shadjared said: “This is going to disadvantage the athletes and alienate the Asian communities by saying they don’t matter. It’s not only going to affect the participants, it’s going to affect all the people who want to watch the games.”

The president of the National Olympic Committee of Turkey, Togay Bayalti, said: “This will be difficult for Muslim athletes. They don’t have to observe Ramadan if they are doing sport and travelling but they will have to decide whether it is important to them. “It would be nice for the friendship of the Games if they had chosen a different date.”

The games will run from the 27 July to 12 August to coincide with the British Summer holidays. The summer holidays are a six week period running from mid July to early September. During this time, public transportation is generally less crowded and it will be easier to find the 70,000 volunteers needed to keep the games running. The International Olympics Committee has specified that the games must take place between July 15 to August 31. Giselle Davies, IOC spokesperson said, “We give a window to the five bid cities. The host city selects the dates within that window.”

The organisers are working with the Muslim Council of Great Britain to find ways around the problem.

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Ingrid Newkirk, co-founder of PETA, on animal rights and the film about her life

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Ingrid Newkirk, co-founder of PETA, on animal rights and the film about her life

February 14th, 2019

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Last night HBO premiered I Am An Animal: The Story of Ingrid Newkirk and PETA. Since its inception, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has made headlines and raised eyebrows. They are almost single-handedly responsible for the movement against animal testing and their efforts have raised the suffering animals experience in a broad spectrum of consumer goods production and food processing into a cause célèbre.

PETA first made headlines in the Silver Spring monkeys case, when Alex Pacheco, then a student at George Washington University, volunteered at a lab run by Edward Taub, who was testing neuroplasticity on live monkeys. Taub had cut sensory ganglia that supplied nerves to the monkeys’ fingers, hands, arms, legs; with some of the monkeys, he had severed the entire spinal column. He then tried to force the monkeys to use their limbs by exposing them to persistent electric shock, prolonged physical restraint of an intact arm or leg, and by withholding food. With footage obtained by Pacheco, Taub was convicted of six counts of animal cruelty—largely as a result of the monkeys’ reported living conditions—making them “the most famous lab animals in history,” according to psychiatrist Norman Doidge. Taub’s conviction was later overturned on appeal and the monkeys were eventually euthanized.

PETA was born.

In the subsequent decades they ran the Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty against Europe’s largest animal-testing facility (footage showed staff punching beagle puppies in the face, shouting at them, and simulating sex acts while taking blood samples); against Covance, the United State’s largest importer of primates for laboratory research (evidence was found that they were dissecting monkeys at its Vienna, Virginia laboratory while the animals were still alive); against General Motors for using live animals in crash tests; against L’Oreal for testing cosmetics on animals; against the use of fur for fashion and fur farms; against Smithfield Foods for torturing Butterball turkeys; and against fast food chains, most recently against KFC through the launch of their website kentuckyfriedcruelty.com.

They have launched campaigns and engaged in stunts that are designed for media attention. In 1996, PETA activists famously threw a dead raccoon onto the table of Anna Wintour, the fur supporting editor-in-chief of Vogue, while she was dining at the Four Seasons in New York, and left bloody paw prints and the words “Fur Hag” on the steps of her home. They ran a campaign entitled Holocaust on your Plate that consisted of eight 60-square-foot panels, each juxtaposing images of the Holocaust with images of factory farming. Photographs of concentration camp inmates in wooden bunks were shown next to photographs of caged chickens, and piled bodies of Holocaust victims next to a pile of pig carcasses. In 2003 in Jerusalem, after a donkey was loaded with explosives and blown up in a terrorist attack, Newkirk sent a letter to then-PLO leader Yasser Arafat to keep animals out of the conflict. As the film shows, they also took over Jean-Paul Gaultier‘s Paris boutique and smeared blood on the windows to protest his use of fur in his clothing.

The group’s tactics have been criticized. Co-founder Pacheco, who is no longer with PETA, called them “stupid human tricks.” Some feminists criticize their campaigns featuring the Lettuce Ladies and “I’d Rather Go Naked Than Wear Fur” ads as objectifying women. Of their Holocaust on a Plate campaign, Anti-Defamation League Chairman Abraham Foxman said “The effort by PETA to compare the deliberate systematic murder of millions of Jews to the issue of animal rights is abhorrent.” (Newkirk later issued an apology for any hurt it caused). Perhaps most controversial amongst politicians, the public and even other animal rights organizations is PETA’s refusal to condemn the actions of the Animal Liberation Front, which in January 2005 was named as a terrorist threat by the United States Department of Homeland Security.

David Shankbone attended the pre-release screening of I Am An Animal at HBO’s offices in New York City on November 12, and the following day he sat down with Ingrid Newkirk to discuss her perspectives on PETA, animal rights, her responses to criticism lodged against her and to discuss her on-going life’s work to raise human awareness of animal suffering. Below is her interview.

This exclusive interview features first-hand journalism by a Wikinews reporter. See the collaboration page for more details.

Contents

  • 1 The HBO film about her life
  • 2 PETA, animal rights groups and the Animal Liberation Front
  • 3 Newkirk on humans and other animals
  • 4 Religion and animals
  • 5 Fashion and animals
  • 6 Newkirk on the worst corporate animal abusers
  • 7 Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act
  • 8 Ingrid Newkirk on Ingrid Newkirk
  • 9 External links
  • 10 Sources

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9/11 health care bill passed in US House of Representatives

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9/11 health care bill passed in US House of Representatives

February 13th, 2019

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The United States House of Representatives on Wednesday approved US$7.4 billion to pay for the medical bills of workers sickened or injured by the September 11, 2001 attacks (9/11 attacks) on the World Trade Center in New York City, New York. The bill was passed by a vote of 268–160. Thirteen Republicans joined the Democrats in supporting the bill, while three Democrats opposed the measure. Similar legislation is pending in the US Senate.

“Let’s not have any more people die because of the attacks of 9/11,” said Representative Anthony Weiner, a Democrat from New York.

The bill, which will provide free health care to 9/11 workers, will be paid for by ending tax breaks for foreign corporations, was fiercely debated on the House floor, with Democratic backers of the bill proclaiming that they stood for 9/11 heroes and victims. Republicans against the bill argued that it was an entitlement program for New Yorkers and that it was another example of bloated government. “There is no excuse for this kind of legislation,” argued Texan Republican representative Lamar Smith.

The Republicans offered an alternative that would reduce funding for 9/11 workers and pay for the remainder by cutting parts of a major health care bill passed earlier this year. This measure failed 185–244.

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Wikinews’ overview of the year 2008

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Wikinews’ overview of the year 2008

February 13th, 2019

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Also try the 2008 World News Quiz of the year.

What would you tell your grandchildren about 2008 if they asked you about it in, let’s say, 20 years’ time? If the answer to a quiz question was 2008, what would the question be? The year that markets collapsed, or perhaps the year that Obama became US president? Or the year Heath Ledger died?

Let’s take a look at some of the important stories of 2008. Links to the original Wikinews articles are in all the titles.

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Australian Dollar reaches a 27 year high

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Australian Dollar reaches a 27 year high

February 12th, 2019

Thursday, October 7, 2010

After 27 years, the Australian Dollar has achieved a record high by equating to 98.73 U.S. cents. The previous record was set in 1983, when the currency was floated by foreign exchange markets — since then the last peak that it experienced was in July 2008, when it was worth 98.49 U.S. cents. Local economists believe this is a clear indication that interest rates will rise in the near future.

The Australian Minister for Jobs, Chris Evans, has attributed the spike in the Australian dollar to government stimulus rolled out at the crux of the global financial crisis of the last several years, from which Australia exited relatively unscathed.

The news comes as the Australian Bureau of Statistics released a report stating Australian unemployment was set a 5.1 per cent after additional jobs were gained in previous months. American magazine Forbes magazine recently named Australian businessperson and CEO of Westpac Gail Kelly as the eighth most powerful woman in the world.

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