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Sprint being targeted for billing subscribers bogus charges on bill

Sprint has been accused by US federal regulators of charging its subscribers hundreds of millions of dollars in charges for services they didn't order. Sprint, the No. 3 wireless carrier in the US, reportedly engaged in "cramming," which means they knew third-party companies were charging for text message alerts and other random garbage their customers didn't want.


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"Consumers ended up paying tens of millions of dollars in unauthorized charges, even though many of them had no idea that third parties could even place charges on their bills," said Richard Cordray, director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), in a statement. "As the use of mobile payments grows, we will continue to hold wireless carriers accountable for illegal third-party billing."


Not surprisingly, Sprint disagreed with the CFPB's accusations, saying that it "strongly disagree with (the CFPB's) characterization of our business practices," and wants customers to contact them if they believe they were unfairly charged.

Uber exploring the use of biometrics, lie detectors to screen drivers

With countless people, corporations and governments worried about Uber's screening process for its drivers, the ridesharing company is going much deeper into the screening process according to the company's new Head of Global Safety, Philip Cardenas.


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Cardenas has said that Uber is looking into multiple avenues for screening its drivers, something that involves biometrics, voice fingerprinting, and lie detector tests. Cardenas added that "scientific analysis and technology" will help fill in the blanks that pop up from the usual background check infrastructure across the world.


Uber isn't just adding additional layers of screening for its drivers, as it's also working on a new emergency system that would let you get in contact with your family, and Uber, if you're at risk. The ridesharing giant is also working on bettering its response network, where it hopes to provide "immediate" support if your ride goes awry.

Additional retailers, companies adopting Apple Pay mobile pay system

Major retailers, banks and start-ups are reportedly jumping on the Apple Pay mobile payment bandwagon, according to recent media reports. TD Bank, USAA, Commerce Bank, Barclaycard and SunTrust are financial institutions willing to test Apple Pay, while Staples, Albertsons and Winn-Dixie are retailers also interested.


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"Retailers and payment companies see Apple Pay as the implementation that has the best chance at mass consumer adoption, which has eluded prior attempts," said Patrick Moorhead, president f Moor Insights & Strategies, in a statement to the New York Times. "They believe it will solve many of the problems they had before with electronic payments."


Apple keeps its numbers confidential, but it appears there is growing adoption among iPhone owners - Whole Foods says there have been more than 150,000 Apple Pay transactions in the past three months. Meanwhile, Apple Pay has accounted for 50 percent of McDonald's mobile payment transactions last month.

Continue reading 'Additional retailers, companies adopting Apple Pay mobile pay system' (full post)

AnandTech has been purchased by the same firm who owns Tom's Hardware

Purch, a "leading content and commerce company" has announced it has acquired AnandTech for an undisclosed sum of money. Purch is the company that acquired Tom's Hardware all those years ago. AnandTech will reportedly remain "editorially independent" from the deal.


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AnandTech's current editor-in-chief, Ryan Smith, said "AnandTech has grown by leaps and bounds over the past several years, but we were nearing what's possible as an independent company. The challenge has always been that there are very few players in the publishing space these days who value deep, high-quality content. We wanted a partner that understood our values, had a sound business model to ensure AnandTech's legacy would continue for years to come, and would allow us to grow and expand our readership without compromising the quality that made us who were are today. Purch provides all of these things. I am beyond excited about what we'll be able to do with their support."


Anand Shimpi, who now works for Apple and was the founder of AnandTech in 1997 when he was just 14 years old, said "AnandTech represents much of my life's work over the past 18 years. I am happy to see it end up with a partner committed to taking good care of the brand and its readers. I wouldn't have had it any other way."

Time is the first major publisher to begin accepting bitcoin payments

Time has partnered with Coinbase to begin accepting bitcoin payments for digital and print subscriptions of Fortune, Health, Travel + Leisure and This Old House. This is a major victory for Coinbase and the bitcoin community, as Time's online and print media reaches 130 million consumers every month - and surely some of them own bitcoins.


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"We are always looking for ways to make it easier for consumers to engage with our brands and this pilot program will give bitcoin users a seamless and simple way to purchase subscriptions," said Lynne Biggar, executive vice president of consumer marketing and revenue at Time, in a press statement. "We hope to expand our partnership with Coinbase in the coming months to create more opportunities to provide greater value to our customers."


Bitcoins continue to be extremely volatile, with value fluctuating as many investors question its long-term financial stability. However, that doesn't mean retailers and other businesses have shied away, as they want to accept whatever payment methods its shoppers use.

Xiaomi, the world's third largest smartphone maker made $56m last year

The world's third largest smartphone maker, Xiaomi, made just $56.15 million profit in 2013, from a total of $4.3 billion in revenue. Reuters is reporting that the information they received were from the financial results from Xiaomi, after the Chinese company purchased a 1.3% stake in Midea, a home appliance maker, for $205 million.


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It wasn't long ago that The Wall Street Journal was reporting that Xiaomi's net profit had close to doubled from last year, jumping up 84% to $566 million. The Journal called it "a lucrative business in an industry where most players selling cheap handsets struggle to break even." Even though Xiaomi is the #1 handset manufacturer in China, it is still lagging far behind companies like Samsung and Apple when it comes to revenue and profits.


Apple made around $25.4 billion in revenue during the same period, compared to Xiaomi with just $4.3 billion. Xiaomi has been making flagship handsets at mid-range prices, which is securing itself masses of marketshare, with it being the world's third largest smartphone company in just four years, but is still struggling to compete globally against mega giants like Samsung and Apple.

Major US wireless carriers endure brutal week as stock prices drop

Investors fled from Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint, dumping their stocks on the market, as financial analysts showed concern about the current wireless price wars. It's a great time for consumers to switch wireless carriers and get a killer deal for consumers, but investors are deeply worried about long-term profitability.


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Since mid-November, the four major US wireless carriers lost $45 billion in total market value, according to the Wall Street Journal. The sudden volatility in the stock market stems from Verizon and AT&T feeling pressure from T-Mobile and Sprint, with a fierce war underway. Other reports revealed Sprint dropped a whopping 16 percent, T-Mobile slid 10 percent, AT&T lost five percent and Verizon dropped six percent last week.


To end the current stock volatility, at least one carrier will need to shift focus back on profits instead of cutting prices - or if regulators begin to warm up to the idea of industry mergers.

Volvo cuts back on auto shows, shifts focus to generating online sales

Volvo is shaking up its sales and marketing strategies in 2015, and will turn attention away from glitzy auto shows, so will begin selling vehicles online. The company hopes increased spending on digital advertising will help it increase Web sales of its vehicles. Volvo is undergoing a "massive" effort to revamp its social media offering and main website to begin boosting Web sales.


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"We have been doing what is expected in the car industry so far, and we're going to do things that are unexpected," said Alain Visser, Volvo marketing and sales head, in a statement to Bloomberg. The company wants to "stand out and challenge things," in its effort to promote new vehicles.


Volvo will attend one auto show in North America, one in Europe and one in Asia, instead of trying to spread itself thin by attending dozens - if not hundreds - of shows.

Mobile pay market changing, but consumers willing to wait and see

Smartphones serve a wide ranging number of functions, and companies hope to see consumers embrace mobile payments. As the number of mobile payment services continues to increase, there is great fragmentation among which services retailers accept, while consumers appear to be waiting to see what happens.


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Apple Pay and the Merchant Customer Exchange (MCX) look to have the largest amount of support - and as they battle one another - other rivals will continue to show their wares. However, it's going to be difficult for smartphone owners to find one service, test it, and fall in love with it while there are so many questions that still need to be answered.


Mobile spending in 2019, including online, in-person and person-to-person, will account for just 1 percent of the $16 trillion consumer spending in the United States, according to Forrester Research estimates.

Amazon UK slammed with software bug, sells items for $0.01

There was a very brief error on Amazon UK's site that saw thousands of sales of third-party goods that were sold for just $0.01, with the glitch originating from Amazon Marketplace's Repricer Express between 7-8PM GMT on December 12.


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Amazon issued a statement about the problem to Sky News shortly after the error took place, saying "we are aware that a number of Marketplace sellers listed incorrect prices for a short period of time as a result of the third party software they use to price their items on". The retail giant has announced that most of the orders that were placed, have since been cancelled.


The piece of software in question is a subscription service that monitors Amazon pricing continuously for the lowest price, and then sets sale prices on items that a user sets as something they're after. Up to 60,000 item prices can be changed per hour, with the constant re-pricing there to maintain the lowest prices to give a seller the best change of being in Amazon's prized "More Buying Choices" box.

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