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T-Mobile was busted and will pay $90 million for cramming behavior

T-Mobile will have to fork over $90 million in refunds, fines and penalties for its longstanding "cramming" behavior, hitting its subscribers with unauthorized charges - and refusing to issue refunds when some subscribers found the charges.

 

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"This is a major settlement that will put tens of millions of dollars back into the pockets of consumers," said Jessica Rich, director of the FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection, in a statement. "This case is about a core principle, that no business should bill a consumer for charges they did not authorize, period."

 

Cramming behavior seems to be quite popular among wireless carriers, and the most common type of cramming is premium Short Messaging Service (PSMS), normally focused on gossip and jokes of the day. AT&T and T-Mobile have already settled cramming cases, while Sprint is just beginning to face its own problems.

Uber puts the brakes on its cars in Portland, but it's only temporary

After the City of Portland sued Uber for not adhering its transportation rules, the company is moving toward somewhat of a solution with Portland.

 

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Uber has since taken its cars off the roads of Portland as of December 21, while officials work around the clock on new regulations. The City of Portland has said that if the new rules aren't set within the next three months, Uber will be allowed back onto the roads, picking customers up once again.

Minecraft creator just purchased a $70 million house in Beverly Hills

Markus "Notch" Persson is spending some of those billions that Microsoft paid for Mojang, buying a $70 million mansion, which just so happened to be the most expensive house in Beverly Hills.

 

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The John Aaroe Group announced the sale, a record $70 million, with the following press release: "Persson's purchase included everything in the house from luxury furnishings to exotic electronics such as the automated 54-foot curved glass door in the living room that opens onto an infinity pool with iPad-controlled fountains and spectacular views. Cases of Dom Perignon were part of the deal."

 

Notch's new digs are pretty damn nice, with the house taking up a massive 23,000 square feet. The $70 million mansion features "vodka and tequila bars, a candy room, an 18-seat tiered screening room, a state-of-the-art kitchen and an exquisite 18-foot onyx dining room table for 24 that includes place settings by Roberto Cavalli at a cost of $3,700 each. Three high-definition 90-inch television screens bring panoramic views of Los Angeles from the roof into the down stairs lounge - especially breathtaking at night, says De Los Reyes. Art pieces include a replica of James Dean's motorcycle and a chromed Ma Deuce machine gun. On a conventional note, the home has eight bedrooms and 15 bathrooms all equipped with Toto Neorest toilets at a price of $5,600 each."

Continue reading 'Minecraft creator just purchased a $70 million house in Beverly Hills' (full post)

BBC details Apple 'failing to protect' workers in Chinese factories

An undercover BBC investigation revealed ongoing poor working conditions of employees inside of factories manufacturing Apple products. At a Pegatron factory manufacturing iPhone 6 smartphones, there were routinely broken guidelines, with workers' hours, dormitories, work meetings, juvenile workers and ID cars being breached in day-to-day operations.

 

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Not surprisingly, Apple "strongly disagreed" with conclusions from the investigations - despite video showing employees falling asleep during 12-hour shifts. One employee worked 18 consecutive days, despite previously asking for a day off. A different worker had to work a 16-hour shift and said that he or she wouldn't want to move, and just wanted to lie down and rest: "I was unable to sleep at night because of the stress."

 

Here is what Apple noted in a statement: "Worker safety and well-being are our top priorities. We set very high standards, conduct rigorous training for managers and workers, and have external auditors regularly visiting our facilities to find areas for improvement."

Continue reading 'BBC details Apple 'failing to protect' workers in Chinese factories' (full post)

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.

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