EU accuses Google of search abuse

By Simon Dye - Last updated: Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The European Union has filed a complaint against Google over its alleged anti competitive behaviour.

EU accuses Google of search abuseThe competition commissioner said she had issued a “statement of objections”, stating that the firm’s promotion of its own shopping links amounted to an abuse of its dominance in search.

It follows a five year investigation into the company and marks the start of a formal legal process that could ultimately lead to billions of euros of fines.

Google accounts for more than a 90% of EU based web searches.

The European Commission has investigated the antitrust allegations – made by Microsoft, Tripadvisor, Streetmap and others – since 2010.

Among their complaints was an objection to Google placing adverts from its Shopping service ahead of others’ links in relevant searches.

The EU has objected to the way Google promotes results from its own shopping service

Ms Vestager said the Commission’s preliminary findings supported the claim that Google “systematically” gave prominence to its own ads, which amounted to an abuse of its dominant position in search.

“I’m concerned that Google has artificially boosted its presence in the comparison shopping market with the result that consumers may not necessarily see what’s most relevant for them, or that competitors may not get the the commercial opportunity that their innovative services deserve,” she told a press conference in Brussels.

Ms Vestager said that she was not seeking a wider redesign of Google’s search results or asking it to change its algorithms. But she added that the case could set a precedent that would determine how the EU handled other complaints about Google favouring its own mapping, hotels and flights services.

Many of Google’s rivals welcomed the EU’s action.

“Google’s abuse of dominance distorts European markets, harms consumers, and makes it impossible for Google’s rivals to compete on a level playing field,” said lobbying group Icomp.

“We see this statement of objection as a crucial first step towards ensuring that European consumers have access to vibrant and competitive online markets.”

The EU has also launched a separate investigation into Google’s Android operating system, used by smartphones and tablets, which will focus on three topics:

Google could ultimately face huge fines and be ordered to reshape its business in Europe because of the shopping complaint.

In recent years, the Commission has imposed antitrust penalties on other tech giants, ordering Intel to pay £793 million in 2009, and Microsoft £620 million in 2013.

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Online shopping increases van sales

By Simon Dye - Last updated: Sunday, April 26, 2015

The increase of online shopping has helped van sales in the UK to a record high.

The increase of online shopping has helped van sales in the UK to a record high.The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said a home delivery boom had resulted in almost 100,000 vans being registered in the first three months of 2015 – 22.3% up on that period in 2014.

It said 108,456 commercial vehicles were registered in the quarter- which is the highest number of vans and lorries sold since the trade body began compiling figures in 1987.

Online sales in the UK hit £103 billion last year, according to the IMRG Capgemini e-Retail Sales Index- creating a booming market for home delivery of orders.

Online sales are expected to rise by 12% in 2015 to about £1 in every £4 spent by Britons.

An SMMT spokesperson said: “Van registrations have risen consistently over the past two years, mainly as a result of steadily increasing business confidence and a range of attractive finance deals. The move towards online shopping and home deliveries is an important contributor to this growth – particularly that of large vans.”

Ford accounted for more than a fifth of van sales in the quarter, with the mid-sized Transit Custom the most popular on 12,627 sales.

The Vauxhall Vivaro was in second place on 7,449 sales, with the Volkswagen Transporter third on 5,765 units.

Ford also took sixth place with the long-wheelbase Transit model, which sold 5,276 units, and the small Transit Connect variant in eighth place with 4,096 sales.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “Commercial vehicles are crucial to the functioning of Britain’s economy and these latest figures paint a very encouraging picture. As business confidence grows, demand for the latest vans and trucks is now back to pre-recession levels – outpacing the rest of Europe.”

Commercial vehicle sales mirror the buoyant new car market. Almost 493,000 cars were registered in March – up 6% up on the same month in 2014 and the best monthly figure since August 1998, the SMMT said.

Its figures suggest that there are about 4.4m vans and trucks on British roads, delivering 81% of all goods and shifting almost 3,000 tonnes of goods every minute.

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Amazon shuts paid review websites

By Simon Dye - Last updated: Sunday, April 19, 2015

Amazon is suing four sites that pay people to produce reviews on the retailer’s site.

Amazon is suing four sites that pay people to produce reviews on the retailer's site.The company alleges that the paid opinions “undermine” its review system which customers believe come from unbiased sources.

Amazon is seeking damages from the four sites and wants them to stop producing the reviews.

The four companies named in the legal complaint have not yet responded to Amazon’s allegations.

“While small in number, these reviews threaten to undermine the trust that customers, and the vast majority of sellers and manufacturers, place in Amazon, thereby tarnishing Amazon’s brand,” said the retailer in documents filed to the court in Washington.

As well as subverting the review process, Amazon accused the sites of trademark infringement, and violations of local consumer protection statutes and cybersquatting laws that govern who can own a domain name.

It alleged that the paid reviews were being placed on its site at a slow rate designed to outwit the detection system it ran to spot such content. In its legal papers, Amazon said it verified its allegations by surreptitiously paying one of the services to write reports about products. This resulted in them getting “glowing” reviews, it said.

The legal papers name four review producers that operate via sites called,, and

Since the legal action was filed two of the sites named have gone offline.

Mark Collins, who runs the Buy Amazon Reviews site, defended his business in an interview with The Seattle Times. He said the site did not provide “fake” reviews but provided “unbiased and honest” opinions about products.

The sites pay between $19-$22 (£13-£15) for each review which typically result in products getting a four or five star rating. Higher star ratings can often translate into higher sales.

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Minecraft- good or evil?

By Simon Dye - Last updated: Monday, March 30, 2015

Minecraft the computer game occupies millions of children- in homes as well as classrooms.

Minecraft the computer game occupies millions of children- in homes as well as classrooms. Minecraft is “digital Lego” – a computer game in which you build things using cubic blocks. But it’s Lego on steroids. You never run out of blocks and they never topple over. You can walk among your own creations, and play online with other people who are in the same world.

Sometimes, monsters come out after dark to try to kill you, which is never pleasant, but compared with games like Grand Theft Auto and Call of Duty, Minecraft is innocent, peaceful, and pretty wholesome.

So why does it drive so many parents to distraction?

Parenting websites are full of worries stories. If not actually playing Minecraft, parents report that their children watch videos of other people playing it.

The statistics are astounding – one group of Minecraft gamers, Yogscast, based in Bristol, is watched for 37 million minutes every day, and they are not the biggest.

The stars of Minecraft, like “Stampy Longnose” are to this generation of children what John Noakes was to mine- except Blue Peter was only on twice a week, whereas Stampy is viewable all day, every day, a permanent uninvited guest in some households.

Developed in Sweden by Markus Persson and his company Mojang – it was officially released in 2011. Mojang has sold 33 million copies of game in different formats- which is why Microsoft bought the company for £1.5 billion in September 2014.

Minecraft’s champions say that it’s very creative and that I should just look at the things kids are making on it.

However, it’s two dimensional, and that children should be exercising more than their mouse fingers. The other side asks why it’s any worse than reading for hours at a time.

However reading allows you to imaginatively inhabit other minds. The opposition implies that this is just the latest moral panic, and that Stone Age elders probably thought the world was going to the dogs when people stopped just staring at the fire and started telling each other stories.

But then there’s the “griefing”. Because Minecraft is a world with private property but no police force, children are, at least on public servers, in a world that philosopher Thomas Hobbes would have recognised – a state of nature where all are at war with all.

“Griefers” are people who deliberately make trouble, destroy property, and then sometimes post videos of their exploits to amuse everyone.

When parents think of online bullying, they probably don’t think of hard earned virtual property being trashed, or their children being digitally mugged.

Minecraft is unstoppable. You might think that at least school provides a few hours of Minecraft free time a day, but the game is coming to classrooms, as education experts enthuse about its ability to engage and capture the imagination of children who are hard to reach through traditional teaching methods. Even the British Museum is getting volunteers to recreate the building and its exhibits in Minecraft.

Worst of all, Lego has brought out its own Minecraft set. What this means for the next generation of engineers brought up in a world where nothing ever falls over, I dare not imagine.

The community of people involved with the game numbers in the tens of millions. Many of those fans are children; among whom it is almost a religion.

Top Minecraft tips:

1. Diamond is the best material for pickaxes because it breaks blocks the fastest and lasts the longest.

2. Players can tame wild wolves by feeding them a few bones, and ocelots with fish.

3. Throwing an enderpearl like a ball allows you to teleport to where it lands.

4. With redstone, you can create complex mechanisms. Some people have even recreated computers.

5. The only blocks in the game which are affected by gravity are sand, gravel, and anvils.

6. Creepers are green creatures which will sneak up behind you and try to blow you up. Skeletons try to shoot you with bows.

7. Cows and sheep can be bred by feeding them wheat, pigs with carrots and chickens with seeds.

8. You can play music to nearby players with a music disc, which are created when a skeleton shoots a creeper.

9. A trapped chest will give off a redstone signal when opened, meaning you can create all sorts of traps to fool your friends.

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Budget gives extra funds for UK digital research

By Simon Dye - Last updated: Thursday, March 19, 2015

UK research into digital cash could get a £10 million boost from government according to a statement in the budget yesterday.

Budget gives extra funds for UK digital researchThe plan to invest cash into the “opportunities and challenges” of digital currencies such as bitcoin were announced by George Osborne. It was one of several technology-related policies unveiled in the Chancellor’s speech.

Others include money to improve mobile networks and a pledge to bring superfast broadband to remote areas more quickly.

The funds will increase the money the government already puts into research into digital currencies, it said in a statement. It is also planning a new research initiative overseen by the UK’s research councils, the Digital Catapult tech accelerator and the Turing Institute.

The Turing Institute was announced in the 2014 budget and once up and running, will be an R&D centre specialising in ways to collect, organise and analyse large data sets.

Alongside the spending will go changes to the way digital currencies are policed in the UK. The Chancellor announced plans to apply anti-money laundering regulations to the UK markets where digital cash is traded and to look at ways to protect consumers who buy and sell them.

The budget also contained a pledge to put about £140 million in research cash towards smart cities, driverless cars and the internet of things.

Mr Osborne also announced ways to improve UK broadband speeds. The Chancellor unveiled an “ambition” to ensure that “ultrafast broadband of at least 100 megabits per second should be available to nearly all UK premises”.

In addition, the government plans to boost online speeds by changing the terms of the Universal Service Obligation (USO) that sets out the minimum telecom service every home should expect to get. The basic speed that homes should get will be raised from dial-up to 5 megabits per second, said the Chancellor.

The budget also promised a new £4 million fund to help video games start-ps and a further £4 million for a skills investment fund to boost the training available to people already working in the sector.

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Did GCHQ spy on you- how to check

By Simon Dye - Last updated: Monday, February 16, 2015

A recent UK tribunal that GCHQ illegally spied on UK citizens means that you can now try and find out if they spied on you.

A recent UK tribunal that GCHQ illegally spied on us means that we can now try and find out if they spied on you.

The Tribunal’s decision was the first time that the court ruled against the intelligence agencies since it was established in 2000.

It found that GCHQ collected data from the NSA’s Prism and Upstream programmes was unlawful, because the rules governing the collection were kept secret.

According to documents disclosed by Edward Snowden, those programmes spied “by default”, meaning that millions of people could have had information taken by GCHQ.

“The public have a right to know if they were illegally spied on, and GCHQ must come clean on whose records they hold that they should never have had in the first place,” said Eric King, deputy director of Privacy International. “There are few chances that people have to directly challenge the seemingly unrestrained surveillance state, but individuals now have a historic opportunity finally hold GCHQ accountable for their unlawful actions.”

You can sign up through Privacy International’s website at did GCHQ spy on you- how to check by giving personal details that will then be collated and taken to the court. Privacy International will request that GCHQ “come clean” on the surveillance that it has on those people.

Have you ever made a phone call, sent an email, or, you know, use the internet? Of course you have!

Chances are, at some point over the past decade, your communications were collected by one of NSA’s mass surveillance programs and passed on to Britain’s intelligence agency, GCHQ. But no one could find out if their records were part of those illegally shared… until now!

Thanks to a recent court ruling, anyone in the world — yes, ANYONE, including you — can find out if GCHQ illegally received information about you from the NSA.

So just sign up through Privacy International’s website at did GCHQ spy on you- how to check now!

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Google dominates search traffic

By Simon Dye - Last updated: Friday, January 16, 2015

Google accounts for over 90% of global organic search traffic-according to new research.

Google dominates search traffic

The search engine world will continue to focus heavily on Google this year, based on recent research from Define Media Group.

The consulting firm tracked traffic to 94 sites across various industry verticals between January and November 2014 and found that Google accounted for a whopping 93% of online and mobile web organic search traffic worldwide.

Which leaves Bing and Yahoo to account for just a combined 6% market share.

This dominance was confirmed in separate research by Merkle | RKG who found similar results when looking at the US only.

The search and digital marketing agency reported that in Q3 2014, Google increased its share of organic search visits in the US to 83%. This was at the expense of Bing, which saw its portion fall slightly to 8% whilst Yahoo held steady at around 7%.

Both studies show higher figures than recent analysis by comScore, which put Google’s share of monthly online searches in the US at 67.3%. Microsoft sites accounted for 19.4% and Yahoo sites for 10.0%. comScore looked at desktop searches only.

RKG reported that mobile was fueling overall organic search growth. Between Q3 2013 and Q3 2014, mobile organic search visits rose 45%, compared with just 3% for overall organic.

Google rules here, too, with an 85.6% share of US mobile organic search visits coming from the site, vs. 8.4% for Yahoo and 5.6% for Bing.

StatCounter found almost the exact same results, reporting that 85.6% of total mobile search referrals in the US in Q3 2014 (excluding tablets) came from Google, 9.7% from Yahoo and 4.3% from Bing.

The various researches were collated by emarketer

The conclusions are that if you are looking to increase your website’s traffic, sales and profits you must have a good ranking on Google. So if you make one New Year’s resolution it should be to focus on optimising your website to meet Google’s requirements.

If your need help with optimising my website then please contact us now either by clicking us or ring us 01242 521967:
help my business

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New number spoofing scam warning by fraudsters

By Simon Dye - Last updated: Thursday, October 30, 2014

A new smartphone scam – known as number spoofing – is getting millions of pounds for fraudsters consumers are being warned.
New number spoofing scam warning by fraudstersFinancial Fraud Action UK (FFA UK) said the scam has become increasingly common in recent weeks.

Typically criminals fool people into thinking they are talking to their bank, or the police, on the phone. To help gain the target’s trust, they display a fake number on the phone’s caller ID screen.

They then persuade the victim to hand over details of their bank account, or passwords, or suggest that they move money to keep it safe.

Using those personal details, they then steal money from that person’s account. Frequently it is businesses which are being targeted, as well as some well-off individuals.

“There’s a big surge in criminals using this,” said an FFA UK spokesman.

He said they had seen hundreds of such cases, with some companies losing as much as a million pounds.

When indulging in phone “spoofing”, criminals will often draw attention to the number that is showing on the recipient’s screen. Officials warn people to watch out for such odd behaviour, as it is a big clue that something is wrong.

“Remember that if a caller is trying to draw your attention to the number on your phone display, it’s very unlikely the call is genuine as there is no legitimate reason to point it out,” said Craig Jones of the FFA.

The technology being used has existed for a number of years, but fraudsters have only recently started using it.

“It’s not difficult for the criminals to fake a caller ID,” said Mr Jones.

Earlier this month some of Britain’s High Street banks launched a campaign to warn consumers about the dangers of “vishing” – otherwise known as voice phishing.

That is when fraudsters telephone victims, to try to get them to give out details of their accounts. The campaign listed eight things a bank will never ask its customers to do, including asking for details of PINs or passwords.

They list eight things a bank will never do:

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Bank of England probes payment system crash

By Simon Dye - Last updated: Monday, October 20, 2014

The Bank of England has launched an official probe after a key payment system that transfers billions of pounds between banks was suspended.
Bank of England probes payment system crashThe technical fault affected the CHAPS electronic payment system. The system is used to move large amounts around the financial system.

It is also used by solicitors at the end of the house-buying process, so some movers were stuck for hours because sales could not be completed.

Bank of England governor Mark Carney said he had launched “a thorough, independent review” into the problem. “The review will cover the causes of the incident, the effectiveness of the Bank’s response and the lessons learned for future contingency plans,” the Bank said in a statement.

An institution was added to the Bank’s Real-Time Gross Settlement system, which underpins CHAPS, at the weekend which created a problem when it was supposed to restart on Monday. It normally operates between 0600 and 1600 on weekdays.

The system was down until about 1600 but a statement suggested all payments should now be processed by the end of the day.

“To help customers and to ensure payments can be processed today CHAPS is extending its operating times until 1940 BST. Customers are advised to contact their own bank for any queries they may have on their specific payments,” said a CHAPS statement.

There are about 5,000 homes bought a day in the UK on average, although Friday is the most popular moving day. About 3,000 completions were expected during the day.

The CHAPS system moves billions of pounds every day between Britain’s main banks and building societies. The latest figures show that in 2013 it was used to process an average daily total of 138,000 payments with a combined value of £277 billion.

It is used to move money around the financial system, mainly for very high-value payments. It is used for short-term lending between financial institutions, foreign exchange and derivative-related payments. In 2012-13 the average payment was £2.1 million, but 78% of payments were below £100,000.

The highest ever settlement figure in one day was for £446 billion on 28 September, 2007, during the early part of the financial crisis.

Sometimes it is used by individuals who, for example, want to buy a high value car and need to make a same day, guaranteed payment. There is a charge of about £25 or £30 for an individual who wants to use the system, and the payment generally needs to be made by 1500.

Jonathan Smithers, vice president of the Law Society, said: “It is critical for solicitors to have access to this system for house sales and purchases and many other commercial transactions that rely on a payments scheme that processes and settles important and time-dependent payments in sterling.

“We are talking to the relevant bodies to see if we can obtain some understanding of why the system has failed and assurances that this will not occur again.”

Andrew Tyrie, chairman of the Commons Treasury Committee, said: “A crucial part of the UK’s financial infrastructure failed for several hours. I will be writing to the Bank of England to find out why.

“The whole economy depends on a reliable payment system. We need to have confidence that the cause has been found and addressed.”

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Google v Amazon- rivalry grows

By Simon Dye - Last updated: Friday, October 17, 2014

Google chairman Eric Schmidt has said the firm’s biggest rival in online search is Amazon.
Google v Amazon- rivalry growsMr Schmidt fought back at claims that Google enjoyed unrivalled dominance of the online search market.

“Many people think our main competition is Bing or Yahoo. But, really, our biggest search competitor is Amazon,” he said in a speech in Berlin.

Google is in the middle of a European Union probe into its search engine after anti-trust complaints.

In February, it avoided paying what could have resulted in billions in fines when it agreed to give equal standing to rival services such as Microsoft in its search results.

But Mr Schmidt pointed out that competition in the online world “isn’t always like-for-like”.

“People don’t think of Amazon as search, but if you are looking for something to buy, you are more often than not looking for it on Amazon,” he said. “They are obviously more focused on the commerce side of the equation, but, at their roots, they are answering users’ questions and searches, just as we are.”

Amazon, the world’s largest online retailer, has been in the news recently for moves beyond its core e-commerce business.

In August, it bought live-streaming gaming network Twitch Interactive for about £603 million, marking the biggest acquisition in its 20 year history. Google was earlier reported to be in talks to buy Twitch.

However, even though Google holds the dominant position – accounting for more than 90% of the online search market – Mr Schmidt said he was still wary of the “next Google”.

“Someone, somewhere in a garage is gunning for us. I know, because not long ago we were in that garage. Change comes from where you least expect it,” he added.

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