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What’s in the news today?  This is your space to discover and talk about the latest consumer news from Which?’s press office, news site and elsewhere.

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Comments

The government plans to double the bioethanol content of petrol: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-51731757 Bioethanol is produced from plants rather than oil and is seen as producing less carbon dioxide on the basis that carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere growing the plants. Some vehicle manufacturers say that the E10 petrol (containing 10% bioethanol) is not suitable for their engines and the same will apply to many existing engines. The existing E5 petrol (containing 5% bioethanol) has been used for years, though it can cause problems, especially when stored in fuel tanks for an extended period: https://www.rac.co.uk/drive/advice/emissions/what-is-e10-fuel-and-how-could-it-affect-you/

Perhaps it is time to start thinking about whether biofuels are a sensible solution. Most diesel sold in filling stations and red diesel used in agriculture and machinery contains about 7% biodiesel, often referred to as FAME (= fatty acid methyl ester). Use of biodiesel can cause blockage of fuel filters in tractors etc.

wev says:
5 March 2020

A quick read through of the comments, like comment 567, shows there’s concern about the deforestation needed to turn land into crop growing plantations for biofuel

There’s already a lot of deforestation in the world to make space for palm oil crops. How much more is needed for biofuel?

I also see comments about biofuel causing unwanted emisions into the air

Yes. Biofuels might be a poorly thought out solution to a problem, like importing biomass from the US and Canada to burn instead of gas at the Drax power station.

A Which? press release about the risks of carrying on using phones that can no longer accept security updates: https://press.which.co.uk/whichpressreleases/void-android-more-than-one-billion-android-devices-at-risk-of-hacking-attacks/

It makes a great deal of sense to keep washing machines and vacuum cleaners going for as long as possible but it’s taking a risk to use phones, computers and tablets that are unsupported.

For First Direct, we have small keypads called a Digipass to access our bank accounts.
Two days ago, one of them was showing an error code that looked like low battery so we called First Direct.

The duff one had to be cancelled immediately the new one was ordered that could take a ridiculous time to arrive – I can’t remember exactly, but it was several weeks that hubby could be locked out of his account. Why don’t they make these things with rechargeable or replaceable batteries?

What they want you to do is use an app on your phone – for security! We told the operator both our phones were over 4 years old and we didn’t trust them to be secure for financial transactions.

In the end our concerns were logged as a complaint.

The financial institutions must give us alternative ways of handling our finances or make sure our phones are secure. We can’t keep building up mountains of e-waste in this day and age when the good of our planet should come first.

How long before we are asked to compensate fraud victims of unsecure phones?

wavechange, thanks for posting that link.

Further to our recent maths jokes, I enjoyed this line of that report: “Recently out-of-support devices won’t immediately have problems, but without security updates, the risk to the user of being hacked goes up exponentially.” I suppose Andoid users can take comfort that the risk does not increase hyperbolically, but merely exponentially, with an unspecified positive exponent (which might actually be quite small).

Here on W?C, we have discussed this issue many times before. In short, in common with a lot of other tech e.g. smart TV’s, cheap Android devices are not well supported for sustainability. As Which? advise, it is indeed risky to use any device with out of date software for security sensitive uses, such as online banking or shopping.

Given the low price of reasonably decent new Android phones, any users who don’t mind paying to upgrade to a currently supported phone can easily do that. For example, one of my local shops sells a nice budget phone for £70, see:-https://www.argos.co.uk/product/3426399

When Android phones get really old, their internet functionality begins to degrade. For example, I know someone who is still using an old Samsung on Android version 4. On that phone, she can receive but not send emails and she cannot login to some moderately secure school websites.

Less ancient, but still unsupported, Android phones probably provide the greatest potential exposure to these risks, because they’ll still work more or less fully over the internet, but lack the protection of a fully protected OS. We’ve recently also discussed these issues for Windows 7.

Alfa – I can see no justification for supplying a device without replaceable batteries. I looked at two card readers supplied by banks. (One has never been used, and it seems pointless to supply these things unless requested.) One takes two CR2032 lithium cells and the other uses four LR44 alkaline cells – both common sizes. Lithium cells are the best choice because if used infrequently they will last a very long time without becoming discharged or leaking.

Derek – Is it diabolical that many of those who produce articles don’t know the meanings of words such as exponential?

wavechange – I did consider commenting along the lines that the security of obsolete digital devices would be more likely to degrade in a stepwise manner. However I refrained from doing that, as the maths might be a bit on the heavy side.

Writers who do not know the meaning of a word will not know that they don’t know it. Deducing a meaning from popular usage is fraught with problems nowadays.

I don’t think there is much we can do about the fact that words that have precise meanings have come into popular use. I have no feeling for what the public understand as an exponential change since I am familiar with the mathematical use. It might be better to explain the progressive increase in risk to users of obsolete phones as Derek has done.

Kevin says:
8 March 2020

The exponential increase in the misuse of words will result in a lexicological singularity where all words mean the same thing and meaningful communication through a common language will no longer be possible. Blah blah blah.

At this point a war could be started by the use of a poorly designed emoticon, and 100% of human life could be wiped out in the resulting decimation; we need to declare a primate emergency now to look at renewable word resources.

Absolutely.

Which? have an undated article about the safety of using older mobile phones, which goes on to cover various risks: https://www.which.co.uk/reviews/mobile-phones/article/mobile-phone-security-is-it-safe-to-use-an-old-phone

Should manufacturers be required to support phones with security updates for a fixed number of years after manufacture stops?

Kevin says:
12 March 2020

Just heard Chris Grayling has been made Chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee.

I’m not sure about what this says about our politics and system of government, but somehow I don’t feel secure in the knowledge.

The only consolation is that it could have been worse. No names . . .

Kevin says:
12 March 2020

Chris Grayling welcomes all suggestions on how to make it worse, even he isn’t perfect.

A Which? press release: “Flawed eBay review system dupes consumers into buying shoddy products” https://press.which.co.uk/whichpressreleases/flawed-ebay-review-system-dupes-consumers-into-buying-shoddy-products/

“Shoddy” can, in the case of electrical products, mean ones that can electrocute the user or start a fire. The government is preoccupied with coronavirus and Brexit. I wonder if anyone will pay any attention.

Kevin says:
24 March 2020

The UK Government has just sent out an unsolicited, unannounced SMS txt coronavirus alert, with a URL link in it.

This looks exactly like the kind of message a fraudster would send, and should not be sent out of the blue, without some kind of public information notification via traditional media. There should also be some means for the recipient to easily establish the provenance of any communications like this.

This kind of behaviour is more likely to cause panic and confusion rather than reassurance.

A Which? press release:

Which? intervenes to defend UK’s collective action regime in pivotal Supreme Court hearing
13 May 2020
Which? will defend the UK’s collective action regime in a pivotal Supreme Court hearing taking place today.

On 13 and 14 May, the landmark Merricks vs Mastercard collective action will reach a crucial moment as the Supreme Court hears Mastercard’s appeal against a ruling that may allow the £14 billion collective action against the card issuer to proceed to the next stage of litigation.

Which? has long campaigned for the introduction of collective redress for consumers. However five years after the Consumer Rights Act 2015 was introduced, with the aim of increasing access to justice for victims of anti-competitive behaviour, no claim has yet been allowed to proceed to a full trial.

Given the importance to consumers that the regime operates effectively, Which? is intervening to provide additional input to the court on the importance of the regime in providing effective redress to consumers.

In 2016, former financial ombudsman Walter Merricks CBE launched a class action on behalf of 46 million customers against Mastercard. The claim relates to the European Commission’s 2007 finding that the card issuer charged inflated card fees on consumer card transactions between 1992 and 2008.

The claim was brought as an opt-out collective or class action, made possible by the Consumer Rights Act 2015. The Supreme Court ruling will be a very important landmark for the UK’s new regime as it will set the standard which claims of this nature need to meet in order to proceed as a collective action.

Caroline Normand, Which? Director of Advocacy, said:

“Which? has long campaigned for a collective redress scheme, but with no claim under the new regime reaching a full trial, consumers have not yet had the results they need.

“This Supreme Court hearing is therefore a vital one for consumers and Which? has intervened to ensure the regime achieves its purpose of providing real access to justice.”

-ENDS-

Notes to editor

Which? is represented by collective action specialists Hausfeld & Co LLP and Tristan Jones of Blackstone Chambers.

More details on Merrick vs Mastercard case is available here:
https://www.mastercardconsumerclaim.co.uk/

I was not aware that Which? is supportive action, but if used selectively it could be a powerful way of harnessing the support of consumers to to take on the might of multinational corporations.

At long last the Volkswagen Group is to be punished (in Germany) for cheating in emissions tests of its vehicles: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-52795376