Supporting exploitation

This time, there is a different issue in play, this time, I have felt the consequence of both crime and scheming, all in one nice package. Part of this is set in the article ‘Robbed of a mobile, but we have to pick up the thief’s phone bill. Why?‘ (at http://www.theguardian.com/money/2015/feb/11/robbed-mobile-thiefs-phone-bill).

Now, my mobiles has been stolen, it has been broken and a few other issues have gone my way. Now in the first, I have to admit that I was with Optus at the time, stolen mobile, we had a business account and to my surprise, a new mobile and no hassle (just a small fee). This was great, the doom feeling of what had happened was a feeling that some places are great to be connected to. Now in the article we see the following quote: “it’s worth pointing out that you are not liable for any charges once you’ve reported a phone lost or stolen. But there are often good reasons why this may not be immediately possible, and during the briefest of delays, thieves can run up catastrophic charges“. Yes, this is true, but there is also an initial solution. You see, no matter how important you are as a business person, your ego is getting in the way fast. You see, disabling International calls on day one, in addition to 1900 and 1902 numbers stops massive costs coming your way. There is also the embarrassment you have when your boss asks you which distributor had 1900-blow-my-mobile is also worth the day one blocking action.

The next paragraph is the kicker: “In 2012, Ofcom gave service providers until that summer to present plans to cap customers’ liabilities and declared they would face enforcement action if they failed. Nothing happened. In December 2013 the government announced that six of the big providers had finally agreed a cap, and that, from spring 2014, customers – like victims of bank card theft – would not have to pay more than around £50 for thieves’ phone calls. Nothing happened. A year on, only Three has introduced protection – customers are liable for only the first £100 before a phone is reported missing, provided they report it within 24 hours“, so when you are on holiday or on business abroad, and your phone gets stolen, the chance of you notifying your stolen phone in time is not an option.

The paragraph becomes even more interesting if you Google the following “Ofcom spineless useless“, you get 32,000 hits. So we can say that whatever Ofcom pretends to be, which by their own statements is “Independent regulator and competition authority for the UK communications industries” (at http://www.ofcom.org.uk/), we can state with some certainty that it has failed the British people close to 100%. This view does not evolve in any positive way when we look at http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/enforcement/competition-bulletins/complaints-disputes/, where we see ‘Ofcom’s Approach to Complaints and Disputes‘, the text on that page is “This page provides links to guidance that Ofcom has produced setting out our powers and processes we will follow in conducting investigations into adherence with regulatory rules, consumer protection issues, competition issues and resolving regulatory disputes“, with a few PDF links, so how useful is Ofcom?

Well, the Guardian had this to say: “It would seem Ofcom is waiting for the government to do something and the government is waiting for the phone companies to find a solution“, which is not even close to the actual part, it seems that Ofcom is all about sort of regulating issues, but awaiting feedback from stakeholders in regards to these actions (which are likely to be phone companies and when we see the Telecoms Complaints Bulletin on Ofcom, we see a few charts on silent calls and unwanted marketing calls. So is Ofcom basically a report valve that gives the telecom companies a signal when marketeers and phone companies have to simmer down a little bit?

So when we see the claim “Ed Vaizey, the digital economy minister, met the big players last month. Once again they promised a code of practice, but, strangely, still haven’t agreed on the details. “We expect the networks to confirm shortly details of liability caps and when they will be introduced,” says the Department of Media, Culture and Sport“, we must wonder if Mr Vaizey is actually seriously looking into an issue that has played for many years now.

The next part involves Vodafone (or Vodafail as some call it) and opens up an entirely new can of worms, one that I myself have been privy to.

Vodafone says it has agreed to “explore” a cap but the sticking point is how to do that without destroying the incentive to report a phone missing. “We do not want to create an environment where it is even more attractive for criminals to focus on theft,” it says“, you see, that is not the Vodafone I have been experiencing!

So, last year I had a heart attack, this happens, as it happens I had a sim for my iPad with Vodafone, which is a data only thing. Now, I admit, I was late with paying, which is my own fault and whilst in hospital, they had cut me off. With that I had no issue; I was late, my own fault, as I stated before. Now comes the kicker, whilst in hospital  and after that in recovery, I learned that even though cut off, I am still liable for ALL COSTS, so that means that whilst cut off, I am still due all monthly expenses, even when disconnected. The fact that I had had a heart attack did not interest them. So I am still in a legal fight with Vodafone, I accept the initial costs, but the months after that I refuse, so it is due to go to court at some point. Vodafone might state it is exploring, yet its main need is to stay afloat, which makes them close to desperate. That part is seen with ‘Mobile users flee Vodafone Australia‘, which started in 2013. The quote “Vodafone Hutchison Group lost 600,000 customers in the three months ending September 30, even as its British parent first-half results showed a return to profit” is only the tip of the iceberg that will sink the ‘Vodafonic’ (that event filmed by James Cameron, where you see Leonardo DiCaprio drown in icy cold water at http://www.businessspectator.com.au/news/2013/11/13/technology/mobile-users-flee-vodafone-australia). The fact that Vodafone is still linked to a class action brought by Piper Alderman should indicate that Vodafone has a league of issues, capping is not even close to their essential need to solve.

But we go back to the issue at hand regarding phone bills. The article ends with the realisation that in an election year these issues will not be addressed, which means that this issue will stay around until at least 2016, which is odd as we consider the article ‘Bankrupted by a mobile phone bill‘ (at http://www.theguardian.com/money/2013/dec/07/mobile-phone-bill-cap-theft), which is 14 months old. The issue, that was raised and gave way for the quote “culture secretary Maria Miller told journalists in Beijing this week that a deal had been struck to introduce a bank card-style limit to a consumer’s liability – possibly as low as £50“. In my view as a Tory, both Maria Miller and Ed Vaizey need to wake up fast and start a few fires in the halls of telecom corporations. You see, it is after all an election year and should Labour or Ukip achieve that what the conservatives could not, the fallout will be, as I see it a conservative unpopular one (well over 80% of the population worries about their mobile bill), because governing from the opposition bench is not governing at all, it is merely spouting critique to those who govern. The first course of action, as I personally see it, is to shake up the Ofcom executive committee by replacing Steve Unger, Polly Weitzman and Jonathan Oxley. I reckon the signal that the chief executive, the general council and the group director for Competition are replaced by individuals with bite, who will hunt issues for the victims and the general audience, might give the signal to the Telecom companies to act now, or accept a much harsher deal soon after the elections are done. The reality is, that when that signal comes, they will all quickly agree with the Three policy, which means a £100 cap and possible a reporting extension to a max of 72 hours, which would be fair.

Yet, this is not even close to the only thing in play, you see, last month Google made an announcement to no longer support any Android version before KitKat (v4.4). This means that not only are people almost forced into new mobiles, the flaws, gaps and other issues that might pop up are at the heart of what follows and that what is already happening to the current mobile user base (including myself). First there are the iPhones. Apple is already experiencing the class action in that regard. The fact that IOS is taking up around 20% is just bizarre. Apple could have saved itself a lot of hassle by just having the 64Gb phone at a 16Gb price, I was told (from an unconfirmed source) that the parts involved costed no more than $49. So how ridiculous is the entire issue that Apple is forcing upon Apple? Let’s not forget they have around 170 billion in loose change. Now, I am not stating that they had to pay for it, but to just set the 64Gb edition at $799 would have saved them a boatload of hassles. In this Android is not without faults either. The new phones, with 2Gb ram and 16Gb storage drops down a lot in Android. There, of the 2Gb you are only left with 1Gb and you lose an easy 30% of your 16Gb. Now, that is still a decent amount, but to consider that my old smartphone, which was 1Gb with 4Gm storage has now dwindled to a 250Mb phone (so I can run 2 apps at the most), with just 2.4Gb storage is not what I signed up for. As Google became too clever for its own good, adding more and more trash I never want or need, setting dozens of updates which no longer let my phone work is now at the core of my problem. I cannot even deactivate most, it shows up at EVERY update, selecting what I actually need and not what Google thinks I might like is at the core of my growing resent of Android. And with every app pushed out, there is additional danger that the security of my phone gets compromised, especially as Jellybean is no longer supported.

Yet there is more. I am now looking at a new phone, whilst I know the limitations I face. The strongest was the Huawei Mate7 premium. Now, here is the kicker, the 3Gb phone with 32Gb storage will only get you 1.7Gb RAM and 25Gb from day one, Android takes the rest and this is close to the strongest phone that a limited budget can buy. In Australia the smallest iPhone starts at $1000, the 64Gb, which would be a minimum choice is 20% more expensive, whilst these phones only have 1Gb RAM. This all seems as short-sighted as the developers of Xbox One showed to have. Yet, it must also be said that 1Gb seems to suffice for Apple, that is shown in this small article (at http://www.phonearena.com/news/Why-Android-phones-need-3GB-of-RAM-and-iOS-gets-by-with-1GB-of-the-stuff_id62901), yes IOS is more efficient, but as IOS evolves, so will the need for RAM, which when it starts to be too little would of force us to upgrade again. Was it such a jump to set the iPhone RAM to 2Gb? When you become a penny pincher, you face class actions and that is exactly what Apple faces now. Although I remain (for now) Android minded, and When we compare the Nexus 6 (the very latest), we see that it only almost equals the Huawei Mate7 premium. The Nexus is however $100 more, whilst the screen resolution was a lot more impressive on the Huawei, but that could just be the Jazz screensaver. This shows that Huawei is not just the Android player, with the P7 and Mate7, Huawei is now the contender that makes Google sweat. Like Apple, Google could have saved themselves a lot of hassle by not skimping on resources, which could have pulled the customers in like a magnet, now in the margins they will see customers slip through their fingers, which will be an unsettling feeling for whomever misses out on commission.

All this as the providers supported exploitation; we see that the massive losses are now showing as the margins are not worth considering for some. The same could be said for the upcoming Samsung S6, it looks amazing, but as they fix one issue by being a 4Gb RAM player, they waste it on bringing a 32Gb version, which might suffice for now, but what in 2 years? Getting the 64Gb version makes sense, but then it becomes a $1240 millstone around your neck. So as I see it, Huawei is the budget choice, which still gives you a top of the line contender, iPhone and Nexus are slowly pricing themselves away by offering the entry option, which is a joke as we see space used.

All this now links back to the issue of phone theft and the inactions of Ofcom. If stolen bandwidth and phone time is all there is, than you are gravely mistaken, these smartphones are not just a connection, they are a link to your diary, your details, your credit, your access and your future. Soon, we will see that organised crime will not just call their mommy in Samarkand, Zhengzou, Davao or Vung Tao. Soon they will transfer your data and access and see what else is under the hood. That is the added danger of the smartphone, because you had one more mail to read, one more file to see or one more connection to make, all that in applications that were never closed and accessed be merely starting the application. You see, what we ‘need’ to have, came first, and we all seem to forget the consequences of such choices. Ofcom cannot be held responsible for this, but they should have set up several parameters a long time ago, as they remained inactive in the phone charges issue, they also did little to nothing into changing certain parameters in connection monitoring and non-repudiation, all that left to whomever else, that is the danger we will face in 2015 and 2016. Unless there is a drastic event that shakes up the media, there is every indication that nothing will be done until it is too late.

History taught us that there is nothing as effective as taking away someone’s cushy job to make the next person consider showing their teeth from day one, but that might just be my imagination.

 

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