Friday, 30 October 2009

Random sender addresses

I'm getting really fed up with the practice that some companies have adopted, of setting a new sender address for every e-mail newsletter.

For example, IThound, an Incisive Media publication, sent something with the sender address
This is presumably so that they can route any replies to the originator of the offer that the newsletter covers.

That's not a trusted address so the message is marked as [Spam] and placed in the Junk Mail folder. If I click 'Mark As Wanted' in the AVG toolbar, the message is moved back to the Inbox but no Outlook rules are applied to it. I have to file it manually. A new entry is added to the AVG whitelist, and any further messages from the same sender should be filed according to my Outlook rules settings. In all likelihood, there won't be any further messages with the same random sender address, so all that happens is that my whitelist is stuffed with rubbish like this.

Streetcards, one of my occasional suppliers, who have great products, change the domain name on their outgoing e-mails and the same thing happens.

I actually want to read some of the material that I'm sent. That's why I signed up in the first place. I don't want to unsubscribe, but I don't want to have to waste time either. Hang your heads in shame:
  • Incisive Media
  • Novatech
  • Internet World
  • Insurance Times
  • Euromoney plc
  • Streetcards

Monday, 19 October 2009

Affordability checks for UK mortgage lenders - not so new

The UK Government and the FSA are making a great play of their plans to introduce affordability checks for mortgage borrowers. The FSA's reform proposals are here.

This really should be nothing new for the banks, which already have responsibilities under the FSA's Treating Customers Fairly initiative. The FSA Treating Customers Fairly pages include six consumer outcomes, including:
Outcome 4: Where consumers receive advice, the advice is suitable and takes account of their circumstances.

Drilling down further into the examples, these include a specific example of the need for the mortgage sales process to check affordability.

Affordability will often have been an issue in some types of loan, but these - self-certification, sub-prime and high Loan To Value mortgages - have pretty much disappeared from the market.

Best practice sales processes for lending already include the checks, but of course these are only as good as the information available to them, and some may be circumvented by inaccurate statements or disclosure by potential borrowers. If the proposals include harsh penalties for selling unaffordable loans, lenders will have a problem. Inevitably though, they will find ways to manage and mitigate the risks, even if that means a reduction in the availability of loans.

More later when I've gone through the 118-page FSA document.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

XBRL filing for all UK companies?

The Computing newspaper and its sister publication Accountancy Age are highlighting the change in Corporation Tax filing regulations that Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) is introducing with effect from 01 April 2011. I've bookmarked some relevant articles here on

The new regulations will affect all firms, and those that file using reporting or accounting package software will need to update and maintain their software to produce returns in the required XML and iXBRL formats.

Most small companies and organisations will be able to use the free HMRC Corporation Tax Online Service to file a Company Tax Return. This can be used by companies or organisations that file a Company Tax Return form (CT600), supporting documentation, and (if necessary) any of these supplementary pages:

  • CT600A (Loans to participators by close companies)

  • CT600C (Group and consortium) - parts one and two

  • CT600J (Disclosure of tax avoidance schemes supplementary pages)

  • Supporting documents can be supplied in Acrobat (PDF) format.

    You can see a demonstration here on the HMRC site.

    However, it's not clear from the information on the HMRC site whether PDF format can be used by companies that have to submit the other CT600 supplementary pages:

  • CT600B - Controlled Foreign Companies (an interest of 25% or more in a foreign company controlled from the UK)

  • CT600D (2006) - Insurance: company involved in overseas life assurance business (OLAB)

  • CT600E - Charity and Community Amateur Sports Clubs (CASCs)

  • CT600F - Tonnage Tax

  • CT600G - Corporate Venturing Scheme

  • CT600I - Supplementary charge in respect of ring fence trades

  • There's clearly a cost of change in all of this. The HMRC online filing service looks clear and straightforward, and it should present little problem either for small businesses or for small accounting firms that submit returns on behalf of their clients. However, new methods will have to be learnt, registrations made, and experience gained, in order for this to work efficiently. Larger companies, or small companies with complex affairs, may well face more serious change costs, including the updating of accounting or reporting software packages, and the introduction of new processes and accounting treatments.

    All in all - if you're not sure, the time to consult your accountant has come!

    (Disclaimer: I'm not an accountant, but a small business owner with an interest in technology.)

    Monday, 13 July 2009

    Using AVG 8.5 (paid for) with iTunes 8.2

    I couldn't find any way to update podcasts using iTunes on a Windows XP laptop with AVG 8.5.387 (paid for). I kept receiving the message "there was a problem downloading (podcast). The network connection could not be established"

    The problem lay in the firewall settings: iTunes was set to 'Allow for safe'. When I changed the setting to 'Allow for All', the problem went away.

    Tuesday, 7 July 2009

    UK Euro watch - June 2009

    This is our monthly round-up of BBC content touching the possibility of the UK entering EMU and adopting the Euro.

    UK Euro adoption was briefly a hot topic in the first half June, largely due to reports of Peter Mandelson's opinions. After that, all went quiet. He may have slipped this in to divert attention from the Government's shocking results in the Euro elections and the ongoing furore over MPs' expenses, but these continued to command much of the available air time.

    10th June: Peter Mandelson commented on BBC1's Andrew Marr show (transcript here) "I personally think that our future, economic future will be more secure in the Euro zone with that currency. But I've always accepted that the economic conditions have to be right." Jonathan Oliver wrote in The Times on 14 June that "His confidence is such that on a trip to Berlin last week, Mandelson effectively rewrote Britain’s policy on the euro, declaring that we were “obviously” heading for entry into the single currency."

    Tuesday, 30 June 2009

    Mobile phone chargers - one size fits all (The Times)

    At last, some sanity is to be imposed on mobile phone chargers. For years, I've specified Nokia phones for business use. This was convenient for all sorts of reasons, including similar menu/navigation structure and chargers that were all compatible. That started to go wrong a few years ago, and now we have a spread of different plug sizes, power ratings, and shapes. So here's some applause for the GSMA, the trade association for the mobile phone industry. Most phones should use the new chargers by 2012.

    Sunday, 31 May 2009

    UK Euro watch: May 2009

    This is our monthly round-up of BBC content touching the possibility of the UK entering EMU and adopting the Euro.

    Most activity during May was concerned with candidates and parties setting out their positions in advance of the European Parliament elections on 4th June. These have been well understood for years - no exciting news here.

    For example, on 25 May in Belfast, the Conservatives and Ulster Unionists launched a joint manifesto, opposing UK membership of the euro.

    Local initiatives continue to be reported. On 03 May, BBC Sussex reported Euro paying off for resort town that Rye has been accepting Euros since 2002.

    Apart from that, there was very little reportage or commentary on the possibility or probability of UK adoption. There was much more activity in June - particularly after Lord Mandelson's opinions were reported. But that's coming later.

    Thursday, 30 April 2009

    UK Euro watch: April 2009

    This is our monthly round-up of BBC content touching the possibility of the UK entering EMU and adopting the Euro. Little happened during the month at a political level to move this forward.

    17 April: Shops to accept euro for two days: the initiative in Bewdley, Worcestershire on the weekend 18-19 April was part of events marking the 20th anniversary of its twinning agreement with German town Vellmar.

    22 April: BBC World Service: In its Global Business series, The Edge of Europe (part 2), Peter Day looked at the edges of Europe and asked whether joining the Euro, or in the case of Iceland wanting to, was worth it?

    23 April: Radio 1 Newsbeat reported in Seaside town allows euro payments that some businesses in Poole (and Bournemouth) now accept the euro. It mentioned 'Dunster in Somerset became the first UK town to accept euros', which may surprise businesses in Northern Ireland, in particular Newry, which have been doing this ever since the notes and coins were first circulated.

    26 April: In The Westminster Hour, At the Heart of Europe examines how Labour's policy on Europe evolved over three terms in government.

    28 April: UK keeps EU working week opt-out, maintaining another key policy difference to the Eurozone

    Thursday, 16 April 2009

    Goodbye Norton 360

    I've used Norton Antivirus and related products exclusively for the PCs that I control for the last 10 years. Laptops arrived with Norton products pre-installed, and these did the job adequately.

    Norton 360 was included with the Toshiba Tecra (Vista) laptop that I bought about 15 months ago. Though I didn't like it very much, I renewed the subscription before the 90 days' trial was complete. Now that 12 months' renewal has expired and guess what! All protection seems to have stopped - the product doesn't carry on checking for viruses, firewall, intrusion protection, e-mail scanning, virus and spyware scan. The whole lot seems to have been switched off (if I understand the messages correctly) now that the date has been reached. Other Norton products carry on protecting with the versions of the virus signatures up to the date of the renewal. This doesn't; it's abdicated completely.

    Goodbye Norton 360. I won't accept such a business policy. It's AVG for me.

    Tuesday, 31 March 2009

    UK Euro watch: March 2009

    There was little to be found in BBC content in March regarding the possibility of the UK entering EMU and adopting the Euro. Gordon Brown addressed the European Parliament on 24th March, and two speeches in response called on him to show European commitment by joining the single currency. That seems to be the sum total.

    These speeches were all outshadowed by Dan Hannan's scathing response. Mark Mardell, Europe Editor, defended himself for failing to comment on the latter.

    Stories about other countries:

    13 March: Will euro save Eastern Europe? by Konstantin Rozhnov, Business reporter, BBC News

    23 March: Could Greece laser the euro? Mark Mardell, referring to the Centre for European Reform blog What if the Euro broke up?

    Articles from other publications:
    12 March: In, Hilary Heuler gives a profile of Jacek Rostowski, Poland's finance minister, and his euro ambitions: The euro enthusiast

    15 March: The Sunday Times, not famous for its euro-enthusiasm, Cracks in the euro, by Iain Dey and David Smith

    31 March: Charles Grant, of the Centre for European Reform (see above), writing in The Times Ten years on, the eurozone must beware of Greeks bearing debts

    Saturday, 28 February 2009

    UK Euro watch: February 2009

    After the flurry of Euro comments in December and January, there was less visible activity in the media in February. Still available to watch at the time of writing:

    28 Feb: on the BBC Parliament channel, Mark D'Arcy talked to author David Marsh about his book The Euro: The Politics of the New Global Currency. Programme available on BBC iPlayer until 7th March

    You can order the book from Amazon here: The Euro: The Politics of the New Global Currency

    Saturday, 31 January 2009

    UK Euro watch - January 2009

    The BBC had several stories in the first half of January regarding possible UK entry to European Economic and Monetary Union, and then went strangely quiet on the subject.

    The most significant contributions came on 15 Jan in a document containing 31 essays, one from Prof. Willem Buiter, of the LSE, ex Monetary Policy Committee member, reported here by Bloomberg: Buiter Joins Drive to Persuade U.K. to Adopt the Euro Currency.

    The full document can be downloaded from the LSE site: 10 Years of the Euro: New Perspectives for Britain

    Here are some of those stories from the BBC in January:

    01 Jan: Most Britons 'still oppose euro' BBC poll reveals that just 23% would vote 'Yes'

    01 Jan: Discussion on Today programme Slovakia joins the euro today, will the UK join any time soon? Ruth Lee, economic adviser to the Arbuthnot Banking Group, and Mark Leonard, executive director of the European Council on Foreign Relations

    02 Jan: Should Britain join euro? The public comments on the BBC's poll

    03 Jan: Beyond Westminster on Radio 4. Elinor Goodman discovers what membership of the euro might mean for jobs and prices in the UK. The panel included views from all parts of the debating spectrum.

    03 Jan: Village offers euro for the pound to attract tourists, a hotel and some other business in Dunster accept euros with one-for-one price conversion

    04 Jan: Salmond in call for euro rethink Scottish First Minister claimed there was a strong argument in favour of the euro, particularly as sterling declined.

    11 Jan: The Westminster Hour Norman Smith interviews the deputy leader of Labour's MEPs Richard Corbett and the Tory MEP Daniel Hannan.

    12 Jan: The next enlargement - Iceland? Mark Mardell's Euroblog - Iceland has eurosceptics just like the UK

    15 Jan: Renewed calls for UK to join euro Former EU commissioner Peter Sutherland says everyone else is clammering to join the euro and Britain should follow suit.

    Another euro story on the Today programme of 15 Jan: ECB to lower interest rates Neil McKinnon, chief economist at ECU Group, discusses the problems of fitting one interest rate to 16 countries (especially the PIGS countries: Portugal, Italy, Greece, Spain). Will Greece have to leave EMU?

    Mark Mardell reported on Greek protests on 29 Jan, and commented about the relevance of these to UK membership: Euro blamed for recession. He also had interesting things to say on the BBC's The Reporters blog site: The euro - safety net or straitjacket? (30 Jan)