Last week, T-Mobile's CEO John Legere brought some negative attention to the company when he went on one of his typical profanity-filled tirades, except he
went a little too far. This week, more bad attention comes to the "uncarrier" as the Federal Trade Commission has accused T-Mobile of issuing false charges on their customers' monthly bills, to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. Because of this, the FTC has filed a lawsuit against the pink telecom company.
You know those weird and odd phone bill charges you sometimes get and don't know where they came from? Back in the day, perhaps your phone number was sold to some third-party who would, in turn, send you your daily horoscope, ringtones, wallpapers or other silly things. In today's age, those charges unknowingly showing up on your bill are becoming harder and harder to come by and usually you have to authorize them by replying with "yes" on your device. However the FTC claims that T-Mobile is actually hiding these charges on your monthly bill.
The FTC says T-Mobile has charged customers for their phone usage as usual, but have also lumped these other monthly subscriptions charges into that same line item without the customers knowing or agreeing to it. This "Phone Usage" item would usually be reserved for things like texting and maybe going over on your minutes. Then, in the expanded billing charges, there would be some vague and non-descriptive explanation of the charge, like "8888906150 BmStorm23918" from "Shaboom Media" for a $9.99 subscription. Nobody except T-Mobile would know what that is. Even worse, T-Mobile has been keeping up to 40 percent of these amounts for themselves, and this is after customers have called in and complained about unauthorized charges.
FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez said in a statement,
It's wrong for a company like T-Mobile to profit from scams against its customers when there were clear warning signs the charges it was imposing were fraudulent. The FTC's goal is to ensure that T-Mobile repays all its customers for these crammed charges.
Obviously if you are one of T-Mobile's customers you need to go look at your expanded and detailed bill and make sure you're not victim to this as well. Then, call T-Mobile and demand your money back for each and every month you have these charges. The FTC is working on getting you your money back as well, but there's no guaranteed as of yet. This is because our very good friend, CEO John Legere, has
responded to the lawsuit and says it was "unfounded and without merit." Here's the full statement:
We have seen the complaint filed today by the FTC and find it to be unfounded and without merit. In fact, T-Mobile stopped billing for these Premium SMS services last year and launched a proactive program to provide full refunds for any customer that feels that they were charged for something they did not want. T-Mobile is fighting harder than any of the carriers to change the way the wireless industry operates, and we are disappointed that the FTC has chosen to file this action against the most pro-consumer company in the industry-rather than the real bad actors.
As the Un-carrier, we believe that customers should only pay for what they want and what they sign up for. We exited this business late last year and announced an aggressive program to take care of customers, and we are disappointed that the FTC has instead chosen to file this sensationalized legal action. We are the first to take action for the consumer, and I am calling for the entire industry to do the same.
This is about doing what is right for consumers, and we put in place procedures to protect our customers from unauthorized charges. Unfortunately, not all of these third party providers acted responsibly-an issue the entire industry faced. We believe those providers should be held accountable and that the FTC's lawsuit seeking to hold T-Mobile responsible for their acts is not only factually and legally unfounded but also misdirected.
Now, I'd believe Legere if customers haven't complained to the FTC and T-Mobile as late as last month about these exact things the FTC is going after the carrier for. However I am surprised he was able to restrain himself or his handler from including expletives in his statement. Impressive.
I should also note that the FTC has not denied that any other carrier is doing this, too, so it would be advised that everyone who has a monthly bill with a cell provider (so, everyone) look over their recent bills with excruciating detail and report any erroneous charges to their carrier. We will keep you up-to-date with this lawsuit as in progresses.
The digital media distribution business is a tough one. While many companies have tried to sell digital goods, only a few have been successful. In the videos space there's really only been four: iTunes, Xbox Video, Amazon and Google Play. Because of this, Samsung has decided to leave the industry to the big boys.
As of August 1st Media Hub and Video Hub will be shut down. If you've made purchases there either of these services you will be able to transfer them to M-Go for free. You will also get a $5 gift card and 50% discount on future rentals. At least that should ease the pain for the few who were using the services.
This is not the first time Samsung has decided to close a media business. Just this month Samsung closed its Music Hub. That service was intended to take on Spotify and Xbox Music. Obviously it was not successful either.
But this is not the end for Samsung and media. Even while closing one music door they opened another. Samsung's new, strangely named, Milk Music is intended to take on Pandora with a shuffled streaming model. The service is currently ad free, though that will change.
It also appears that Samsung is not done with video. Working again with M-Go, Samsung plans to launch a streaming 4k video service. Just like their remodeled music service this appears to be all about changing the business model. Rather than competing against Apple and Microsoft, Samsung now plans to compete against Netflix and Hulu.
What I can't tell is whether this is an intelligent pivot from a company who recognized that their products did not match their strong suits, or a desperate shift to an market that they believe will return more money. If it's the former, Samsung will have to bring something to the table. If it's the latter, Samsung will squeeze until they don't see a return and move on to a new pet project. Either way, what I don't think Samsung is prepared for is the fierce competition in the video streaming market.
Since Marissa Mayer took over Yahoo, the company has seen a lot of changes. From product makeovers to acquisitions and even entirely new features, today's Yahoo is very different from the day Marissa became CEO. One of her biggest staples has been closing up products that are no longer serving their purpose or would be better served in another Yahoo product.
This week Yahoo announced another round of products closures. Most notable is Xobni, a company that Yahoo purchased only a year ago. The service, which provided smart email features, will be merged into Yahoo's existing email offering. This includes their people-centric search, which allows you to view both sent and received emails from a person, and auto-suggest, which predicts who you're going to send the email to.
Other closing products are
Bookmarks.yahoo - Bookmarking tool. Integrated into Yahoo Toolbar and Yahoo Extension for Chrome. Newlook - Virtual makeover tool. No replacement. Research Reports - Yahoo Finance report generator. No replacement. Yahoo People Search - Separate search engine for people. Integrated into standard Yahoo Search. Yahoo Shine - A health and living site. Integrated into other Yahoo digital magazines. Yahoo Toolbar for Chrome - Replaced by Yahoo Extension for Chrome. Yahoo Voices and Contributors Network - Yahoo content contribution system. Yahoo now curates its content; no replacement.
With resources from these products freed up Marissa can continue to focus on Yahoo's new focus services. For example, Yahoo Video, which recently saved cancelled NBC series Community and has access to the entire Saturday Night Live catalog. She will also be able to focus resources on Yahoo Mail which, after its remodel, received less than favorable reviews.
Are you a user of any of these products and services? Do you think Mayer's approach to revitalizing Yahoo is correct? Sound off in the comments.
There are not a lot of studios that you can really credit with pushing the boundaries of gaming. One who deserves that honor however is Crytek. The studio is responsible for the
Crysis series, which was for years used as the benchmark for computing power, as well as the Ryse series in the original Far Cry.
Unfortunately it appears at the studio has come under some financial hardships. The sequel to
Ryse has been canceled, and apparently some employees have not been paid. As a result around 100 employees have stopped coming into work after filing formal grievances.
Based on the size of the studio, that leaves very few people left in the office. With so few resources that will make finishing
Homefront: The Revolution next to impossible. Publishing the game however would add money back into the coffers, something that is obviously very needed.
So, will Crytek abandon everything and go the way of the pet rock, or will they find a way to get
Homefront finished, with the hope of turning around the company? My guess is that we will know the answer to that sooner than later.
It's no secret that smartphone cameras are getting better. It's also no secret that stand alone point and shoot camera demand is down. So what do you do if you're a company with a lot of photography patents? Why, team up with a smartphone maker that's known for its cameras of course. That's exactly what happened this week when Microsoft and Canon agreed to share intellectual property. The companies said in a joint statement,
With this agreement, Microsoft and Canon gain licenses to each other's highly valued and growing patent portfolios.
The natural first question here is "What will we see come from this partnership?" Hopefully we will see Microsoft include Canon inspired lenses in their next generation of Lumia smartphones. Adding a high quality lens to the Lumia 1020 would make it a truly stand out product, and Canon knows all about high quality lenses.
There's also a potential benefit here for Canon. In addition to producing lenses for smartphones, Canon has the potential to improve their high end camera offerings. With the addition of Windows for Devices, Canon could develop a connected digital camera that people would actually want to purchase. They would even have the ability to encourage developers to extend the functionality of said camera.
Obviously all of this is merely conjecture. Some options are more probable than others. The important thing to take away here is that large companies are becoming more willing to work with others on intellectual property. The more willingness there is to collaborate with partners the more innovation we will see in new and exciting industries, like photography.