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Thursday, 16 April 2015

Thursday, April 16, 2015 Posted by Hari No comments Labels:
Posted by Hari on Thursday, April 16, 2015 with No comments | Labels:

EU files antitrust charges against Google for skewing search results
European Union regulators said they had reached the preliminary conclusion that Google “systematically positions and prominently displays its comparison shopping service in its general search results pages, irrespective of its merits.” That conduct started in 2008, the regulators said, adding: “The commission is concerned that users do not necessarily see the most relevant results in response to queries—to the detriment of consumers and rival comparison shopping services, as well as stifling innovation.” The EU’s antitrust chief, Margrethe Vestager, conceded that the scope of the formal charges was “limited” given it focused on comparison shopping. But she said her agency would continue to look at Google’s conduct in other areas, such as “hotels or flights or maps” and would also “actively pursue” three other concerns expressed by the EU regarding Google’s conduct—allegations that Google copies or “scrapes” content from rival sites, its exclusivity contracts with advertisers, and advertisers’ ability to use competing advertising platforms. WALL STREET JOURNAL

Skills shortage driving up skilled worker salaries
Skills shortages are driving increases in pay, with almost a third of recruitment agencies reporting improved starting salaries, according to a study. Pay growth was especially strong in the Midlands and the south, said the report from KPMG and the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (Rec). The rate of pay growth was the strongest since last September, while the availability of candidates continued to fall. Skills shortages were a particular problem in teaching. For temporary staff, the problem was worse in nursing and healthcare, it was reported. KPMG’s Bernard Brown said: “Recruiters are struggling with industry-wide skills shortages, as demand for talent continues to outstrip the number of candidates seeking work. This pervasive skills shortage could put the brakes on economic growth if it continues unabated.” GUARDIAN

Twenty-eight English clubs are now owned overseas, increasing the risk of tax avoidance
Almost one in three of the 92 Premier and Football League clubs are now substantially owned overseas, including in offshore tax havens, leading to the English football leagues being accused of allowing ownership structures of clubs that could be used for tax avoidance. Research into the ownership of all the clubs has found 28 clubs with a substantial shareholding overseas, including nine of the 20 Premier League clubs. Owners residing abroad, who hold shares in clubs through companies registered overseas, may not be liable for UK capital gains tax – currently 28% for higher rate, wealthier, tax payers – on the profits they make when they sell a club. The huge rise in offshore ownership of clubs, which were almost all UK-owned until the wave of overseas buyers moved in around a decade ago, has coincided with steepling increases in television rights and the value of clubs, in the Premier League, and in the Championship for clubs with a prospect of promotion. George Turner, author of the Tax Justice Network’s report, said: “This should be of great concern to fans around the country, who invest so much time, commitment, emotion and money into their clubs... Football is not just another business and tax havens have no place in our national game, whatever the reason an owner may have for using them.” Premiership clubs under suspicion include Arsenal, Aston Villa, Leicester City, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, QPR, Sunderland and Tottenham. Clubs in all four leagues feature in the report. GUARDIAN

Tory housing association right-to-buy policy attacked by big business
The Conservatives have come under fire after David Cameron pledged to give people the chance of a “good life” by extending Margaret Thatcher’s right-to-buy scheme to 1.3 million families in housing association properties. Under the Tory plans, councils would be forced to sell off their most valuable homes, raising £4.5bn net a year. This would be used to fund the building of cheaper, replacement properties. But the Confederation of British Industry and the blue chip Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) property firm joined many housing associations, warning that the Tory plan would not meet targets to address the chronic shortage of housing. Boris Johnson said last month that the proposal would involve massive subsidies. Adam Challis, head of residential research at JLL, said: “The expansion of right to buy may be good politics, but represents terrible policy. This is exactly the kind of short-termist thinking that the country’s 4.7m households in social housing don’t need, not to mention the same number again of aspiring owners in private renting”. GUARDIAN


Ministers make U-turn on affordable housing dodge by property developers
Conservative ministers have been forced to rethink planning guidance that critics claimed was a shambles and would have allowed property developers to avoid an estimated £1bn in payments towards affordable homes. The “empty building credit” would have allowed developers to avoid paying for homes for poorer people if they emptied buildings for a period before converting them to private flats. But the government quietly changed the guidance on 26 March to give councils powers to test whether a building had been made vacant for the sole purpose of redevelopment and if they could insist on affordable housing payments. It also gave councils powers to block attempts by developers who had already agreed to make affordable housing payments from resubmitting planning papers under the new system in a bid to avoid the payments. The original guidelines came under attack in February by the Tory-led City of Westminster. Westminster reported it had lost £29m in contributions to housing for poorer people in the course of just one planning meeting when developers were able to renegotiate using the guidelines. Developers will still be exempt from paying for affordable housing on any space in genuinely empty buildings which are being bought back into use. GUARDIAN

France widens HSBC Swiss bank inquiry to its global holding company
HSBC said that prosecutors were now investigating HSBC’s global holdings company and had set bail at €1bn (£724m). In the previous investigation of its Swiss branch, bail was set at €50m. Leaked documents from 2006 and 2007 revealed large-scale patterns of wrongdoing at the bank, including enabling tax avoidance and evasion, handing out bundles of cash to clients without question, aggressively marketing tax avoidance products and providing accounts to the friends and families of dictators. HSBC is facing a number of legal investigations around the world over the activities of its Swiss subsidiary. A declaration in its latest annual report details formal investigations in Belgium, France, Argentina, Switzerland and India. The British tax authority, HMRC, investigated the HSBC Swiss accounts of more than 6,000 UK residents and found more than 1,000 were suspected to have been engaged in tax evasion. To date, only one has been prosecuted. In France, about 70 wealthy households have been formally investigated as part of separate inquiries into tax evasion through HSBC’s Swiss private bank. GUARDIAN

Clydesdale Bank fined £20.6m for doctoring and ignoring PPI evidence to cheat customers out of compensation
Failings included doctoring evidence, which meant it didn't have to make compensation payments to eligible customers to whom it had missold payment protection insurance. Of the 126,000 PPI complaints made to the bank between May 2011 and July 2013, up to 42,200 may have been unfairly rejected, and up to 50,900 customers who had complaints upheld may have been given too little. In addition, the bank provided false information to the financial ombudsman between May 2012 and June 2013 when it was asked for evidence about PPI policies sold to its customers: a team in Clydedale's PPI complaint unit doctored a small number of print outs to make it look like the bank did not have any documents relevant to a PPI complaint. It also deleted PPI information from a second print out listing all the products sold to the customer. National Australia Bank, which has owned Glasgow-based Clydesdale since 1987 and Yorkshire since 1990, said that total provisions for PPI redress were £806 million, with £291 million having been utilised. Clydesdale's PPI leadership team and its senior management did not know these practices were going on and did not authorise them, the bank regulator the FCA said. DAILY MAIL

Bank of New York Mellon's London branch fined £126m by FCA for “ring fence” failure
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) said the bank's London and international operations had failed to look after their clients' investments. The rules, improved after the Lehman Brothers collapse in 2008, ring fence clients' assets if a firm becomes insolvent. When Lehman's collapsed, it was difficult to sort out which money belonged to the bank, and which to customers. In this case BNY Mellon muddled up shares, bonds and other investments, and according to the FCA, would have found it difficult to return them to individual clients. The FCA investigated the bank's activities between 2007 and 2013, when the London and international operations of BNYM held client funds worth up to £1.3 trillion and £236 billion respectively. In reaction, BNY Mellon said no client lost out as a result of the issues identified by the FCA. BBC NEWS

Mobile phone customers overpay by £355m for handsets they already own
Most monthly contracts combine the cost of the tariff and the handset over the minimum term, typically 24 months. But this is not always separated out, so people do not know how much each element costs or when they have finished paying for their phone. O2, Tesco Mobile and Virgin Media have tariffs where the handset and airtime costs are separate while giffgaff has never bundled the handset in. Customers on Vodafone, EE and Three still continue to be charged one bundled price. Richard Lloyd, the Which? executive director, said: “Consumers are being misled and as a result are collectively paying millions of pounds each year for a phone they have paid off. All mobile phone operators should separate out the cost of the handset so people don’t continue to pay after the contract comes to an end. Mobile providers need to play fair and ensure their customers are not paying over the odds.” GUARDIAN

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