Man Sued For Leaving a Bad Review

Consumer review website Trustpilot has expressed concerns over freedom of speech after a firm of London solicitors sued someone over a bad review.

What Happened?

Philip James Waymouth, who had sought legal advice (online) from London-based Summerfield Browne solicitors appeared dissatisfied with the service and left a bad review of the solicitors on the Trustpilot website, saying that they were “another scam solicitor”.

Summerfield Browne is then reported to have (successfully) sued Mr Waymouth for a false and defamatory review, resulting in Mr Waymouth being ordered to pay an eye-watering £25,000 in libel damages.

Condemned By Trustpilot

Trustpilot has condemned the use of legal action, placing a notice next to Summerfield Browne’s profile on the Trustpilot website saying, “We strongly oppose the use of legal action to silence consumers’ freedom of speech”.  The Trustpilot notice also says, “As a public, open, review platform we believe strongly in consumers having the ability to leave feedback – good or bad – about a business at any time, without interference. 

This is the first time we’ve seen a business taking such extreme measures against a consumer voicing their genuine opinion. The vast majority of businesses on Trustpilot engage with their consumers or use our flagging tools to report content and resolve their issues.”

Even though the profile has now been temporarily closed for reviews, there are still a number of negative reviews on the Trustpilot profile for Summerfield Browne criticising the action taken, and one review appears to go into some more detailed allegations about the case.

Not Contacted

It has been reported that Trustpilot was not contacted by Summerfield Browne and that the review in question wasn’t evaluated using Trustpilot’s grievance process.

Solicitors Firm Says…

Summerfield Browne Solicitors are reported to have said of the case that “As a family firm, the decision to pursue legal action was not one we took lightly and doing so gave us no pleasure”.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Trustpilot relies on people being able to give honest opinions online about companies and their services without fear of any serious consequences. Being sued is likely to act as a deterrent for people to use platforms like Trustpilot, could reduce the value of reviews (as some may be less inclined to be totally honest), and could set a dangerous precedent for other review sites and platforms where reviews are given.  It is no surprise, therefore, that Trustpilot has been very public in its condemnation of the action of Summerfield Browne.  Some businesses, however, particularly those who have received reviews that have damaged their business e.g., on TripAdvisor, may see this as a legitimate way of reminding people to think carefully about the impact of their actions online and of giving back a little more power to businesses to protect themselves where they feel they have been treated unjustly in a way that could hit their revenue and reputation.

Coronavirus Lockdown Increases ‘Romance Fraud’

UK Finance and Action Fraud have both reported increases in fraud related to romance scams over the lockdown period.

What Is Romance Fraud?

Romance fraud/romance scams refers to fraudsters adopting fake personas online in order to fool a victim into thinking they are in a serious romantic relationship with the aim of convincing the victim to send money (e.g. bank transfers, gifts) or share personal information which can later be used to commit identity fraud. Fraudsters (gangs) also use romance fraud victims to help them launder money.

UK Finance and Action Fraud Figures

With Valentine’s Day just gone, UK Finance figures show a 20 per cent increase in bank transfer fraud in 2020 on the previous year linked to romance scams.  UK Finance figures also show that the total value of these kinds of scams rose by 12 per cent to £18.5m.

Action Fraud

In both 2019 and 2020, the amount of money lost to romance fraud outstripped that stolen by online shopping fraud, according to Action Fraud, which is the main reporting body in the UK.

Who?

Lloyds Bank data shows that those who are particularly at risk of romance fraud are people aged 55 to 64.  These are often people who live alone an/or may be out of touch with family and friends, may not be skilled with technology and may be at a point in their life where they are actively looking for a relationship. The national lockdowns and other restrictions on social lives over the pandemic also appear to have made it easier for romance fraudsters to target and exploit their victims.

Dating Apps

Dating apps are one of the main ways that romance fraudsters target their victims and Online Dating Association figures show that 2.3 million UK citizens used dating apps during the lockdown.  Many of those targeted through dating apps are thought to have been duped into losing £18.5m through bank transfer fraud in 2020 with an average loss per victim of £7,850.

Romance fraudsters also use fake social media (Facebook) profiles and pages, using stolen photos as well as fake websites in order to support an online persona. They often pose as soldiers, merchants, or professionals, and closely study the online profiles of their victims in order to help provide fuel for manipulative conversations.

Not Reported

Many people do not report falling victim to romance scams due to embarrassment and shame, and many victims have their self-esteem damaged as well as losing money.

Bank Code

In 2019, banks agreed upon a code that if a fraud victim is found to have “taken reasonable care and has any element of vulnerability” they may be able to receive a refund from the bank.

How To Avoid Romance Fraud

Steps that people can take to avoid falling victim to romance fraud include:

– Making sure that a person can physically (and safely) meet the person face-to-face who wants a relationship with them.  Romance fraudsters tend to avoid personal contact, preferring email, phone, Skype to hide their fake identity and avoid difficult questions.

– Have a healthy suspicion of people who try to move the conversation quickly away from communication through a dating website to other more private means e.g., email, or of anyone trying to randomly connect via email, Facebook, WhatsApp, Skype, or other online means.

– Google the text used in conversations as it is often part of a well-known scam script.

– Use Google Image search at images.google.com to check if any photographs of a person are genuine, stolen or have featured in other scams.

– Never send money to a romantic online contact.

– Contact Action Fraud with any suspicions of romance fraud.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Although dating sites and social media are generally used legitimately, it pays to be suspicious of certain types of behaviour and requests, and if something sounds too good to be true, it’s often because it is.  Fraudsters are skilled manipulators, often used scripted, tried and tested approaches and are aware that potential victims may be emotionally vulnerable for a number of reasons.  This is something that has been exacerbated by the isolation, separation, and restrictions of the pandemic lockdowns. 

Featured Article: Energy – Consumption & Carbon From Bitcoin and Other Tech

With the news that mining Bitcoin uses more electricity annually than the whole of Argentina, we take a closer look at the carbon footprint of technology today.

Cambridge

Researchers from Cambridge recently highlighted how power-hungry “mining” for the Bitcoin cryptocurrency is because it requires heavy computer calculations to verify transactions.  The researchers reported that it consumes 21.36 terawatt-hours (TWh) a year meaning that if Bitcoin were a country, its energy (electricity) consumption it would be ranked above Argentina and the energy could power all the kettles in the UK for 27 years!

Mining

Bitcoin “mining” is the activity that uses the energy. Mining refers to needing to have specialised Bitcoin computers that are constantly on and connected to the cryptocurrency network to verify transactions (sending and receiving of Bitcoin).  This verification is achieved by the computers solving puzzles to prevent fraud and to win small amounts of Bitcoin. The whole process is extremely energy-hungry.

Greater Popularity Means More Power Consumption

Bitcoin has received some boosts in its popularity recently which have resulted in a boost in buying activity with the cryptocurrency, and consequently, an increase in its energy consumption.

For example, most recently, Elon Musk’s EV company Tesla bought $1.5bn of Bitcoin, which encouraged a surge in other investors.  Also, PayPal now allows US customers to buy, sell and hold bitcoin (and other tokens) in their online wallets, Square bought $50m in bitcoin in October because of its perceived future growth potential, and major banks (e.g. European Central Bank) considering getting into cryptocurrencies. There has also been more speculation from investors seeking safety after an uncertain year at the hands of COVID-19 and its effects on the global economy.

All these factors have meant a rise in the value of Bitcoin which has attracted Bitcoin miners to run more machines and, therefore, consume more energy with the effect of creating larger quantities of damaging CO2.

Perspective

Although Bitcoin mining may be good news for energy companies and bad news for the environment due to current contribution to excess CO2 production, there are other areas that are often overlooked where huge improvements in excess energy consumption could be made by relatively small changes.  For example, the amount of electricity consumed each year by home devices in the US alone that are always-on but not active could power the entire Bitcoin network for a year.

Leaving devices on standby (e.g. the television and phone chargers plugged in and switched on) has long been known to be a source of wasted energy, CO2 pollution, and higher bills.  For example, the Energy Saving Trust believes that an average UK home wastes between £50 and £86 each year by leaving appliances on standby.

Simple changes such as putting a computer in sleep mode rather than letting it stay constantly in screen saver mode when it’s not being used (which can take up more energy than actually using the computer) can save a lot of energy and contribute to the reduction of carbon emissions.

Even Google Searches

Back in 2009, there were reports that performing two Google searches from a desktop computer could generate roughly the same amount of carbon dioxide as boiling a kettle (i.e. around 7g of CO2 per search).  This was a newspaper report (Sunday Times) which, after further consultation with Google was revised to say that it did not refer to a one-hit Google search taking less than a second, which Google agreed produced about 0.2g of CO2.

And Emails….

In November 2020, a Financial Times report based on work by Tim Berners-Lee and Ovo Energy highlighted how sending fewer emails could help tackle climate change by reducing carbon emissions. The report suggested that sending emails uses a lot of energy and produces carbon.  This is because in order to allow emails to be written and sent, energy must be used by servers, home wi-fi, and a laptop.  Also, the carbon emitted to construct data centre buildings could also be taken into when assessing the environmental impact of email as this represents significant greenhouse gas (carbon) production.  The report estimated that although each individual email is likely to be responsible for producing an incredibly small amount of carbon as a proportion of the 435.2 million tonnes of greenhouse gasses produced by the UK in 2019, there is likely to be a cumulative impact. This impact is likely to be made greater by the sending of “unnecessary” emails.

For example, Ovo Energy commissioned (Censuswide) research shows that the 64 million “unnecessary” emails sent every day could be responsible for contributing 23,475 tonnes of carbon a year to the UK’s carbon footprint. Unnecessary emails are categorised as those sent to friends within talking distance, or those containing replies such as ‘thank you’, ‘thanks’, ‘received’, and similar.

There is, of course, the argument that whether sending emails or not, having laptops, computers, Wi-Fi routers (and more) switched on all the time is contributing to the production of carbon and that separating out the individual contribution of emails is difficult. It could also be argued that game and video streaming and cloud storage have more of a negative impact than sending emails.

Data Centres

The huge and growing demand for Internet and mobile phone traffic and the increasing reliance on the Cloud has led to more data centres being built by big tech companies. It is estimated that data centres use 200 terawatt-hours (TWh) per year which is more than the energy consumption of some countries e.g., Iran, but only 1 per cent of global electricity demand. In terms of their carbon footprint, data centres contribute around 0.3 per cent to overall carbon emissions.  That said, Hyperscale data centres, which emerged about a decade ago, are reported to have kept electricity demand at roughly the same level due to becoming super-efficient and the stripped-down, bare-bones servers.

Apple Reports Fully Renewable Energy Data Centres

Back at the end of 2018, Apple reported that it had hit a new milestone in green energy usage by making all of its 43 data centre sites across the world operate using 100 per cent renewable energy. What that meant was that the data centres could be 100 per cent ‘renewables powered’, due to the ‘clean energy’ that Apple was buying and putting back into the power grid that could be offset against its global power consumption.  Apple reported that this had been achieved by six years of financing, building, or locating new renewable energy sources (e.g. solar and wind farms) near the company’s facilities. In 2018, Apple said that it had 25 operational renewable energy projects, and 15 more in construction, spread across 11 countries.

There was some criticism at the time, however, when it was pointed out that the manufacturing of iPhones, iPads and other machines creates carbon emissions.

ICT

The whole information and communications technology (ICT) ecosystem, which encompasses personal digital devices, mobile-phone networks, and televisions, has been estimated to account for more than 2 per cent of global carbon emissions which makes its carbon footprint the equivalent of the aviation industry’s emissions from fuel (prior to the pandemic).

Looking Ahead

It appears that our need for smart devices, the Internet and electricity is only going to increase. Making devices and data centres that are much more energy-efficient, switching more to green energy, and carbon offsetting are some ways that the tech industry is trying to limit its carbon footprint.  Also, Carbon Capture Systems, such as the ones recently highlighted by Elon Musk’s offer of a $100M prize are another way that harmful carbon, such as that produced by the ICT ecosystem could be physically removed from the atmosphere, but there is still some way to go on this.  For now, it is unlikely that most people will think about the environmental impact of Bitcoin mining and some commentators have pointed to the need for a carbon tax on cryptocurrencies to help balance out some of the negative consumption.  It is also unlikely that with businesses trying to recover from the pandemic they are going to think about limiting how many emails they send.  The fact is, however, that businesses and individuals each have a responsibility to take what measures they can to reduce their own carbon footprint and that governments are likely to continue using a combination of punishments and rewards to help us all meet the agreed environmental targets.

Scotland Shames The Rest of UK for Free Electronic Car Charging

Zap-Map figures show that Scotland has the largest number of free electronic vehicle (EV) charging points in the UK.

More Than A Quarter of the UK’s Free Chargers

The latest figures from EV charging infrastructure trackers Zap-Maps show that of the 21,000 charging devices listed on Zap-Map, 4,900 are free to use.  This means that Scotland has about double the number of free electric charging devices than south-east England and Scotland has more than a quarter of the UK’s free chargers.

Access Fee Still Payable

Scotland has 4,655 chargers with nearly 30 per cent of them free to use, and although a large percentage of public charging devices in Scotland are free to use, EV motorists still have to pay an annual access fee of £20 to the operators, Chargeplace Scotland, Scotland’s national Electric Vehicle (EV) charging network.  The ChargePlace Scotland network grew from 55 public charge points in 2013 to over 1,500 in 2020.

Northern Ireland

The Zap-Map figures also show that Northern Ireland is well-served in terms of free charging with 72 per cent of its charging devices free to use.  The actual numbers of charging points in Northern Ireland are, however, still relatively low.

The carNI EV charging network in Northern Ireland and the ESB ecars network in the Republic of Ireland (which are interoperable and accessed using the ecarNI Access Card) report that there are currently only 334 charge points.

London

Zap-Map figures show that drivers in London are certainly not as lucky as Scottish EV drivers as only 400 (only 6 per cent of its total number of chargers) are free.

Most Use Public Chargers

The Zap-Map survey of 2,200 people found that 90 per cent use public chargers when they’re out.  Supermarkets are the most popular public charging place (48 per cent of respondents), followed by motorway service stations (47 per cent) and public car parks (32 per cent).

Ultra-Rapid Charging Point Growth

Recent figures have also shown a growth in ultra-rapid charge points with 16 per cent of EV owners now using them. This trend has been helped by more cars being able to take higher charge rates as well as an almost doubling of the number of ultra-rapid charge points available.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

These figures appear to show that Scotland is taking a lead in free EV charging.  The fast-growing EV industry and fierce competition now among car manufacturers and charge point operators makes it clear that having a robust and reliable charging network across the whole of the UK is going to be an important priority. Where and how cars can be cheaply charged is an important consideration for motorists who are thinking of making the move to EV now.  There is, however, still some confusion in the marketplace about charging options which is one of the reasons why The Department for Transport (DfT) is introducing contactless payment at charge points, forcing operators to provide a 24/7 call helpline for drivers and making location data, power rating and price information more accessible, with the hope of reassuring motorists that charging EV’s can be easier than refuelling with petrol or diesel.

Tech Tip – Restoring Previous Versions Using File History

If you’d like to restore a previous version of a file in Windows 10 you can do this using File History.  Here’s how:

Firstly, to enable File History:

-Go to ‘Settings’ and select ‘Update & Security’ and in the left-hand-side menu, click on ‘Backup’.

-Under ‘Add a Drive’, if no dive is listed you will need to add a drive option e.g., external storage connected to a USB port.

-Select that drive and the ‘Automatically back up my files’.  This will enable File History and will toggle to ‘On’. This can be toggled to ‘off’ when not required.

-The ‘More Options’ link below the toggle/slider allows you to select when you want your back-ups to occur, which folders you’d like to back up and it allows you to select backup to a different drive.

To Restore old versions:

– Restoring previous versions of files can now happen by opening File Explorer, finding file or folder you wish to restore, right-clicking on the file or folder, then selecting the Restore previous versions option.

Previous versions will be displayed in a list. Select the version to restore, select the Open button at the bottom or to restore it, select Restore.