Amazon Delivery Drones Face Ban From FAA

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Imagine a world where our packages could be delivered to us via Amazon drones – well unfortunately the dream envisioned by the online retailer will have to remain an imagination, after running into a few difficulties regarding the Federal Aviation Administration.

In a document seeking public comment involving drone policy – a “Notice of Interpretation with Request for Comment” – the FAA refers to the act of “delivering packages to people for a fee” a non-hobby or recreation-based drone activity; resulting in the group wanting to ban drones.

This detail is clarified further, stating: “If an individual offers free shipping in association with a purchase or other offer, FAA would construe the shipping to be in furtherance of a business purpose, and thus, the operation would not fall within the statutory requirement of recreation or hobby purpose.”

However, Amazon does not appear to be worried by this move. According to Paul Misener, Vice President of Global Public Policy for Amazon, this “has no effect on our plans. This is about hobbyists and model aircrafts, not Amazon.”

New York lawyer, Brendan Schulman, told tech news site Ars Technica that the new guidelines were designed to prevent drones from being commercially used.

“It’s a purported new legal basis telling people to stop operating model aircraft for business purposes,” he explained.

In the US, determining drone legality is complicated – as according to the FAA, only amateurs and those with specialist FAA approval (something known as a Certificate of Authority) are granted legal permission to fly drones; though this issue has previously faced serious contention.

Until then, Amazon will just have to wait and see what FAA’s ruling will be on the use of commercial drones.

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McDonald’s Trials Smartphone Ordering App

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Want your fast food to be even faster? Then McDonald’s may have the solution – with the company testing out a mobile app that allows customers to place their orders in advance.

Called “McD Ordering,” the app is currently being trialled across 22 locations in Columbus, Georgia.

To use the service, customers simply link their credit or debit card to the app, with the card charged when the customer scans a QR code at a McDonald’s branch. The order number flashes up on the app, the customer proceeds to collect the food – but all without having to queue up and speak with a cashier.

The app details that food can either be collected direct from the counter, or delivered curbside.

While McDonald’s has used these kind of apps abroad previously, this will be the first smartphone ordering and paying app of its kind in the US.

Other businesses – such as Starbucks – have already enlisted the use of mobile payment apps before. More recently, Chick-fil-A and Tim Hortons have joined this initiative.

In addition, McDonald’s currently has an app that’s in trial mode – though this is strictly for coupons and loyalty schemes (plus the “McD App” isn’t being tested in the same location as the McD Ordering app).

A top executive at McDonald’s – who isn’t authorised to speak about the app in public – stated that the company is more interested in improving the customer experience as opposed to encouraging customers to carry out purchases via their mobiles.

The representative added that McDonald’s can benefit from the data collected by the app and use it as constructive feedback. Should the mobile ordering app also integrate coupons, the executive said that the company can see what foods customers order when they redeem coupons – helping McDonald’s create enhanced target ads.

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Amazon To Join Railway Station ‘Click And Collect’ Scheme

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Following the recent news that Network Rail would be launching an innovative online shopping ‘click and collect’ initiative, hot on the heels to join the likes of ASOS and New Look includes Amazon – after it was announced that the retailer had agreed to partner up with Doddle.

A joint venture between Lloyd Dorfman and Network Rail, it’s been reported that Amazon will begin its operations with Doddle in September.

When asked if this service would be of interest to retailers who had yet to launch their own click and collect solutions, Dorfman said Amazon was the “most convincing customer we’ve come to an agreement with”.

In addition, sellers who ship products with Amazon FBA will automatically have their items ready for collection at railway stations – without having to adapt their way of selling. Amazon sellers from France, Germany, the US as well as other locations across the world will also benefit from being able to provide pick up services at train stations.

The pilot scheme is currently underway at Milton Keynes station, with plans to further the operations to 300 click and collect points at British train stations over the next three years – with an expected price tag of around £24 million.

Fran Waite, a spokesman for Amazon in the UK, has not yet commented on this move.

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Network Rail To Open 300 Pick-Up Points At Train Stations For Online Shoppers

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From splurging at a retail outlet to picking up a bargain at a garage sale, there’s plenty of places to go shopping – with one such place being…train stations.

Online shoppers now have the option to collect their packages at their local railway station, after it was announced that a click-and-collect service would be rolled out at hundreds of train stations throughout the UK – courtesy of a joint venture between ASOS, Network Rail and New Look (as well as other leading brands).

Teaming up with Travelex founder, Lloyd Dorfman, the owner of Britain’s rail tracks and stations has invested £24m in the co-owned business, entitled Doddle – in the hopes of creating over 3,000 jobs over the course of the next three years.

Currently, a pilot scheme exists in Milton Keynes; with plans to extend the service to Brighton, Bromley South, Chelmsford, London Cannon Street and London Waterloo before the end of August.

Tim Robinson, chief executive at Doddle, explained: “We offer a premium service with contemporary shops, advanced technology and highly trained staff delivering a dedicated customer experience.

“It is the next major step in online shopping, providing a parcel collection, returns and delivery service that has customer choice and convenience at its very heart. What’s more, we are delivery carrier and retailer agnostic so any brand can offer the Doddle service to their customers.”

Robin Gisby, managing director at Network Rail, said: “More people are travelling by rail than ever before and stations have become more than just a place to wait for or get off a train. We’ve adapted to passenger’s changing needs and now offer quality retail, food and drink at our biggest stations, such as London Waterloo.

“Introducing Doddle to stations will enable us to reinvest our profits back into the railway and is a natural next step to help passengers and people who live and work near stations, whose lives are increasingly busy and on the move.”

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eBay Removes Chinese ‘Spyware’ Smartphones From Listings

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Online auction site eBay has barred the sale of Star smartphones manufactured in a Chinese factory, after reports surfaced that the device had been pre-installed with malware.

Disguised as the authentic Google Play Store app, the Google Android-powered N9500 model monitors phone user behaviour – with the Trojan allowing cybercriminals to remotely control the phone and compromise mobile activity.

“Due to reports that some Star 9500 smartphones are loaded with spyware, eBay is not allowing the sale of these devices as a precautionary measure,” a spokesperson explained.

Despite the little-known Star brand failing to compete with bigger names such as Apple and HTC, its appeal could be down to its appearance being similar to the Samsung Galaxy S4 – along with its sale price going for a third of the cost.

Security agency G Data said the issue had been brought to their attention following tip-offs from its customers.

“The spyware runs in the background and cannot be detected by users,” it stated.

“Unbeknownst to the user, the smartphone sends personal data to a server located in China and is able to covertly install additional applications.

“This makes it possible to retrieve personal data, intercept calls and online banking data, read emails and text messages or control the camera and microphone remotely.

“The program also blocks the installation of security updates.”

It is unknown whether the manufacturers deliberately planted the malware on these handsets, or a flawed security check meant the malware was able to sneak its way onto the devices.

 

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eBay Launches Valet App That Sells Your Items For You

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Instead of spending hours listing countless items for auction, wouldn’t it be great to have an app that could take on this hard work – and sell your stuff for you? Well your auctioning prayers have been answered – ladies and gentlemen, eBay is pleased to announce the release of its new ‘eBay Valet’ app.

As part of the company’s efforts to expand its little-known Sell For Me service across mobile platforms, eBay Valet has been developed to simplify the selling process as well as increase smartphone usage.

Developed for the iPhone, users take a picture of the item they are looking to sell then add a description. Next, eBay’s “valets” (workers for the online auction site who assess your items being put up for sale) look through the various eBay listings to establish the best prices for your goods – as well as how to appropriately list them.

You’ll then receive a valuation quote, which you can either approve or reject. Should you approve the quote, your items are posted with a deadline of two weeks to sell on eBay. Once the item is sold, you get to keep 70 per cent of the profits – with eBay sending you a postage label or a free prepaid box for you to send your sold items.

“Even though you’re not selling the item, there’s still an experience of selling,” said Steve Yankovich, eBay’s vice president of Innovation and New Ventures. “You get to experience the listing but do none of the work.”

While similar services have tried and failed, given eBay’s standing in the shopping community, the company could end up proving its competitors wrong – and become the first success story of its kind.

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PayPal Extends Buyer Protection Scheme To Cover Services And Digital Goods

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UK shoppers may have even more of an incentive to purchase goods online, after PayPal announced that it would be bulking up its Buyer Protection Scheme in a bid to enhance shopping rights for consumers.

Previously, the standard procedure entailed users being able to open up a dispute over physical goods purchased for using PayPal. Once a claim had been filed through its Resolution Centre, PayPal would then create a channel that allowed the buyer and the seller to attempt to resolve the dispute – before deciding if the original payment should be refunded.

As of yesterday, PayPal has increased its coverage to comprise services such as travel tickets, digital goods and “other intangible items”. UK consumers will be the first audience to benefit from this move, with PayPal also extending the deadline to open a dispute from 45 to 180 days.

“People were telling us that they wanted more protection when buying things like travel tickets and digital downloads, so today’s [Monday 16 June 2014] changes will give them even greater reassurance when using PayPal,” explained Cameron McLean, PayPal’s UK managing director.

It is hoped that PayPal’s revised Buyer Protection Scheme will now enable consumers to shop with confidence – while the extension of 180 days will prove helpful for shoppers who have been scammed over a long period and may have only realised after a few months, or are simply lazy and require extra time in setting up a dispute case.

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UK Consumers Get New Online Shopping Rights

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British shoppers will now be given more time to return unwanted items and will also be protected from hidden charges, following new legislation that came into effect on Friday.

As part of the Consumer Rights Directive – which is practised throughout the European Union – customers will no longer have to pay extortionate fees when purchasing online via their credit or debit cards.

Consumers will also receive an extended “cooling off period”, when cancelling an order and returning goods bought online, at home or by phone (amending the original seven working day deadline to 14 calendar days).

Customers buying digital editions of books, films and music for the first time can also take advantage of this cooling off period – but once they commence the download of their item, they will not be allowed to cancel their order.

Retailers must issue a refund for consumers’ items within 14 days of the cancellation date, which also includes delivery costs.

“As of today (Friday 13 June 2014) every consumer in the European Union can claim his or her rights under the Consumer Rights Directive meaning: no more pre-ticked boxes when you buy a plane ticket, no more extra charges for paying with your credit card online and no more traders telling you that you can’t return a good you bought online,” explained Vice-President Viviane Reding, the EU’s Justice Commissioner.

In addition, there will also be a ban on retailers pre-ticking boxes for extra purchases such as car hire or travel insurance when buying a flight online.

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Amazon Unveils Music-Streaming Service For US Prime Subscribers

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There’s a new music-streaming competitor in town, ramped up to tackle big name rivals such as Google and Spotify – and it goes by the name of Amazon.

Users subscribed to Amazon Prime – the company’s premium membership plan – not only benefit from the advertising-free service, but now have access to the extensive Prime Music catalogue of songs as well as Amazon’s “lending library” of e-books.

Prime customers who pay an annual fee of $99 can enjoy 1 million songs to their hearts’ content, along with free two-day shipping; however, the service is only limited to users in the US. Platforms that support Amazon Prime include Android, iOS, Mac and PC, as well as Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablets. In addition, users will be able to download music for offline listening.

An Amazon representative in the UK said: “Prime Music is not available outside the US at this time and we’re not able to speculate on future plans.”

While the Prime Music service will be replacing both the Cloud Player apps as well as the MP3 store, there’s a distinct lack of tracks newer than six months old – as it’s been reported that Universal Music Group will not be contributing to the music catalogue.

“You’re going to see a lot of songs from the Billboard 100, but you’re not going to see a lot of new releases,” explained Steve Boom, Amazon’s digital music vice president. “There’ll be something for everybody.”

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Expedia Now Accepts Bitcoin For Hotel Reservations

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With the likes of eBay expressing an interest in cryptocurrency, it wasn’t long until other businesses followed suit – with Expedia now accepting Bitcoin payments for travellers looking to make hotel bookings.

After partnering with San Francisco-based startup, Coinbase Inc, Expedia has authorised the cryptocurrency as legitimate payment – which works simply by converting bitcoins into money. Should the scheme prove successful, travellers could soon pay for airline tickets and holidays via Bitcoin, explained vice president of global product at Expedia, Michael Gulmann.

“Expedia is obviously a travel company, but in many ways we’re also a technology company,” said Gulmann. “There’s a tech-savvy crowd at the front of [bitcoin] and we want to be there.

“We think there’s growth potential for bitcoin as a currency. We see it now as something that’s growing that we want to be a part of. If you look back 14 to 15 years, PayPal was a strange thing that was out there in e-commerce, and now it’s fairly mainstream.”

As one of the biggest brands in the business, Expedia stands to gain a lot from this move – in terms of both fame and fortune. One major advantage for Expedia is that any purchases made via bitcoin carries lower transaction costs compared to other forms of payment. For instance, a credit card provider like Visa currently charges merchant as much as three per cent per order; compared to Coinbase’s one per cent (once the merchant has hit a minimum sales volume).

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