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MARKET REPORT: Ocado roller-coaster as rival makes robot claim

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market report ocado roller coaster as rival makes robot claim

Ocado shares went on a roller-coaster ride yesterday as the online supermarket was accused of stealing robot technology from a Norwegian company.

The shares had been in positive territory until around midday, when Autostore launched a scathing public attack. 

The business revealed a lawsuit against Ocado in the UK and US, which alleges that its technology is actually the foundation of the British firm’s famous robot warehouses.

Ocado has been accused of stealing technology used in its robotic stock pickers (pictured) from a Norwegian rival

Ocado has been accused of stealing technology used in its robotic stock pickers (pictured) from a Norwegian rival

The robots at the heart of the dispute have revolutionised the grocery industry, as they allow supermarkets to collate online orders without paying costly staff to manually pick items off shelves.

Autostore’s lawsuit seeks financial damages from Ocado.

Karl Johan Lier, Autostore’s president and chief executive, said: ‘Our ownership of the technology at the heart of Ocado’s warehousing system is clear.

‘We will not tolerate Ocado’s continued infringement of our intellectual property rights in its effort to boost its growth and attempt to transform itself into a global technology company.’

Stock Watch – Iomart Group 

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Shares in cloud computing firm Iomart Group tumbled as profits were set to fall.

The stock dipped 3 per cent, or 10.5p, to 344.5p after it published an update on the six months to September 30.

Glasgow-based Iomart said it had ‘performed well’ in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, continuing to grow sales from £55.1million to £56million.

But profits would fall from £21.8million to £21million as newer, managed cloud computing products were less profitable than old ones managed by customers.

But Ocado hit back less than two hours later, turning the tables on Autostore. The company said its Ocado Smart Platform technology was protected by patents and it was now investigating whether AutoStore has, or intends to, infringe them.

‘We will always vigorously protect our intellectual property,’ the firm added.

The robot rumpus sent the firm’s shares into a frenzy, falling as much as 6.5 per cent before closing down just 1 per cent, or 26p, at 2718p.

It was a better day for medical equipment giant Smith & Nephew, which was on the rise after revealing that declines in its quarterly revenues had been arrested.

The firm’s shares closed up 2.1 per cent, or 31.14p, at 1536.5p after it said third quarter underlying revenues were expected to be down by 4 per cent compared to a year ago in a trading update.

That would normally sound like bad news, but S&N said it represented a ‘significant recovery’ across its businesses compared to the yearly decline of 29.3 per cent in the second quarter.

The firm, which makes hip and knee replacements, has been hurt by mass cancellations of elective surgeries during the pandemic, as hospitals have scrambled to free up capacity.

But it said its orthopaedics division had bounced back as ‘global levels of elective surgery continued to recover’.

However, analysts at Shore Capital warned there was still ‘a lot of uncertainty’ surrounding the company because of the pandemic.

‘Any second wave of the virus in the winter would likely stunt growth in elective procedures,’ they told clients. 

Meanwhile, the FTSE 100 was little changed when the closing bell rang. The blue chip index edged up by just 0.23 per cent, or 13.35 points, to 5879.45 during the day, as the growing Brexit ding-dong between London and Brussels spooked traders.

Oil giant Shell was among the biggest fallers, dipping 3.5 per cent, or 32.9p, to 907.3p, with rival BP sagging 3.1 per cent, or 7p, to 218.2p.

At the same time, the FTSE 250 index of medium-sized firms made only modest gains, rising 0.39 per cent, or 68.16 points, to 17,383.46.

Shares in retirement homes builder McCarthy & Stone rose 6.3 per cent, or 4.4p, to 74.2p after the firm announced a partnership with a not-for-profit organisation.

The agreement with Anchor Hanover, which provides specialist housing and care services to the elderly, will see the pair team up to develop ‘affordable living communities for all’ in England.

They are initially planning 482 units across five sites already owned by McCarthy, worth about £125million.

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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I paid Voyage Prive £245 for hotel transfers that never arrived. Where’s my refund?

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i paid voyage prive 245 for hotel transfers that never arrived wheres my refund

On 27 August, my husband and I booked a holiday to Crete for 31 August with Voyage Prive.

Due to the transfer time to our hotel, which was 90 minutes, and because of the pandemic, we opted for private transfers at a cost of £245 as we thought it was the safest option.

On arrival at Heraklion Airport late in the evening we discovered that the transfer did not materialise and we had to find our own way to our hotel.

Unsurprisingly, the return transfer didn’t materialise either and we are still awaiting a refund for our transfer costs to and from the airport. How can we get a refund?

You were left waiting for a car transfer in Crete that never arrived - leaving you to pay for a taxi

You were left waiting for a car transfer in Crete that never arrived - leaving you to pay for a taxi

You were left waiting for a car transfer in Crete that never arrived – leaving you to pay for a taxi

Grace Gausden, This is Money, replies: You booked your holiday through Voyage Prive which describes itself as a private club that specialises in premium holidays at the best prices.

While it is a members only website, anyone can sign up and join for free.

The firm started in France and has now expanded with its ‘unique flash sales concept’ to have over 44million members worldwide with offices in France, UK, Italy, Spain, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium and the Netherlands.

Despite describing itself as a luxury travel agent, your experience has left you wondering whether it really is.

Being stranded abroad at an airport in the evening is not the ideal start to any holiday – especially one taken in the midst of a pandemic.

Having paid hundreds of pounds to be taken to your hotel, and a total of £2,781 for the holiday, you were frustrated to learn that there was no transfer waiting for you after you got off your flight.

You said you could not reach Voyage Prive via the ’emergency contact number’ that was emailed to you only days before, as it was switched off.

Instead you had to pay for a taxi to the hotel yourself and reported this the next day via email to Voyage Prive, also asking about your return transfer.

You eventually received an email response saying it would investigate. 

However, no return transfer ever came to pick you up at the end of your holiday and you, again, had to pay for a taxi to travel to the airport.

Voyage Prive say it specialises in luxury holidays on its members only website (Pictured: Crete)

Voyage Prive say it specialises in luxury holidays on its members only website (Pictured: Crete)

Voyage Prive say it specialises in luxury holidays on its members only website (Pictured: Crete)

After contacting Voyage Prive again when you got home, the firm said it cannot advise until it receives a response from their supplier as to what has gone wrong.

That was two months ago and you still haven’t received an update. You have now reported the incident to ABTA which states Voyage Prive have a further 56 days to respond.

To add insult to injury, you received an email from the agent marked ‘do not send to client’ that was clearly sent to you in error.

Inside it detailed the nature of your complaint, explaining the customer service agent had already claimed you are not entitled to a refund of any sort as the transfer operator had said it was not going to return any money.

The operator claims that the transfer car was actually there and you just didn’t see it, which you say is impossible as you were at the desk in the airport asking where the transport was.

We attempted to contact Voyage Prive, but there is a distinct lack of contact details.

There is no phone number or email address easily found on their website and instead, the travel agent directs people to a FAQ section.

Customers have said they have been unable to contact Voyage Prive on the phone or by email

Customers have said they have been unable to contact Voyage Prive on the phone or by email

Customers have said they have been unable to contact Voyage Prive on the phone or by email

If your query is not answered there then you are left with no further options to resolve your issue.

This could be due to many holiday companies removing their phone numbers from their website at the start of the coronavirus pandemic to avoid overwhelming the system as so many people were calling to try and get a refund or change their booking. 

This is Money managed to find a customer relations email address for Voyage Prive which we contacted multiple times but are yet to receive a response.

As you have taken the issue to ABTA, a trade association for tour operators and travel agents, it may be able to help you resolve the issue as Voyage Prive is an ABTA member.  

An ABTA spokesperson replies: If you have a dispute with an ABTA member, which you have been unable to resolve with them, you can register a complaint on abta.com. 

The majority of these complaints are then resolved with ABTA’s assistance. 

However, there will always be particularly intractable cases, where deadlock has been reached between the customer and the ABTA Member. 

For theses cases ABTA offers an independently operated online arbitration scheme, which is faster the going the small claims court and also in the vast majority of cases, cheaper.

Grace Gausden, This is Money, adds: Those with issues with their travel agent are advised to contact the firm in the first instance before escalating the issue with ABTA. 

However, it seems you are not the only customer to take issue with Voyage Prive.  

When looking at reviews for the firm, many have taken to Google to share their complaints with the company receiving an average rating of just 1.7 stars.

On Trustpilot, it fairs a bit better with an average rating of 3.2 stars out of five. 

However, recent comments from customers suggest they are having a difficult time dealing with the travel agent.

Other customers have taken to social media to share their frustration at getting refunds and making contact with the company.

This reviewer said they have struggled to contact the firm after they closed the phone lines

This reviewer said they have struggled to contact the firm after they closed the phone lines

This reviewer said they have struggled to contact the firm after they closed the phone lines

Another review said they also have been unable to get a response from Voyage Prive

Another review said they also have been unable to get a response from Voyage Prive

Another review said they also have been unable to get a response from Voyage Prive

This Twitter user said they were unable to find any contact details for the online travel agent

This Twitter user said they were unable to find any contact details for the online travel agent

This Twitter user said they were unable to find any contact details for the online travel agent

One Twitter user said she wasn't even told her holiday was cancelled & found out on Facebook

One Twitter user said she wasn't even told her holiday was cancelled & found out on Facebook

One Twitter user said she wasn’t even told her holiday was cancelled & found out on Facebook

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My plumber has refused to service my old boiler. Do I need to replace it?

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my plumber has refused to service my old boiler do i need to replace it

My boiler is 28 years-old and works fine, so I was surprised when the plumber who usually services it refused this year because it is too ancient.

It’s a Potterton boiler, which I have had serviced every year since 1992, and my gas bill for the past 11 months was around £1,300. I live in a four-bedroom detached house. 

Do I really need to replace a working boiler, or is he just trying to get more money out of me to install a costly new one?

Having a boiler replaced can be very costly, especially if there are currently no issues with it

Having a boiler replaced can be very costly, especially if there are currently no issues with it

Having a boiler replaced can be very costly, especially if there are currently no issues with it

Grace Gausden, This is Money, replies: It is good to hear you have had your boiler serviced every year.

This is important as a plumber can tell you if there are any impending issues and will also ensure it continues to run smoothly.

As you have been consistently on top of this, you were surprised when your plumber decided this year he would not service your boiler as he believed it to be too old.

The average boiler usually lasts around 15 years, while you have had yours for almost double that.

However, as you have noticed no issues with it, you’re not keen to replace it – at great expense – as you don’t see the need to.

Your plumber may not have wished to service it as it can often be difficult to find the parts for an older boiler should anything go wrong.

In some cases trying to repair a boiler of that age would be the same cost, if not more expensive, than installing a new one altogether.  

Another important thing to consider is that your gas bills are incredibly high.

In fact they are nearly double what they should be, even though you are in a large, detached home. 

Many households will be watching their energy bills as people continue to work from home

Many households will be watching their energy bills as people continue to work from home

Many households will be watching their energy bills as people continue to work from home

To rectify this, it is worth using price comparison sites to see if you can save money by switching supplier.

It would also be advisable to contact your energy supplier to see if you can negotiate lower bills, explaining that you believe you are paying over the odds.

You have said that you are ‘liberal’ with the heating but not excessive, suggesting that the bills are still much higher than they could be.

Victoria Arrington of Energy Helpline replies: There are many potential reasons why an older boiler may not be as easy to service. For instance, parts may be costly or even completely unavailable.

What stood out to me was your gas bill, which at £1,300 for 11 months seems quite high, based on average usage and the size of your property.

Even for costly standard variable tariffs, the average gas bill in a typical home is £455. And on a bargain tariff, the average gas bill is £363 – around £1,000 less than your annual bill.

If your 28-year-old boiler is inefficient compared to more modern models, it may be part of the reason why you have a much higher bill than average.

A newer boiler may be an investment up front, but over time the savings on bills may make up for that cost many times over.

Customers are likely to have limited choices if their boiler is more than 15 years old

Customers are likely to have limited choices if their boiler is more than 15 years old

Customers are likely to have limited choices if their boiler is more than 15 years old

Andy Kerr, co-founder of smart home systems installer, BOXT, replies: Many companies now refuse to work on older boilers as the law places a burden on the last gas engineer working on the appliance to ensure it is safe to use.

In addition to this, when servicing a gas boiler an engineer is only allowed to only use new or suitably refurbished parts. With old boilers it is now very difficult, if not impossible, to get new or even refurbished parts. 

For the last 15 years or so all new domestic boilers installed in the UK have been high efficiency condensing boilers and these use very different parts to the old non-condensing designs.

It’s not just older boilers that some engineers refuse to work on because of the inherent risk of them being unsafe, engineers will often refuse to attend newer models with inherent risks.

If at the point of service it is found that your boiler is immediately dangerous, if parts cannot be sourced immediately the boiler will be turned off immediately.

A proactive replacement is often a very sensible choice with an old boiler as, if your old boiler does fail during winter and the parts are unavailable, it could be weeks before a replacement boiler can be fitted. A proactive replacement allows you to keep the continuity of a working system.

As new condensing boilers are much more efficient than old non-condensing ones, even with a gas bill of £1,300 for 11 months you are likely to save upwards of 25 per cent off you heating bills by fitting a new boiler. 

A typical new boiler costs between £1,500 to £3,000 depending on your circumstances and which new boiler you select. 

So in the worst case your new boiler will have likely paid for itself within ten years and with significantly reduced carbon emissions. 

Will Owen, energy expert at Uswitch, replies: You will have limited choices if your boiler is more than 15 years old as some insurers won’t extend boiler cover to older models that are more likely to develop problems.

Typically it’s recommended to change your boiler every 15 years as an older boiler has to work harder to heat your home.

A new boiler will also be running on maximum efficiency which means it will be using less fuel to heat your home – which will help keep heating costs down.

Grace Gausden, This is Money, adds: You could of course try a different plumber, but you may still face the same problem.

To avoid costly call out fees and repairs, many households are encouraged to pay for boiler cover.

However, recent research has revealed that paying out monthly for the cover may not be worth it.

In fact, consumers are usually better off paying for repairs and services as and when they are needed, according to Which?.

It said that even if customers needed a typical boiler repair every year for 10 years, they could still end up around £2,000 better off typically than if they took out annual boiler cover. 

However, households should decide whether they would be able to afford repairs upfront should something happen to their boiler and they don’t have cover.  

‘My boiler has broken’: All your questions answered 

Many boilers invariably breakdown in the period when we rely on it most – and when we are likely to have less funds thanks to Christmas spending.

Households will want to get the issue sorted as quickly as possible, whether that be through their boiler cover or getting a plumber out.

To help you decide what to do next, This is Money put together a guide answering all your most commonly asked questions about getting it fixed or replaced – from how much it should cost to which model is best.

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Government urged to change rules over disabled Child Trust Fund injustice

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government urged to change rules over disabled child trust fund injustice

The Government has failed to respond to proposals aimed at offering the families of thousands of disabled children a way to access locked Child Trust Fund savings for a month, despite the Prime Minister last week pledging to do everything he could to help.

Child Trust Fund providers and trade bodies handed the Ministry of Justice proposals last month which would let those with up to around £5,000 access money in cases where family members could prove they are ‘fit and proper’ to look after a disabled young person’s finances.

The proposals were devised after campaigners raised concerns that as many as 200,000 disabled young people could be locked out of their own savings as they are incapable of managing money, unless their families pay hundreds or even thousands of pounds in court fees.

Boris Johnson at Prime Minister's Questions last Wednesday was asked by Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey about the hundreds of thousands of disabled children locked out of CTFs

Boris Johnson at Prime Minister's Questions last Wednesday was asked by Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey about the hundreds of thousands of disabled children locked out of CTFs

Boris Johnson at Prime Minister’s Questions last Wednesday was asked by Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey about the hundreds of thousands of disabled children locked out of CTFs

But This is Money has been told the Government has failed to respond to the new proposals even though they were submitted a month ago, leaving individual Child Trust Fund providers unsure as to whether they are breaking the rules by allowing parents’ access to the money.

This is despite the fact Boris Johnson, responding to a question in Parliament last Wednesday from the Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey, said he would do ‘whatever I can to help in the particular case that he raises’.

Davey, whose own 12-year-old son John is also disabled and has a Child Trust Fund, had raised the case of an 18-year-old with a neurodegenerative condition who wanted to use his CTF money to buy a specially adapted tricycle but could not as he was locked out of his Child Trust Fund.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, the Lib Dem leader called for the Government to ‘urgently’ change the rules ‘to allow parents to access Child Trust Fund and Junior Isas where the child lacks the mental capacity to do it themselves.’

Currently, parents must make an application to the Court of Protection so that they can be appointed as a deputy for their child’s affairs, which can cost £365 plus up to £2,500 in solicitors’ fees. 

One mother who wrote to This is Money after we reported on the problems facing those affected last month said she felt her son, now 18, who has a genetic condition, was ‘being penalised for having a disability.’

The Ministry of Justice has failed to respond to proposals put forward by Child Trust Fund providers a month ago to try and help disabled children get access to their funds

The Ministry of Justice has failed to respond to proposals put forward by Child Trust Fund providers a month ago to try and help disabled children get access to their funds

The Ministry of Justice has failed to respond to proposals put forward by Child Trust Fund providers a month ago to try and help disabled children get access to their funds

The costs in many cases can wipe out the amount held in a trust fund, while campaigners fear up to 25,000 children a year, or 200,000 over the next decade, could have to go through the court system, leading to a huge backlog.

Andrew Turner, from West Sussex, who has a disabled son, said he was told it could ‘take up to a year’ to secure approval from the courts due to coronavirus delays.

The problem of accessing the money dates back to the launch of Child Trust Funds in 2005, even though the parents of disabled children were given extra money until 2011 by the Government. 

It also affects holders of Junior Isas, which replaced CTFs, and many parents were never told their child would never be able to access the money at 18.

Industry bodies are seeking to try and help partially solve the problem for many families by allowing them to access the funds without a court order, in cases where a CTF is worth up to around £5,000 and parents can prove that their child lacks mental capacity and that they are fit and proper to manage their finances on their behalf.

Sir Ed Davey wrote a letter to Boris Johnson in which he urged the Prime Minister to work with campaigners and enact proposals which would 'end this injustice' for disabled young people

Sir Ed Davey wrote a letter to Boris Johnson in which he urged the Prime Minister to work with campaigners and enact proposals which would 'end this injustice' for disabled young people

Sir Ed Davey wrote a letter to Boris Johnson in which he urged the Prime Minister to work with campaigners and enact proposals which would ‘end this injustice’ for disabled young people

Jon Lee, head of investments at the mutual One Family, which runs around a quarter of Child Trust Funds, said: ‘Industry bodies agreed new industry guidelines around a month ago and presented them via government to the Ministry of Justice and HMRC. 

‘These take a pragmatic and proportionate risk-based approach that will mean the court process can be avoided in a number of situations.’

He said the mutual was currently following those guidelines itself, but that there had been no assurance from the Government ‘that there would be no challenges if this guidance was followed’, which he called ‘frustrating’.

But campaigners have also called for the law to be changed.

A petition started by the law firm Renaissance Legal has now received nearly 5,200 signatures, 700 of which have come since This is Money reported on the Child Trust Fund problems last month

A petition started by the law firm Renaissance Legal has now received nearly 5,200 signatures, 700 of which have come since This is Money reported on the Child Trust Fund problems last month

A petition started by the law firm Renaissance Legal has now received nearly 5,200 signatures, 700 of which have come since This is Money reported on the Child Trust Fund problems last month

Philip Warford, the managing director of law firm Renaissance Legal, which has been raising awareness of the problem since 2016, told This is Money that the current solution proposed by savings providers could leave behind those with pots bigger than £5,000 and whose CTF provider had not opted in, as well as the fact it was not legally binding.

His proposal, which was backed by Sir Ed Davey last week, would be to expand rules which let parents access money in cases where a child has less than six months to live, provided they get confirmation from a doctor, to cover those who lacked mental capacity.

In his letter to the Prime Minister, the Lib Dem leader said the two proposals ‘would make the process far quicker, simpler, cheaper and fairer for families with disabled children.

‘Crucially, they would mean families no longer have to go to court so their child can spend their own money.’

The Government has previously insisted the barriers are necessary to protect vulnerable children from being exploited.

This is Money has contacted the Ministry of Justice for comment.

#fiveDealsWidget .dealItemTitle#mobile {display:none} #fiveDealsWidget {display:block; float:left; clear:both; max-width:636px; margin:0; padding:0; line-height:120%; font-size:12px} #fiveDealsWidget div, #fiveDealsWidget a {margin:0; padding:0; line-height:120%; text-decoration: none; font-family:Arial, Helvetica ,sans-serif} #fiveDealsWidget .widgetTitleBox {display:block; float:left; width:100%; background-color:#B11B16; } #fiveDealsWidget .widgetTitle {color:#fff; text-transform: uppercase; font-size:18px; font-weight:bold; margin:6px 10px 4px 10px; } #fiveDealsWidget a.dealItem {float:left; display:block; width:124px; margin-right:4px; margin-top:5px; background-color: #e3e3e3; min-height:200px;} #fiveDealsWidget a.dealItem#last {margin-right:0} #fiveDealsWidget .dealItemTitle {display:block; margin:10px 5px; color:#000; font-weight:bold} #fiveDealsWidget .dealItemImage, #fiveDealsWidget .dealItemImage img {float:left; display:block; margin:0; padding:0} #fiveDealsWidget .dealItemImage {border:1px solid #ccc} #fiveDealsWidget .dealItemImage img {width:100%; height:auto} #fiveDealsWidget .dealItemdesc {float:left; display:block; color:#e22953; font-weight:bold; margin:5px;} #fiveDealsWidget .dealItemRate {float:left; display:block; color:#000; margin:5px} #fiveDealsWidget .dealFooter {display:block; float:left; width:100%; margin-top:5px; background-color:#e3e3e3 } #fiveDealsWidget .footerText {font-size:10px; margin:10px 10px 10px 10px;} @media (max-width: 635px) { #fiveDealsWidget a.dealItem {width:19%; margin-right:1%} #fiveDealsWidget a.dealItem#last {width:20%} } @media (max-width: 560px) { #fiveDealsWidget #desktop {display:none} #fiveDealsWidget .widgetTitleBox {background-color:#e3e3e3; } #fiveDealsWidget .widgetTitle {color:#000} #fiveDealsWidget #mobile {display:block!important} #fiveDealsWidget a.dealItem {background-color: #fff; height:auto; min-height:auto} #fiveDealsWidget a.dealItem {border-bottom:1px solid #ececec; margin-bottom:5px; padding-bottom:10px} #fiveDealsWidget a.dealItem#last {border-bottom:0px solid #ececec; margin-bottom:5px; padding-bottom:0px} #fiveDealsWidget a.dealItem, #fiveDealsWidget a.dealItem#last {width:100%} #fiveDealsWidget .dealItemContent, #fiveDealsWidget .dealItemImage {float:left; display:inline-block} #fiveDealsWidget .dealItemImage {width:35%; margin-right:1%} #fiveDealsWidget .dealItemContent {width:63%} #fiveDealsWidget .dealItemTitle {margin: 0px 5px 5px; font-size:16px} #fiveDealsWidget .dealItemContent .dealItemdesc, #fiveDealsWidget .dealItemContent .dealItemRate {clear:both} }

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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