UK regulators are investigating Amazon and Google for possibly breaking consumer protection laws for not handling fake product reviews properly.
This is just one probe in a line of investigations piling up against both the tech giants. Around the world officials have been examining claims of anti-competitive behavior. These investigations could lead to large fines and more pressure on companies like Facebook and Apple to change how they do business.
The UK Competition and Markets Authority stated that its inquiry could force Amazon and Google to change they way they deal with fake reviews or result in court action.
The CMA is worried that millions of online shoppers are being misled by fake product reviews and spending money based on those recommendations. They stated it isn’t fair business practice that some companies can fake five star reviews while lawful citizens lose out.
An investigation by UK consumer group Which? found a large industry of businesses making money by manipulating reviews on Amazon Marketplace. One company was selling single reviews for $18 or bulk packages that cost over $800 for 50 reviews.
Google and Amazon stated the would cooperate with the CMA.
Many of us will be doing even more online shopping for Christmas this year and a lot of that will be through Amazon. So, with linked and shared accounts and packages coming to the door in just days how do you keep Santa’s secrets when ordering from Amazon.
The online shopping giant as several solutions to this holiday problem. They suggest tracking your packages enroute to your home. Try consolidating deliveries so can plan to be home when all the Christmas gifts arrive.
Users can also archive orders online so the order details won’t be obvious to other account users. They also recommend deleting search history if you have some serious holiday gift snoopers in your home.
Amazon now gives users the ability to track the delivery live, in real time on the way to their home so they can send friends or family members to get packages just as they are delivered. Additionally, Amazon is giving delivery estimates down to 2- or 4-hour windows. Users also now receive photos to confirm their packages have safely been delivered.
Finally, users can use Amazon Key to allow packages to be safely placed in their garage.
Amazon recently claimed, due to a pending lawsuit, that Prime Video users do not actually own any media they purchase through the Prime streaming service.
The tech superstar is claiming that Prime Video users are not paying to own the media but rather are buying what they call an “on-demand viewing over an indefinite period of time.”
Amanda Caudel, from Fairfield California, brought the case against Amazon for “unfair competition and false advertising” in April. Caudel alleges that the company is secretly reserving a right to discontinue a user’s access to the video content they’ve purchased at any time. Further more that they have done this to customers on more than one occasion.
Additionally, Caudel claims the company has defrauded and misled customers by charging almost three times as much to own content as to rent it. On average Amazon charges $14.99 to own a movie and about $5,99 to rent the same media.
Preparing for the coming shopping frenzy of the holidays, Amazing is hiring one hundred thousand seasonal workers. Jobs vary across skill levels and type, full-time and part-time.
Amazon has had to make similar moves earlier in the year like in March when they added 175,000 temp jobs to help with demand caused by the pandemic. Amazon had claimed they would keep 70% of those hires. Last year they hired twice as many, 200,000, temp workers for the holidays.
Some experts believe that holiday, online shopping will increase anywhere from 25-35% this year over last year.
But even Amazon’s massive in-house delivery service could struggle to handle additional online shopping demands this season. Many experts believe that if people don’t order early even Amazon won’t be able to promise to deliver holiday items on time.
Amidst weeks of silence from Amazon and frenzied speculation among supplicants Amazon has officially announced that their Prime Day will take place from October 13th-14th.
The shopping event exclusive to Amazon normally takes place in July but was postponed due to the pandemic. During the event Amazon has promised 1 million deals across the globe all from top brands.
In a statement Jeff Wilke, Amazon CEO Worldwide Consumer, said “In the midst of an unprecedented year, we’re committed to making this the most successful Prime Day ever for our small businesses and excited for Prime members worldwide to discover new ways to support local entrepreneurs and save big on everything they need and love,”
He continued “This year’s Prime Day is the perfect opportunity for Prime members to get their holiday shopping done early from the comfort of their homes – and to have more time to spend with their families and friends throughout the season.”
As always, many Amazon branded products will be on sale include a bunch of their newest devices. Some of the highly anticipated deals are:
- Two Echo Dot devices for $39.98
- Fire TV Recast for $129.99
- Four months of Amazon Music for $0.99
- Toshiba 32-inch Smart HD Fire TV Edition TV for $119.99
- Insignia 43-inch Smart 4K UHD Fire TV Edition TV for $199.99
The company is also offering customers a $10 coupon to spend with select small businesses who sell through Amazon. This is intended to support small businesses affected by the pandemic.
The Victor crew recently heard of Amazon Sidewalk and wonder what this is about. Let’s find out.
Most homes have devices using Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. It may be to steam music, use a home camera system, maybe your appliances hook up to an app. Depending on your home systems, you might be maxing out or using all your available connections.
Amazon sidewalk wants to extend the range of low-bandwidth, low-power devices. Their new protocol hopes to increase the connection range. This will enable you to use smart devices anywhere on your property where Wi-Fi and Bluetooth usually can’t reach. They are utilizing a 900 MHz spectrum to help devices communicate. The 900 Hz spectrum has been around for a long time. It is the same used for cordless telephones which some of you may still have at home.
More practical applications would include getting notified when the mail is delivered, when to water your lawn through sensors, or even extending Amazon Fetch – a small device you can put on your pet’s collar and limit your pet to your yard using Ring.
The Ring Camera system has recently been in the news because it can be hacked easily and one person hacked has filed a lawsuit against the owner, Amazon.
It seems that in plain terms, the authentication used by the family was not robust enough. Ring does offer two-factor authentication that can help prevent this from happening.
Many people fail to use two-factor authentication to begin with because they don’t really understand what it is. Once again we are urging people to get a password manager and use two-factor authentication where possible.
What two-factor authentication does is alert you to the fact a new device is trying to log into your account. If you don’t have two-factor enabled and have a weak password for ANYTHING, you are just asking to be hacked. Be safe and make it priority in 2020 to up your security game.
Don’t buy Amazon devices before November 22. Echo, Kindle, and Fire devices/tvs go on sale. This is one week before the actual Black Friday.
Here are some of the prices you can expect:
Amazon Fire HD 8 tablet: starting at $50 – savings of $30. Add $15 if you do not want offers on the lock screen.
Amazon Fire 8 Kids Edition tablet: $80 – savings of $50.
All-new Amazon Fire 7 tablet: starting at $30 – savings of $20.
Amazon Fire 7 Kids Edition tablet: $60 – savings of $40.
Amazon Fire HD 10 tablet: starting at $100 – savings $50.
Kindle Paperwhite: starting at $85 – savings of $45.
Fire TV stick 4k with Alexa voice remote: $25 – save $25
Fire TV stick with Alexa voice remote: $20 – save $20
Amazon Fire TV Cube: $90 – savings of $30.
November 27 will have some more savings
Ring Indoor Camera 2-pack: $100 – save $40.
Blink XT2 3-cam system (weatherproof security camera): $185 – save $65.
Amazon Smart Plug: will be offered bundled with many products for just $5 – a savings of $20!
November 28 you can get Echo speakers and smart displays
Amazon Echo Dot (third-gen): $22 for a savings of $28
Echo Dot with clock: $35 – save $25
Amazon Echo (second-gen): $60 – save $40.
Amazon Echo Show 5: $50 – savings of $40.
Amazon Echo Show (2nd-gen): $150 – save $80
Echo Auto: $25 – save $25.
Find out more about these amazing deals on CNet
By invitation only, which you can request, you can get Amazon echoframes for your eyeglasses for $179. After the introductory phase, they will be $249. The only choice right now is black. The only choice is black but they give you all day access to Alexa. You can filter from who and what notifications you receive so you aren’t bombarded all day long.
It directs the sounds to your ears so others won’t hear what you hear. You can turn off the sounds with a button. They are not yet compatible with iOS smartphones and you will require a Android phone with Android 8 or higher and the Alexa app to connect as well as Bluetooth. There are special instructions for you optometrist for how to clean and shape them. If they do not work with your prescription, you can get a refund.
Amazon now has Echo Auto for your car. Right now we see it listed for half price.
What you need for it to work:
Bluetooth or AUX input
Smartphone with data plan
Alexa app on your phone
Compatible apps for music streaming, maps
Since this is made for your car, it is designed to attach to your vents and comes with a vent mount. There are 8 microphones which can be switched off for privacy. Voice control the Echo Auto through the Alexa app to stream audiobooks, podcasts, or music from Amazon Music, Apple Music, Spotify, SiriusXM, iHeartRadio, other radio stations.
Use Google Maps, Apple Maps, Waze to get directions. Find gas stations, check the news.
Amazon Echo Auto
Imagine you are in a rush and need to go to the grocery store. With Amazon Go, you can walk in, get your stuff and walk out. In fact, they call it their Just Walk Out Shopping experience or Just Walk Out Technology.
When you walk in, you use the app to check in (kind of like when boarding a plane) and then do your shopping. Forget your bag? There are plenty of reusable bags for purchase. You will also need an Amazon account.
They offer many ready-to-eat meals and snacks. They want to focus on making healthful meals.
They currently only have one store open to the public in Seattle, WA open 7am-9pm M-F. They do have people in the store to help you, stock shelves, etc. The store was opened last year for its Seattle employees while testing. It just opened to the public recently.
Last week, Amazon announced new devices. Among the new devices are the Echo Show, costing $229.99. This is a more triangular device with a screen. It allows you to make video calls as well. They are offering $100 off if you buy 2 devices with code SHOW2PACK. You can actually watch flash news briefings, see lyrics of songs, security cameras, just to name a few.
Other new devices are a shorter new Echo, the Echo Plus and the 4K Fire TV device. Also announced was the Echo Connect, Echo Buttons, and BMW partnership. The Echo Connect is an accessory to link Echo to home phone line. It costs $35 and is coming later in the year.
If you already own an Echo, Echo Dot, or Echo Show, effective immediately you can make phone calls. It is supposed to work with your land line or your mobile phone.
Echo Show at Amazon.com
The Amazon and Whole Foods deal going through today is leaving its mark in a lot of different ways. Whole Foods prices are going down on a lot of items in an effort to allow more people to enjoy the benefits of organic foods. You may start seeing some Amazon devices on Whole Food shelves and Whole Food items on Amazon’s website.
Prices have been slashed on many items already. For example in New York it was reported that organic fuji apples went from $3.49/lb to $1.99/lb, avocados dropped $0.80 per lb, organic rotisserie chicken dropped $4.00/lb, and organic bananas went from $0.99 to $0.69 per lb.
The Amazon devices like Echo and Echo dot found in the Whole Foods stores are the same discounted prices found on their website right now.
The Victor crew plans to shop at one later this week and will report back any other findings.
There are a lot of ways these days to listen to music these days. There are many streaming services these days. Most people stream or use their mp3 players. There are also home devices like Amazon Echo, Google Home, or coming soon, the Apple HomePod.
The Victor crew even knows someone who still orders CDs to play in their car? But what will happen when he buys a newer car? Many newer cars are starting to abandon them. It has been predicted that up to 46% of new cars will not have CD players by 2021.
You can use a lot of data if you stream from your car (if you don’t have a Wi-Fi service) so you’ll have to rely on your mp3 player, satellite radio, or built-in radio. If you insist on a CD player, you can purchase a portable one that could plug in with your auxilliary cable. Perhaps you can purchase a new car kit with a CD player.
We sure have come a long way from just AM radio. Next came FM. Remember the 8-track players of the 70s? Then they went away to make way for the cassette. Then the piles of cassettes were replaced by piles of plastic discs. Life is getting simpler where you don’t have to store all the discs, cassettes, or 8-tracks anymore.
This past Saturday was April Fools Day. The Internet wasn’t short of pranks. The Victor crew enjoyed putting together this list of some of them.
Stack Overflow had fun making this video of their Dance Dance Authentication protocol:
In case you don’t know, Stack Overflow is a site that is used by developers as a forum.
Google had fun with Google Gnome, something to make your backyard smart:
Amazon brought us Petlexa
Honda has Horn Emojis
Last week, there was a major outage of Amazon’s cloud servers on the east coast in VA. It lasted a few hours and caused havoc with many websites. It’s not often that this happens, but when it does, it causes problems in many places.
If you use any of their services, you can check the status of their servers here. Even if you don’t keep your website on their servers, you can find some of your apps having problems. Think Alexa, Nest, etc. Some major websites depend on these services as well and you may find them down as well.
If you are having trouble reaching a site, you can go to isitdownrightnow.com. The home page of this site has a list of major services listed with (hopefully) a green box to let you know it is running. It includes sites such as Netflix, Facebook, Youtube, Google, Yahoo, and the like. There is also a list on the right site of sites last checked and some sites that are currently down.
Oh, and human error was blamed for the massive Amazon server outage.
The Victor Crew
Cord-cutting refers to abandoning cable TV for streaming services. There are so many different avenues to go with this, the Victor crew thought we’d do some exploring into what was available.
One thing you can get is a Roku that you can stream many different channels from. It handles Netflix, Amazon, Hulu Plus for example. Netflix and Amazon have some crossovers, but Hulu Plus will bring you many current TV shows. Another streaming channel to consider is Sling TV for television shows. You might consider Apple TV instead of Roku. Another streaming device is Amazon Fire TV. There’s also Google’s Chromecast. You may want to find reviews on these devices and make your decision.
Another thing to consider is your Internet connection. How strong is it during peak hours? You can test it at speedtest.net or testmy.net. Do several throughout the day and evening to see how much you can handle. You may need to get an HD antenna to get the major networks in full HD.
You can find more information here.
If you do own a Kindle from Amazon, the Victor crew has some news for you. You will need to make sure you update it by tomorrow, March 22, 2016. What happens if you don’t? You will have to do it manually after that in order to access the Kindle Store or sync with the cloud. You won’t be able to download your books.
This is the warning you will receive from Amazon:
Your Kindle is unable to connect at this time. Please make sure you are within wireless range and try again. If the problem persists, please restart your Kindle from the Menu in Settings and try again. If you see this message on your device on or after March 22, you will need to manually install the latest software update for your device. Go to Fire & Kindle Software Updates for more details.
Here is the page you can find all the details: http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html/ref=help_search_1-6?ie=UTF8&nodeId=201994710&qid=1458317761&sr=1-6
Coming from a warehouse near you! Amazon has released a video about delivering from their warehouse to yours — in about 30 minutes! This is more about using their drone concept to deliver to prime members.
All you need is a nearby warehouse that delivers this way. This could be interesting if it will work the way it does in this video!
Amazon has made shopping even easier. Suppose a friend or acquaintance mentions an product on Twitter. If it’s an Amazon product, and you want to buy it, instead of clicking on it and then adding to your cart, you can hit reply and add #AmazonCart and it will automatically add it to your cart. It will not automatically purchase it so you don’t have to worry about impulse purchases. You need to connect your Amazon account to your Twitter account in Social settings in Twitter.
You can see the video here.
Looking for a specific item? Now you can go to the Search function within the Amazon shopping app and see not only Scan It but Flow. If you click Flow, it will open the camera so you can take a picture of the item you would like to buy and it will search for that or similar items and put them in a list for you. Flow seems to recognize a product without even showing a bar code. Simply hold the item in front of the camera on your phone and you will little dots working to identify the item. If it recognizes it, it will add it to your history and show a green check mark. If it doesn’t have the item it will tell you that you cannot purchase it from Amazon. Scan It works by scanning the barcode only.
~ Jody Victor
Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos recently revealed in a 60 minutes interview, it’s plan to try to deliver packages to those who live near fulfillment centers with drones. He called them “Octocopters” because of their having 8 legs. As of now, it still needs to pass FAA approvals. Amazon is calling this service “Prime Air” and hopes to have it available in 4-5 years.
Groupon has a tongue-in-cheek answer to the Amazon drone.
~ Jody Victor
I thought you might like to consider some of these tablets for Christmas this year:
From Amazon: The Kindle Fire HDX 7″
This is the 3rd generation Kindle Fire. This is the one you see on the TV commercial where the guy pushes the Mayday button and a customer service rep pops up in the corner. The rep can walk you through problems or even take over your tablet. You can download the Amazon Kindle Freetime app that allows parents to control the time limits and apps if you let your children use it. The drawbacks are, you don’t get full access to the Google Play store, you have to download apps from Amazon’s appstore. You won’t find some of the popular apps like Gmail, Google Maps, Google Drive. There is only a front-facing camera. $230.
From Google: Google Nexus 7
This runs the newest version of Android, 4.4 Kit Kat. It has a rear and front camera and is preloaded with standard Google apps. $229.
From Samsung: Galaxy Tab 3 7″ Kids
This tablet was designed specifically for kids. It comes in fun colors with a rubber case to protect it. I thas big buttons, limited access to settings, and kid-type apps preloaded. It has front and back cameras. $190.
From Apple: iPad Air
This is the latest iPad (5th generation). It is thinner and lighter, faster with better video. There are a few versions – based on size (16GB, 32GB, 64GB and 128GB) and connectivity (Wi-fi or Wi-fi and LTE). Prices start at $499.
From Apple: iPad Mini with Retina Display
Very similar to the iPad Air in a smaller package. Starts at $399.
~ Jody Victor