December, 2018

Mid-air explosion: Qantas staff sue for trauma

Qantas flight crew members who were on QF32 when its engine exploded mid-air two years ago have initiated a class action lawsuit against the aircraft’s engine manufacturer over psychological trauma they say they have suffered as a result of the incident.
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The flight attendants are seeking to expand the action to include hundreds of passengers on the ill-fated flight.

On November 4, 2010, the Qantas A380, carrying 469 passengers and crew, was leaving Changi Airport en route to Sydney when it suffered what is described in court documents as a”catastrophic failure of its number two engine”.

The ailing aircraft, leaking fuel and with multiple systems failing, limped back to Changi with a disabled engine.

No one was physically injured during the incident.

In a statement of claim filed in the NSW Supreme Court by LHD Lawyers, one of the flight crew on board, Sandy Lam of Eastwood, says she suffered post-traumatic stress disorder and a “major depressive disorder” as a result of the incident. It is understood she now has a fear of flying and filing her car with petrol.

Ms Lam is one of 17 crew from QF32 who are suing the manufacturer of the A380’s engines, Rolls-Royce, for damages over the psychological trauma they experienced.

They claim that the engine failure occurred because there was “fatigue cracking in a stub pipe … that fed into a high pressure bearing structure”, asserting that Rolls-Royce was negligent in the manufacture, inspection and installation of the pipe.

On Wednesday, Ms Lam and her fellow plaintiffs successfully sought access to the passenger manifest for the flight, which will allow them to contact the 450-odd passengers to include them in the class action, unless they wish to opt out.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

Pricing strategies for small businesses

Setting the most appropriate price for your products and services can be the difference between success and failure for your business. Set them too low and you could quickly encounter cash-flow problems, but set them too high and your potential customers may choose to look elsewhere.
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Daryl Johnson heads NAB’s nabbusiness division. He says there are a number of factors small businesses need to consider when it comes to setting price.

“First of all ask how important price is to the marketing of your business; will price influence your customers,” he says. “While luxury brands constrain volume and keep prices high customers expect this but at the other end if you want to sell millions of products you might keep your margins skinny and your prices low.”

He says you should also understand who are your target customers and what is their capacity to pay.

“Another point that is sometimes forgotten is knowing what it is costing you to manufacture or to buy the raw product so you can understand your cost base,” he says. “Work out which costs are fixed and which are variable and dependent on sales. One of the challenges is that if a high proportion of your costs are fixed and your sales fall then you may not be able to get your prices down quickly enough to counteract the effect on your business.”

Dun & Bradstreet marketing director Danielle Woods says it is essential to understand the market a business operates in before any pricing decisions are made. “Conduct some market research to determine who your competitors are and how much they are charging,” Woods says. “It is worth checking out their websites or going into their stores, if they have a physical location, to find out how your product compares to theirs. It will also give you insight into what the key features and benefits of their products are, and if they can be differentiated from yours.”

There are two main methods of setting prices: the cost-based or cost-plus pricing method and the value-driven method. The cost-driven strategy is derived from how much profit a business wants to make. Woods says this involves adding on an amount you need to make a profit onto your production costs.

“For example, if you want to make a 20 per cent gross profit margin on your $100 product, you will charge $120,” Woods says. “This method is effective because it tells you if your prices are reasonable. If your prices are less than your direct costs, you will make a loss. If your prices are higher than your direct costs, the money you make will go towards covering your fixed or overhead costs.”

The value-driven method, however, refers to setting prices based on what the consumer is likely to pay, and on the “value” of the product or service. Woods says for example, if you own a cafe, it is reasonable to charge $3 to $4 for a regular sized cup.

“However, if you want to charge more for a cup to raise your profits, you will need to convince the customer why they should pay more,” Woods says. “This usually involves a significant amount of marketing or publicity, which most small businesses do not have the resources to undertake.”

Woods adds that the reason why companies such as Starbucks can charge more for a cup is because customers perceive the coffee chain as “branded” and “luxury”. “Unless your business offers a niche or unique product, you will be better off setting your price point at the market standard,” Woods says. “Once demand picks up, you may be able to increase your prices.”

Johnson says don’t forget that not everything is about price. He cites businesses he knows of in similar industries where some have price conscious customers and others don’t.

“We found that the ones where the customers are less price-conscious are the ones who have added value in some way,” he says. “We find that if businesses deliver well and have some sort of extra value add that could be intangible – perhaps the service – then customers are less worried about the price.”

One factor that is critical for businesses to understand is the impact of pricing decisions on cash flow. He often sees the effects of changes to prices flow through to volume. “They can be positive or negative but before decisions are made businesses need to know the price-volume tradeoff. Their pricing approach needs to be integrated into their financial models so they properly understand the consequences of any pricing decision.”

ENDS

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

Call for probe into claims of logging buy-out rorts

A Senate committee has called for an immediate government investigation into claims of rorting in million-dollar taxpayer handouts to Tasmanian native forest logging contractors.
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The contractors won the payouts to exit the failing industry in a $44 million federal program that has since been hit by claims of fraud and non-compliance.

Instead of leaving the native forest logging industry, some of the contractors ”phoenixed” their family businesses, the committee heard.

After closing their companies down and qualifying for the big payouts, new companies rose from the ashes under the control of other family members.

Greens leader Christine Milne said the program was so poorly designed and managed that all forestry responsibilities should be taken away from the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF).

”Exit means exit,” said Senator Milne, who pushed for the Senate inquiry. ”Any future exit programs should require exit and be designed to eliminate loopholes which allow people to take the money and stay in the industry.”

The Contractors Exit Program was a key component of the Tasmanian forest industry settlement that followed a 50 per cent fall in employment under global market changes.

A total of 61 applicants received payments ranging from $20,000 to $3 million in 2012,  but according to a whistleblower group who gave evidence to the committee, at least 18 of the applicants rorted the program’s rules.

”. . . It is important for the integrity of the program and to allay people’s concerns that DAFF resolve these matters as soon as possible,” the senate committee recommended in a report  tabled on Wednesday night.

DAFF officials told the committee that if there were evidence of non-compliance it could seek an injunction on the recipient’s funding deed, and a return of the funding.

A spokesman for Forestry Minister Bill Ludwig said the department had commissioned the federal government’s business program manager, AusIndustry, to manage compliance with the program.

”Further, a fraud team for any allegations of fraud into this program has been established, and evidence can be provided to the team at anytime,” the spokesman said.

”The Government will consider the senate committee’s findings.”

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The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

Bus stop attack: accused was on parole for murder

Motorist saves bashed woman
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A man accused of an attempted rape and stabbing at a Sydney bus stop was out of jail on parole for murder.

The 46-year-old man, who is due to face court on Thursday, was jailed for a murder in 1990, but had since been released on parole.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Corrective Services said the State Parole Authority had already moved to revoke his parole effective immediately.

The woman was waiting at a bus stop in Sydney’s lower north shore on Wednesday when she was allegedly punched and stabbed by a man who then attempted to undress her and rape her on a street, police said.

A passing motorist who saw the 30-year-old woman being attacked just after 6pm in Hunters Hill called triple-0 and tried to help the woman, who allegedly had been dragged to the ground and stabbed in the shoulder with a pocket knife.

The woman’s alleged attacker was attempting to pull off the woman’s clothes when police arrived at the bus stop on Alexandra Street, which is located next to Hunters Hill Public School near the intersection with Stanley Road.

Officers say they were forced to use capsicum spray and Taser the 46-year-old man, who allegedly lashed out at police when they tried to arrest him.

A probationary constable was allegedly punched in the face during the confrontation.

The woman and injured officer were treated at the scene by paramedics and taken to Royal North Shore Hospital for treatment.

The woman suffered a punctured lung, a fractured cheekbone and bruising, and remained in hospital on Thursday morning.

The police officer received two stitches for a cut to his lip and was later released from hospital.

A NSW Police spokeswoman said the woman was simply waiting at the bus stop when she was set upon by the man, who she did not know.

The spokeswoman said the man initially had approached the woman and struck up a conversation with her before allegedly physically assaulting her.

The woman fought back and screamed but was stabbed in the shoulder, before the passing motorist intervened. Neighbours also heard the woman’s screams and rushed outside to help.

Police cordoned off the bus shelter on Wednesday night and forensically examined the area.

The accused was taken to Ryde Police Station where he was charged with inflict actual bodily harm with intent to have sexual intercourse, reckless wounding and assault police causing actual bodily harm.

He was refused bail to appear in Parramatta Local Court on Thursday.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

Australian ice hockey gets worldly support

The international series is likely to be expanded in future years, after selling out in Melbourne and Sydney. Photo: Will Brodie The quality of the hockey improved on the second night of the international series, unsurprisingly, and should peak in Sydney. Photo: Will Brodie
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Ex-pats and curious locals swarmed to matches in Melbourne last weekend. Photo: Will Brodie

AIHL websiteInternational series, Canada v USA, JuneExhibition series review

It would be a foolish amateur league that spurned the opportunities presented by a visiting exhibition series that showcases professional talent.

The Australian Ice Hockey League is not foolish.

Australia’s national league has embraced the Canada v USA series, which moves to Sydney’s Allphones Arena this Saturday after selling out two nights at Melbourne’s Hisense Arena last weekend. The rink signage, audiovisual bites and event program all feature the AIHL, and league officials have been keen to engage the big name visitors.

AIHL Commissioner Robert Bannerman believes the series  could have an “enduring impact on ice hockey in Australia”.

“We want to introduce new fans to ice hockey and invite attendees of the exhibition to join us at subsequent AIHL matches.

“The exhibitions will showcase the speed and action of hockey to thousands of fans, many of them experiencing the sport for the first time. The size of the exhibitions and skill of the professional players will increase media exposure.”

Bannerman even hopes some of the players involved will want to come and play in the AIHL.

It is not an outlandish hope. Most of the players Fairfax Media spoke to last week were aware of a league existing here, and all were extremely keen to come to visit and play. Two said seeing Australia had been on their “bucket list”.

Team USA’s Mike Testwuide said he jumped at the opportunity when rung by a teammate to become a last-minute inclusion on the tour – even if it meant he played defence instead of his usual role as a forward.

“To come here and play hockey and have an experience with a great group of guys and have some good fans watch us, it’s going to be so special, and the fact it is in Australia is just an added bonus for us.

“I had two of my best friends come over here and play who were from Colorado College. So I have known that there is a league here and it’s I growing, and hopefully we can grow hockey here even more.”

Testwuide, who plays in the American Hockey League, the first tier beneath the world’s best league the  National Hockey League, said the timing of each hemisphere’s seasons favoured Australia.

“You come down here and play and then you can still play a season over in the States, so it’s definitely becoming more and more a thing to do to come down here and I think that’s pretty cool.

“It could just grow bigger and bigger because people are more willing to come down here.”

NHL star Zenon Konopka, who made the trip despite being in a moon boot due to a major foot injury, compared spreading the gospel in Australia to what happened in America after superstar Wayne Gretsky went to play for Los Angeles a generation ago.

“There’s more and more young kids coming out of California and Texas and Florida, not traditional hockey markets, that have picked up the game … It’s growing at a rapid rate.

“Australia is a new market. We’re excited because Aussie rules football – there’s so many similarities with the intensity and the physicalness. We really think Australian people are going to have a good time at these games.”

The link between ice hockey and AFL was formalised by the presence of Collingwood players and officials at the games held in Melbourne, and the visit from the Canadian and American players to Collingwood’s round 12 game last Sunday. The after-party was hosted at the AFL club’s Westpac Centre social and training base nearby to Hisense Arena, and the games and their concussion awareness message were given a thorough airing on Collingwood’s Fox Sport club show on Wednesday night.

It would be highly unlikely that former Magpie coach Mick Malthouse did not heed the example of ice hockey in two respects – rapid line changes which ensure fresh players in action at all times, and the importance of fore-checking, whereby forwards pressure defenders in order to keep possession near the goal they are attacking. The AFL has been dominated by increased interchange rotations and the “forward press” in recent years.

Detriot Red Wings NHL star Kyle Quincey says players aim to get off the ice after 30 seconds, before they are fatigued, enabling their team to rotate a roster of 19 or 20.

“So you’re always in the game. You’re only off the ice for a minute or so. In other sports you’re on defence or offence, but you’re always on both in hockey, so there’s not really any time to rest.”

Former NHL first round draftee Ryan O’Marra says any time a team of Canadians plays a team of Americans, sparks fly, even if many are friends or teammates.

“It’s because you play with these guys and you know them and there’s a lot of pride on the line. For Canadians it’s our game, it’s the game we do best, so we take a lot of pride in being the best at. That’s why games like this, despite us all being friends once the puck drops, we want to win.”

He says fans might not experience the “bone-crushing hits” that would be in evidence at an Olympics or world championships, but on the evidence of last weekend, fans thirsty for fisticuffs will not be disappointed.

Contrived the fights may have been, and overhyped by the production, but the results – broken hands and faces – were real enough last weekend.

For the less bloodthirsty Sydney fans, there are other things O’Marra suggest to look out for.

“I think you’re going to see a ton of puck skill and a ton of skill. And keep your eye on how crazy  the goalies are putting their bodies in the line of fire like that, it’s a frozen rubber puck coming at upwards of 150 miles an hour.”So all this interest is good for the game in Australia.

What’s perhaps underestimated is the interest of the mainstream hockey world in Australia, and other new markets.

Melbourne Ice are pursuing a rink deal with the San Jose Sharks, “non-traditional” market specialists.And the NHL is also watching.

From New York, National Hockey League Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly stated: “Australian hockey fans should be excited for the opportunity to see current and former NHL players taking the ice in this historic series.  It is a great event for hockey and for the worldwide growth of our game. The NHL values its long-standing relationship with Aussie hockey and looks forward to furthering our co-operation in the future.”

AIHL AT A GLANCE

RESULTS

Saturday 15 June

Adelaide Adrenaline 3 v Melbourne Mustangs 2 (shootout)Sydney Ice Dogs 4 v Newcastle North Stars 3Melbourne Ice 12 v Canberra Knights 1

Sunday 16 June

Adelaide Adrenaline 5 v Melbourne Mustangs 6 (shootout)Newcastle North Stars 1 v Sydney Ice Dogs 0Sydney Bears 3 v Melbourne Ice 4

Standings (win-loss-overtime win-overtime loss)

Sydney Ice Dogs: 8-3-3-1Split the top of the ladder home and away series with Newcastle last weekend, and would have gained confidence from once again proving themselves the equal of the best in the league.

Newcastle North Stars: 10-3As consistent as ever, and with goalie Olivier Martin capable of shutting out the top team, will not fear any team in the run home. Shorthanded winner with a minute to go? This team knows how to win.

Melbourne Ice: 8-3-0-2Has beaten Canberra 9-1, and 12-1 on the road, so this week’s fixture against the Knights at the Icehouse should offer no fears. Has things to prove against the top sides, but well poised and possessing all the necessary weapons. Import forward Matt Armstrong just keeps getting better. 

Perth Thunder: 6-6Extravagantly high-scoring glamour combo bide their time in the west, ready to unleash their firepower upon the hapless Knights in two weeks.

Melbourne Mustangs: 4-6-2-1Gritty effort to split the points in two tough overtime games on the road. Should fear no team now, and just needs to put together three period efforts to remain in finals contention. Jamie Bourke a huge inclusion.

Sydney Bears: 5-8-0-1Trailed Ice by two goals twice but kept fighting all the way at home last Sunday, out-shooting the vaunted visitors. Right in the playoffs hunt, with a stellar goalie and quality top line scorers like Tomas Landa.

Adelaide Adrenaline: 3-7-1-1Needs points out of a tough road trip after failing to get more than overtime scraps out of two home games against finals rival the Mustangs. Pivotal weekend for the perennial finalist. 

Canberra Knights: 2-10Face a horror couple of weeks on the road after gradually declining over the first half of the year. The two Melbourne teams, then two games in Perth – a real test of character mid-year for the cult favourites.

THIS WEEK

Saturday June 22

International exhibition series, Canada v USA, 7pm, Allphones Arena (sold out)

Melbourne Mustangs v Canberra Knights, Docklands Icehouse, 5.00pmNewcastle North Stars v Adelaide Adrenaline, Newcastle, 5.00pm

Sunday June 23

Melbourne Ice v Canberra Knights, Docklands Icehouse, 3.30pmSydney Ice Dogs v Adelaide Adrenaline, Liverpool, 5.00pm

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

Father and son cleared in ‘happy hooker’ case

Vincent George jr and Vincent George sr in court in New York. The father and son, who acknowledged they were pimps, have been acquitted of sex-trafficking charges after several prostitutes testified they were treated well. Photo: Seth WenigNEW YORK: A judge who heard prostitutes testify that a father-and-son pimp team made them feel like family cleared the two men of sex-trafficking charges on Wednesday.
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The men’s supporters in the courtroom cheered the verdict, but the gallery fell silent when Manhattan Judge Ruth Pickholtz announced convictions against Vincent George sr and Vincent George jr on charges they laundered millions of dollars through music recording and car service businesses. The pair showed no emotion aside from slight smiles as they were led back to jail in handcuffs.

George sr, 56, and his 35-year-old son had faced possible 25-year terms on sex-trafficking charges accusing them of coercing women into becoming prostitutes. They still could get up to 15 years at sentencing on July 8 for the money laundering conviction.

Despite the mixed verdict, District Attorney Cyrus Vance jr called the outcome a victory.

“The goal of the prosecution was to dismantle a criminal enterprise from top to bottom,” he said. “That goal has been achieved with the Georges… There is no fairy tale ending for these defendants.”

Defence attorneys — who called the women working for their clients “happy hookers” — also claimed victory, adding that they planned to appeal the convictions.

The verdict “recognises that people have free will and the right to make choices whether or not you like those choices,” David Epstein, the son’s attorney, said of the prostitutes.

The loving relationship between pimps and prostitutes “was vindicated,” Epstein added. “It’s a moral victory as well as a legal one.”

Prosecutors had alleged the prostitutes made as much as $US500,000 a year for the Georges but got only a few dollars a night themselves and had no bank accounts or property. They were threatened with beatings when they didn’t bring in as much money as expected or were late to check in, according to wiretap conversations played at trial.

“Bring me my [expletive] money right now and get your ass back to work,” the son said to one woman.

The women painted a different picture, saying they were treated to nice cars, vacations in Florida and affection from their pimps. Some lived together as “family” outside New York, and drove in to the city at night to turn tricks for $US300 a night, they said.

One witness, Heather Keith, has Vincent George jr’s nickname, King Koby, tattooed on her neck. She testified she was a drug-addicted 19-year-old stripper from upstate. He helped her beat a cocaine habit, she said.

“I would say that I make my own choices,” said Keith, now 26. “I am not a dumb person. I know what I’m doing.”

Another witness, 24-year-old Desiree Ellis, dismissed allegations that Vincent George jr abused her, calling him a “teddy bear”.

She once thought about leaving him. But once at a bus station, she changed her mind and asked if she could come back to their “family”, He welcomed her with open arms.

“We kissed,” she said. “We made up. We had a love session.”

– AP

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

Australian team maps Moon’s hidden craters

Australian scientists say they have identified a possible 280 additional craters on the Moon, a finding they said could shed light on the history of the Earth’s natural satellite.
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By combining gravity and topography data collected by satellites, the scientists from Curtin University in Western Australia were able to use computer modelling to at first identify two basins on the far side of the Moon.

They later developed a high-resolution image to find a total of 280 “candidate basins” which they suspect are craters.

“There are many more [craters] that have been mapped from optical observations or from just the shape of the topography,” researcher Will Featherstone said on Tuesday.

“So there’s many, many craters that were already known, we’ve just been able to apply this technique to enhance the ones that aren’t so easy to see.

“What we have been able to use is the topography and the gravity together to get a stronger indication that there is something there that needs further investigation.”

Featherstone said the researchers looked at the lunar surface on both the near and far sides of the Moon, the dark side being more challenging because satellites cannot be tracked from Earth when they are on that side.

To get around this, the researchers used data gathered from a mission which used multiple satellites which were tracking each other as they circled the Moon.

“So when the satellite orbiting the Moon went behind the far side and they couldn’t be seen from Earth, they could be seen by other satellites,” he said.

Featherstone said of the 280 possible craters, the researchers had classified 66 of them as distinctly visible according to both gravity and topography.

“Scientists can, instead of looking at every square inch of the Moon looking for basins, they can target these areas,” he said.

“It just helps investigations of the Moon and the history of the Moon and the solar system,” he added.

The team has also done some work on the gravity of Mars and Featherstone said other data sets were also available for Venus and other planets.

He said scientists were optimistic about further discoveries from applying their techniques to new gravity data from NASA’s GRAIL mission, which ended in late 2012 when the two satellites – named Ebb and Flow – were deliberately crashed on the Moon.

AFP

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

Senate to debate step towards marriage equality

Senator Sarah Hanson-Young says a bill to recognise same-sex marriages performed overseas is an important step to marriage equality. Photo: Randy LarcombeThe Greens’ international same-sex marriage bill faces the Senate on Thursday, with debate and a vote due on recognising the marriages of gay and lesbian Australians who wed overseas.
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”It’s an important step towards marriage equality,” Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young, who out forward the bill, told Fairfax Media on Thursday morning.

”We have thousands of couples now living in Australia who’ve gone overseas and gotten married . . . and they arrive back home at Sydney International Airport and all of a sudden they have to check their marriage at the customs gate.”

Thursday’s bill would change a section of the Marriage Act that states that ”certain unions are not marriages”.

The Act says that foreign weddings between ”a man and another man” and ”a woman and another woman . . . must not be recognised as a marriage in Australia”.

Support for marriage equality is growing, not just in the Parliament, but significantly within the Australian public. MPs on both sides of politics support same-sex marriage but both Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott remain personally opposed.

Kevin Rudd recently reconciled his Christian faith with allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry, saying he had changed his mind and would now support marriage equality.

While Labor allows their MPs to vote according to their conscience on same-sex marriage, Mr Abbott has refused to allow a free vote within the Coalition.

This is despite party members including Kelly O’Dwyer, Malcolm Turnbull, Wyatt Roy, Simon Birmingham and Sue Boyce all declaring their support for same-sex marriage.

Senator Hanson-Young said the ”ludicrous thing” about the issue of marriage equality in this Parliament is that ”you have Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott effectively standing in the way of these reforms happening”.

The senator believed there was more support for the legislation in the Senate than in the House of Representatives and she hoped support had grown further since the issue was debated last year.

”I hope that we can get a few more people across the line than we did last time,” she said.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

Kill bill scams

Advertising in magazines or trade directories, offers to renew office supplies and internet domain names: false billing scams continue to be a pain for small businesses in more ways than one. False billing scams often involve a subscription form disguised as an invoice or late notice which is used to trick a business into paying for unwanted or unordered advertising, stationery or other services. In 2012, more than 2,500 people reported false billing scams to the ACCC, a welcome decrease of seven per cent on the previous year. Likewise, the total reported losses fell to around $560,000, a drop of close to eight per cent. However, there is a sting in the tail with false billing scams increasing their strike rate. The number of people reporting a loss increased to 19 per cent. Not only do scams hit small business owners in the hip pocket, they also waste precious time and resources in dealing with consequences. A recent survey conducted by Curtin University found that small businesses spent up to 20 hours dealing with the fallout of false billing scams – more than two work days lost to the problem. The ACCC is alive to false billing and we have taken action where we can to protect small businesses. In March, Adepto Publications Pty Ltd and two individuals were penalised a total of $750,000 by the Federal Court after they admitted to false and misleading representations. Adepto demanded small businesses pay for unwanted and unordered advertising in publications which it claimed were affiliated with charities.
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In a separate case, the ACCC took action against three publishing companies which contacted small businesses and told them that they had already paid for, or agreed to, advertising in one of the companies’ magazines, when they had not. In September 2012, the Federal Court ordered the publishing companies to pay penalties totalling $400,000, and the companies’ director to pay $100,000 after they admitted to misleading and deceptive conduct, harassment and coercion, and unconscionable conduct. The Curtin University study also found that Australian small businesses are targeted by an array of different scams. Out of the 192 small business survey participants, over 70 per cent may have wasted time and money thwarting a scam attempt, 12 per cent lost money to a scam, and the more online activity and e-commerce a firm undertakes, the higher losses are likely to be. For the first time it also revealed that scams damage business relationships and owner attitudes. The researchers discovered that those who have recently lost money to a scam are losing trust in others. This finding is most disturbing as strong relationships are an essential ingredient for small businesses. The good news from the survey is that many small businesses have adopted their own checks and balances to protect themselves from scams. Simple steps like searching company names and checking for valid street addresses on Google maps are being used. Small businesses are also investing in experienced staff with the right level of industry knowledge to spot requests and processes which don’t fit in with normal business patterns. The research also confirmed that many small businesses have put in place account payment procedures to reduce the risk of falling victim. One small business suggested using a separate debit card with a small available balance for online purchases. Other sage advice included having one person responsible for approving new expenditures and refusing advance payment requests.

Dr Michael Schaper is deputy chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

Microsoft backs down: no DRM on Xbox One

The beginning of all the trouble: Don Mattrick unveils the Xbox OneHave you ever heard or read about a big corporation making a really bad decision, and said to your friends, “They really need to just change their minds on this. They won’t, of course, but they really should.”
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Well, in defiance of all convention, Microsoft has changed its mind.

Microsoft was near-universally criticised last month when it unveiled its upcoming Xbox One game console to much fanfare but only quietly mentioned in the fine print that it would place tight restrictions on what owners could do with their games.

Specifically, once a game was used on one console, it would be permanently tied to that console, unless some kind of arcane licence transfer took place. In practice, this meant that you would not be able to lend a game to a friend, unless you went to their house and logged into your Xbox account on their machine. Further, selling games – a major slice of video game retailers’ business – would be made far less profitable, as somewhere along the second-hand game chain a large licence transfer fee would have to be paid to the game’s publisher.

All of this was backed up by a console that had to remain online at all times, in order to manage digital licensing. The Xbox One would need to connect to home base at least once every 24 hours; if it were to remain offline for longer than that period, its gaming functions would stop working. Privacy advocates were concerned about the implications of a console with a camera and voice recognition being required to remain connected to the internet at all times.

This morning, in an unprecedented turn-around, Microsoft has admitted they were wrong. In what may be a first for the video gaming industry, Don Mattrick – the president of Microsoft’s interactive entertainment business – has published an article on the official Xbox blog stating that all of these restrictions have been removed, in direct response to audience feedback.

The carefully-worded announcement, titled “Your Feedback Matters – Update on Xbox One”, thanks users for their “candid feedback” and says that Microsoft has “listened and [they] have heard loud and clear from your feedback”.

This is not a piecemeal rollback of some features, but a complete reversal. There will be no DRM (digital rights management) restrictions on disc-based games at all. If you buy a game on disc, you will be free to lend it and re-sell it as you like.

There will be no more 24-hour online check-in – gamers will be able to play games offline as long as they want. There will still be a one-time internet connection required when a new Xbox One is first purchased, used to set up an account, but after that there will be no requirement to ever connect it to the internet again.

This is great news for everybody, most of all Microsoft. While I am sure they will be targeted by some ridicule for changing their minds – Western society sees decisiveness as a virtue, after all, and admitting a mistake as a sign of weakness – it removes a gigantic millstone from around their new console’s neck. While relatively few people buy second-hand games and most people have high-speed always-on internet, it was a matter of principle. Microsoft was saying that the games people buy do not belong to them, and that was always going to generate outrage.

However, it’s also good news for gamers, and even for Sony and Nintendo fans who never intended to buy an Xbox One anyway. If Microsoft had kept theses restrictions in place, it could have led to abysmal sales and the end of the Xbox brand. This, in turn, would have resulted in a massive drop in competition in the video gaming industry, and a lack of competition is bad for consumers.

You may be the most ardent Sony PlayStation fan in the world, but the fact is that the existence and popularity of Xbox keeps the PlayStation on its toes. Without that rivalry, prices would rise and innovation would be stifled. Xbox makes PlayStation better, and clearly in this case, PlayStation has made Xbox better, forcing it to abandon its misguided DRM policy.

Competition is a good thing. I look forward to a long and healthy future for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Wii U, as well as gaming on Windows PC, handheld consoles, and mobile devices. The broader and more diverse the industry is, the better for everyone.

Update: Forgot to mention, this morning’s announcement also mentioned there will be no region lock on Xbox One games, making it the first Xbox console without regional restrictions.

– James “DexX” Dominguez

DexX is on Twitter: @jamesjdominguez

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.