Building society’s account deadline axed

Norwich and Peterborough branch

A deadline for the closure of current accounts with the Norwich and Peterborough (N&P) has been cancelled, with 30% of customers still to receive letters explaining the move.

It was announced in January that the building society’s brand is to be abolished, some branches closed, and current accounts shut down.

The plan was for customers to move or close accounts by the end of August.

But its owner, the Yorkshire Building Society, now says there is no deadline.

The Yorkshire – the UK’s second biggest mutual – said that about 35% of the 100,000 customers affected had already closed their current account, switched to another bank, or was in the process of doing so.

It was staggering the flow of letters to affected customers to avoid a rush of inquiries, and has now written to 70% of those affected.

The remaining letters will be sent by the end of July.

The Yorkshire will close 28 N&P branches this year. The remaining branches will be rebranded as Yorkshire Building Society branches.

A spokeswoman for the Yorkshire said: “We are continuing to work closely with other financial providers in assisting customers to switch or close their account. We’re writing to customers with details of what they need to do next, and asking that customers complete the closure or switch of their account within six months of receiving their letter. We have not set a final date for closure.

“If a customer has not taken steps to close or switch their account within six months of receiving of their letter, we will work closely with the customer on a case-by-case basis to facilitate a switch or closure.”

In the meantime, no customers would be blocked from depositing money or conducting any normal banking transactions via their current account, she said.

The N&P is not part of the Current Account Switching Service so the process will be slower than could have been the case, taking about 12 days.

It was feared that some cash incentives to switch offered by rivals would not have applied, but many providers are now offering the perks to customers moving from the N&P.

Mike Regnier, chief executive of the Yorkshire Building Society, told earlier this year that it was a “real shame” that the accounts had to close. He said that too much investment would be required to keep the current accounts compliant with regulation if offered by the mutual. Instead it is to concentrate on savings and mortgage products.

Tesco is raising store staff pay by 10.5% over two years

Tesco store

Hourly pay rates for Tesco store staff will rise by 10.5% over the next two years, the supermarket has said.

But pay remains lower than at Aldi and Lidl and overtime pay on Sundays and Bank Holidays is being cut.

Currently Tesco workers are paid £7.62 an hour, which will rise to £8.42 an hour by November 2018.

The pay rise will put Tesco workers’ pay above the £7.90 level that the National Living Wage reach by 2018.

The National Living Wage is the effective minimum wage for adults aged 25 and over, and is currently £7.50.

Those under the age of 25 are entitled to a lower minimum wage rate, whilst workers in London receive a premium.

Statutory minimum pay rates will continue to rise until at least 2020, according to recent government Budgets, and companies are planning for those changes, as well as striving to remain competitive with rivals in order to recruit and retain staff.

Wage growth in the UK has been slow in recent years, but inflation has risen and other supermarkets have increased the wages they pay.

Aldi recently announced a rise in hourly pay to £8.53 an hour; Lidl’s website says it pays store staff £8.45 an hour.

Tesco said it would increase hourly pay in three stages: to £8.02 in November 2017, then to £8.18 in July 2018 and to £8.42 in November 2018.

“This reward package sees our biggest investment in store pay for a decade, and gives colleagues a sustainable pay deal that rewards them for everything they do, while allowing us to also attract new talent,” said Tesco UK chief executive, Matt Davies.

The retailer said maternity pay terms had also been improved. But extra pay for Sundays and bank holidays will be reduced from time-and-a-half to time-and-a-quarter after July 2018.

“This is designed to meet the government legislative requirement around the minimum wage.

“As expected, most of the businesses who have had to face up to this rise have had to reduce premiums and other perks that employees benefitted from in order to meet the core wage rises,” said retail analyst Steve Dresser.

Honda engineer debunks own claim about cause of Takata airbag failures

DETROIT — Honda Motor Co. on Friday released a 2013 email in which one of its engineers suggested that he knew some hidden truth about “the root cause” of Takata Corp. airbag failures, but the engineer later said he was mistaken.

The engineer’s email was disclosed in a statement from Honda as part of its defense in a class action suit in Florida, where plaintiffs are seeking compensation for the lost value of vehicles due to defects in Takata airbag inflators.

The inflators can explode with excessive force, launching metal shrapnel at passengers in cars and trucks.

The inflators prompted the automotive industry’s largest-ever safety recall and have been linked to at least 16 deaths worldwide. Nine of the 11 U.S. deaths have been reported in 2001-03 model Honda and Acura vehicles

The engineer’s July 18, 2013 email, originally written in Japanese and translated by Honda, is part of an exchange with a colleague at the automaker.

“I am a witness in the dark who knows the truth about Takata’s inflator recall,” the engineer, whose name is blacked out in Honda’s statement, wrote in his email.

“If I say something to NHTSA, it will cause a complete reversal in the auto industry which adopted Takata inflators,” added the engineer, who told his colleague he had been taken off airbag-related work by Honda because of his supposed inside knowledge.

NHTSA is an acronym for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

In a sworn affidavit filed with a federal court and dated June 1, 2017, the engineer acknowledged he had been mistaken, however.

When he wrote email to his colleague, he was referring to an Oct. 16, 1999, event in which a prototype Takata airbag inflator ruptured, the engineer stated.

Based on later findings by NHTSA, “I now understand that I was incorrect and the root cause of the field events is not related to the root cause of the October 1999 rupture,” he said.

Honda did not name the engineer. But it said he was still employed by the company and that while it had no objection to the engineer testifying in the Florida case he had declined to do so.

Honda also reiterated its position that it did not conceal knowledge of Takata defects, but instead was itself a victim of deception by Takata officials.

Peter Prieto, a lawyer for consumer plaintiffs in the Takata airbag litigation, said in a statement that Honda had refused to present the engineer for a deposition.

The engineer’s email was “just one of the many we have uncovered establishing that Honda was well aware of the public safety risks posed by Takata’s airbags,” Prieto said.

Takata bankruptcy would cloud auto industry’s biggest recall

The expected bankruptcy of troubled airbag maker Takata Corp. isn’t just a crisis for its employees and suppliers. It also throws a wild card into one of the biggest and most complicated recalls in automotive history.

The Japan-based auto supplier has pledged to recall and replace tens of millions of defective airbag inflators used by 19 automakers around the world, from Tesla Inc. to Toyota Motor Corp. A filing to restructure in U.S. bankruptcy court, which could come as early as Monday according to people familiar with the matter, doesn’t relieve a manufacturer of recall responsibilities.

However, should its financial assets be exhausted before all the work is done, carmakers may have to cover the difference.

U.S. bankruptcy laws permit a would-be buyer to acquire Takata’s desirable assets, but not necessarily assume unwanted liabilities — including recall obligations, according to Robert Rasmussen, a University of Southern California law professor specializing in corporate reorganizations.

Funds raised by an asset sale would go toward funding Takata’s production of replacement parts, Rasmussen said. U.S. law treats a manufacturer’s recall obligations in bankruptcy as a claim of the U.S. government and they receive priority “to ensure that consumers are adequately protected from any safety defect” in a manufacturer’s products, according to statute.

“The big risk,” Rasmussen said, “is how much are the assets worth versus what’s the cost to do the replacements.”

Scott Upham, president of Valient Market Research, estimates that automakers and suppliers globally face $5 billion in future costs tied to the recalls, about $2 billion of which can be tied to Takata. He estimates a Takata asset sale will generate about $1.5 billion to $2 billion.

“There’s not enough money,” Upham said. Automakers may have to cover any shortfall, he said.

The car companies have already shifted business away from Takata and toward rivals for about 70 percent of the parts to repair the millions of vehicles recalled for the company’s defective airbag inflators, which can explode with too much force and spray drivers and passengers with metal and plastic shards. That should assure enough new inflators for the estimated 100 million defective ones forecast to be replaced worldwide.

Only 38 percent of the 43 million airbag inflators under recall in the U.S. had been repaired as of May 26, according to data on the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s website. In Japan, 73 percent of the close to 19 million airbags under recall have been repaired, a spokesman at the country’s transport ministry said this month.

At least 17 deaths have been linked to the devices worldwide. Mounting liabilities associated with the faulty airbags have forced Takata to seek a buyer that would see it through a costly restructuring process. A Takata steering committee has recommended Key Safety Systems Inc. — the U.S. airbag maker owned by China’s Ningbo Joyson Electronic Corp. — as the preferred bidder, and bankruptcy filings would bring the Japanese company a step closer to a sale.

The challenges for the acquirer are manifold.

Takata posted its third-straight annual loss even without including the full costs of repairing millions of airbags, which automakers are now paying for. It faces a talent exodus and auto industry distrust.

“It would be hard for Key Safety Systems to put in huge amounts of money if there’s no guarantee against unexpected liabilities, after any deal,” said Mitsuhiro Harada, a researcher at Tokyo Shoko Research. “Takata is making money in non-airbag operations, so if they can drastically cut recall-related debt through bankruptcy, they can surely revive soon.”

Replacement suppliers

Automakers have avoided supply disruptions by sourcing replacement parts from Takata competitors Autoliv Inc., ZF-TRW and Daicel Corp. Autoliv, for example, has already provided 15 million replacement inflators and has orders for another 15 million into 2019, company spokesman Thomas Jonsson said.

“We are working with suppliers to ensure a steady supply of replacement inflators for our customers,” said Kelly Stefanich, a Toyota spokeswoman in Princeton, Ind. “We don’t anticipate any supply disruptions at this time.” Honda CEO Takahiro Hachigo said at a June 16 media briefing that the automaker hasn’t heard any specifics about the Takata bankruptcy plan.

The Japanese government has said it’s focused on completing the recall process and ensuring there’s no disruption of the supply chain.

In the U.S., NHTSA has been coordinating the pace of recalls and the flow of parts under a legally-binding 2015 agreement with Takata and 19 companies. That pact, NHTSA said, “is designed to deal with future contingencies, including the possibility of additional recalls, new information about the cause of the ruptures, or interruptions in the supply of replacement inflators.”

“The automakers, the government, Key Safety Systems and Takata will come to an agreement to keep supplies flowing,” Upham said. “The No. 1 priority is the safety of the driving public, and I think everybody realizes that.”

Honda impact

Honda first started recalling Accord and Civic models in 2008 due to the flaw that may end up being Takata’s undoing. The supplier’s inflators use ammonium nitrate propellant that can be rendered unstable after long-term exposure to heat and humidity. That same year, Takata began adding a drying agent to its propellant formula in an attempt to fix the problem. It has until the end of 2019 to prove to U.S. regulators that those airbags are safe.

Honda now uses no Takata-sourced inflators for recall repairs in the U.S., and none of the company’s new vehicles in mass production worldwide use Takata inflators with ammonium nitrate propellant, said Chris Martin, a Honda spokesman in the U.S..

Opting for bankruptcy protection in Japan and the U.S., as opposed to a court-led restructuring, should ensure there’s “minimum negative impact to the airbag supply chain for automakers,” said Takeshi Miyao, an analyst at Tokyo-based market researcher Carnorama. He predicts the procedure would take two months in a best-case scenario, but would more likely need half a year.

GM settles with 203 plaintiffs over ignition switches

NEW YORK — General Motors agreed to settle federal lawsuits by as many as 203 plaintiffs over defective ignition switches in its vehicles, a Friday court filing shows.

Settlement terms are confidential, but the accord could also resolve hundreds of state court claims, as well, lawyers for the automaker said in the filing in Manhattan federal court.

Lawyers for the settling plaintiffs could not immediately be reached for comment. A GM spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

GM has been defending against hundreds of lawsuits over faulty ignition switches that could cause engines to stall and prevent airbags from deploying in crashes.

The defect has been linked to 124 deaths and 275 injuries, and prompted a recall that began in February 2014.

GM has paid about $2.5 billion in penalties and settlements related to the defect.

In April, the U.S. Supreme Court let stand a lower court ruling that blocked GM’s effort to scuttle many private lawsuits.

The company had argued that its 2009 bankruptcy reorganization excused it from addressing earlier defects.

GM’s lawyers said they are working with the plaintiffs’ lawyers to complete documentation within the next month for the settlement, whose terms “will take some time” to implement.

Tech Tent: Uber at a crossroads


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On the Tech Tent podcast this week, we explore the stunning resignation of Uber chief executive Travis Kalanick. We also hear why Indian IT workers are suffering mass lay-offs – and we ask whether virtual reality could have a more serious purpose beyond games and entertainment.

After last week’s news that Uber founder and chief executive Travis Kalanick was taking a leave of absence from the company, some observers might have assumed that would be the end of the turmoil for Uber’s management – at least for now.

But this week the company announced Mr Kalanick was stepping down from his role altogether – though he will remain on the company’s board.

The move came after a series of scandals over the the way Uber bosses treated female employees and customers.

Matters came to a head recently when a female ex-employee wrote a blog post detailing how managers failed to act on her complaints about sexism at work. That resulted in an investigation by the former US Attorney General Eric Holder, which recommended ways in which the company could change its culture and be run better.


On the podcast, we speak to Silicon Valley tech journalist Sarah Lacy, who, with her team, was among the first to report on Uber’s attitudes to women. She says it is the first time in three years that she can wake up without worrying whether she or her family will face some sort of retaliation from Uber.

But she says it may be ambitious to think Uber can change its culture unless it hires a totally different type of senior manager.

“It is hard to believe there is going to be a huge cultural reset here, and it is hard to believe that a company that is entirely staffed by people hired under that regime are suddenly going to do a big cultural re-shift,” she says.

In recent years, India’s IT sector has been a poster-child for the country’s rapid economic growth. By providing outsourced IT services to brands across the world, the multibillion dollar industry helped create millions of jobs for Indians.

But the industry is now facing a slowdown because of a trend by Western companies to bring some IT jobs home, and the inroads being made by automation. Some of the jobs that used to be done by Indian workers can now be handled by software. These changes have led to drastic cuts, and there are fears there could more layoffs in the coming months and years.

The BBC’s Sameer Hashmi travelled to Bangalore – regarded as India’s Silicon Valley – to meet workers and managers.

He met 49-year old Pankaj Rao, who, after working in a prestigious IT job for a decade, was dismissed along with his entire team. He is now frantically sending his resume to prospective employers.

“My father, my wife, my children, all are worried what will happen tomorrow,” he says.

But Atul Kanwar, the chief technology officer at the IT giant Tech Mahindra, says it’s likely that all jobs that involve repetitive tasks will be automated.

“Automation is all-pervasive,” he says. “It used to be a situation of doing it at the lowest end but now automation is for any repetitive task.” He advises workers: “Make sure that over time you are not doing a repetitive task.”

A virtual trip to space

So far, the focus for virtual reality has been on games and entertainment. But could its so-called “killer application” be in the workplace, for training staff, for example?

Zoe Kleinman visited the IBM research labs in Hursley, Hampshire, where she tried out a VR simulation.

From inside an English country house she paid a virtual visit to the International Space Station, where she floated around and even popped out through a hatch into Space to explore outside the craft.

Gwillam Newton, emerging-tech specialist at IBM, tells Zoe how the company is pitching the technology as a way for companies, such as airlines, to train aircrew without leaving the ground.

“Places where it’s hard to go and train people or are expensive, the idea is that you create a few virtual reality rigs like this, and people can explore virtual reality in a safe and cost-effective manner.”

Router hack risk ‘not limited to Virgin Media’

Virgin Media router

A weakness that left thousands of Virgin Media routers vulnerable to attack also affects devices by other providers, security experts suggest.

Virgin Media’s Super Hub 2 was criticised for using short default passwords that could easily be cracked by attackers.

But experts raised concerns that older routers provided by BT, Sky, TalkTalk and others were also at risk.

They recommend users change their router password from the default.


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How safe is your router?

“It’s a bit unfair that Virgin Media has been singled out here. They made a mistake – but so have many other internet service providers,” said Ken Munro from security firm Pen Test Partners.

“This problem has been known about for years, yet still ISPs [internet service providers] issue routers with weak passwords and consumers don’t know that they should change them.”

The weakness in Virgin Media’s Super Hub 2 was highlighted in an investigation by consumer group Which?

The company has since using default network and router passwords to update them immediately.

However, a BT spokeswoman told the BBC: “We are not impacted by the hub issues affecting Virgin Media.”

Other providers have yet to comment.


Many routers are sent to customers with a default wi-fi password already set up.

Some use a long password with mixture of upper and lower-case letters, numbers and sometimes symbols.

But others use short passwords with a limited selection of characters, and many follow a pattern than can be identified by attackers.

The Virgin Media Super Hub 2 used passwords that were just eight characters long, and used only lower-case letters.

That gives cyber-criminals a framework to help them crack passwords quickly, using a dedicated computer.


“Because the default wi-fi password formats are known, it’s not difficult to crack them,” said Mr Munro.

Once an attacker has access to your wi-fi network, they can seek out further vulnerabilities.


Mr Munro said the problem was well-known, but the Which? investigation had reignited discussion.

“It has popped up again because attention has been drawn to the fact that very few people change their wi-fi password from the one written on the router,” he told the BBC.

Experts recommend that people change the default wi-fi password and router’s admin password, using long and complex passwords to make life more difficult for attackers.

‘Asthma is a killer – it took away my miracle daughter’

Ten-year-old girl who died from asthma

Lisa Dennis is looking at photos of her daughter Olivia – a blonde girl with a radiant smile.

These are special moments, frozen in time. Olivia died four years ago, aged 10, after having an asthma attack.

Her parents did not even know their gymnastics-loving daughter had the condition.

But Olivia is not the only child to lose their life to asthma.

According to the latest data for England and Wales, 37 children and teenagers died from the disease in 2014.

The figure has risen over the past five years. But many of these deaths are thought to be preventable.

Lisa vividly remembers the night Olivia died. It was a bitterly cold night, and they were at home in Kent.

Lisa, who is married and has a younger son, told BBC News: “We’d tried so long to have children, and when she came along, it was just a miracle for us.

“Olivia was a really special, beautiful girl.

“That night, she was on all fours on the bed – and struggling to breathe.

“She collapsed onto the floor. I tried CPR [cardiopulmonary resuscitation], but unfortunately it didn’t work.


“I’ll never forget being at the hospital and the consultant asking us if Olivia was asthmatic.

“I said, ‘No, but she has an inhaler.’ He said to us there and then, ‘Your daughter is asthmatic.'”

Lisa’s ongoing grief is compounded by her frustration about what she says is a lack of awareness of asthma.

She had been given an inhaler for an allergy, but Lisa says the word “asthma” was never mentioned to the family, and the medicine was issued by repeat prescription.


  • Asthma is a common but unpredictable illness
  • It affects the airways and can lead to shortness of breath, coughing and a tight feeling in the chest
  • One in 11 children is affected
  • Inhalers need to be used regularly and effectively
  • The blue inhalers provide relief during an attack, while the brown ones are for more regular use to prevent flare-ups
  • Steroids via an inhaler reduce the inflammation from asthma
  • The UK has some of the highest asthma death rates in Europe

The feeling is shared by Dr Satish Rao, from Birmingham Children’s Hospital, who runs an NHS service in the West Midlands for difficult asthma cases.

He said: “One of the biggest frustrations for us is the complacency among healthcare professionals about asthma in children and young people.

“We have struggled to convince professionals that asthma is a serious illness, and that patients can die from a severe attack.

“It’s probably because it’s a common illness, and quite often we hear staff saying, ‘Oh, it’s just asthma.'”

Dr Rao believes many deaths could be prevented by better information about when to seek medical help.

And he is aware of 16 cases in his region where schools have to work very closely with families and give them extra support to make sure the children keep their condition under control.

The number of child asthma deaths has risen steadily from 17 in 2010 to 37 in 2014.

Portsmouth GP Dr Andy Whittamore, who is also Asthma UK’s clinical lead, says it can be difficult to get young patients to adhere to taking their medicine.

He said: “With children particularly, there’s lots of fear about the medicine itself – and from their parents too.

“Steroids have got a bad press because of abuse by bodybuilders and doping in the Olympics.

“But the doses we give are in very low levels – and if taken correctly, they only go directly into the lungs.”

These misconceptions can be fuelled by stigma, with asthmatic children in particular not wanting to be seen as weak or inferior.

Asthma UK has even found that teenagers sometimes shied away from using inhalers because they thought their shape resembled that of sex toys.

Bereaved mother Lisa believes much more can be done.

She said: “Everyone needs to look at their children – especially anyone with an inhaler – because asthma is a killer.

“And I think doctors need to recognise that and make families aware because this is serious, desperately serious.”

Lisa wants to see awareness posters in GP surgeries, more regular reviews and plans for young asthma patients, and an improved inhaler design so the actual device contains advice for bystanders helping with an attack.

These are simple measures, which could help save lives.

Snapchat map update raises child safety worries

Snapchat Map

An update to Snapchat that shows publicly posted images on a searchable map has raised safety concerns among parents.

Snap Map lets people search for places such as schools and see videos and pictures posted by children inside.

It also lets people locate their “friends” on a map that is accurate enough to determine where people live.

Snap, the company behind Snapchat, stressed to the BBC that location sharing was an opt-in feature.

Snap Map was launched on Wednesday and was promoted as a “new way to explore the world”.

Video clips and photos that members have posted publicly can be discovered on the map, while members who have chosen to share their location can also be seen on the map by those they have added as “friends”.

However, members can add people they have never met to their friends list too.

A message to parents posted by St Peter’s Academy in Staffordshire warned that the location-sharing feature lets people “locate exactly where you are, which building you are in and exact whereabouts within the building”.

One parent described the update as “dangerous” while another said she could not find the setting to disable it.

People have expressed concern online that the app could be used for stalking or working out exactly where somebody lives.

“If you zoom right in on this new Snapchat map thing it literally tells you where everyone lives? Like exact addresses – bit creepy no?” wrote one user called Leanne.

“This new Snapchat update is awful. An invitation for stalkers, kidnappers, burglars and relationship trust issues,” suggested Jade.

Snap told the BBC that accurate location information was necessary to allow friends to use the service to meet, for example at a restaurant or crowded festival, and said points of interest on the map, such as schools, were provided by third-party mapping service Mapbox.

Concerned parents could find out more information on its website, a spokesman told the BBC.

“With Snap Map, location sharing is off by default for all users and is completely optional. Snapchatters can choose exactly who they want to share their location with, if at all, and can change that setting at any time,” a Snap spokesman said.

“It’s also not possible to share your location with someone who isn’t already your friend on Snapchat, and the majority of interactions on Snapchat take place between close friends.”


  • When in photo-taking mode, pinch the screen to open Snap Map
  • Touch the settings cog in the top right corner of the screen
  • Tap “Ghost Mode” to switch off location sharing
  • Photos and videos posted to Snapchat’s public ‘Our Story’ will still be discoverable on the map

Google scrubs medical records from search

Medical records of private individuals will no longer be findable via a Google search, .

The news organisation noticed that the search giant had added the data type to its list of information automatically

Now Google will make sure “confidential” medical information cannot be found when people search.

The change comes after some medical data was put online accidentally and hackers stole some records.

In May, people from the UK, Denmark, Germany and Norway who had had plastic surgery at a Lithuanian clinic got a ransom demand from hackers who stole pictures and other data from the health firm.

In December last year, an Indian laboratory wrongly uploaded records of 43,000 patients who had had blood tests for many different conditions including HIV.

Over the last 12 months, hackers have targeted health organisations, including hospitals, and data taken from them has often appeared for sale online.

A Google spokeswoman told Bloomberg that the changes only affected the lists of results people got when they carried out a search.

The types of information Google removes from its search corpus has been tweaked several times recently. Credit card details, pirated content and revenge porn have all been added to the list of excluded categories.

In addition Google, along with many other web firms, has filtered results following criticism about the legitimacy it lends misleading articles or fake news stories.