Published: 23 November 2021
Location: London, UK
Britain’s seventh largest energy company, Bulb Energy, has collapsed. Due to its size, unlike previous energy firm failures, Ofgem has been unable to find a new “supplier of last resort” for its 1.7 million customers, and so the firm has been put into special administration, meaning it will continue to operate with no interruption of service or supply. Bulb had been engaged in eleventh-hour talks with the government, as well as its largest creditor the Sequoia Economic Infrastructure Income Fund. 22 energy companies supplying UK customers have now collapsed since August, when the cost of wholesale gas rocketed. In a statement, Bulb highlighted how gas prices have hit close to £4.00 per therm recently, compared with 50p per therm a year ago.
Energy regulator Ofgem has accepted commitments from PayPoint to change its ways following an investigation into whether the firm breached competition laws. PA Media reports that PayPoint will also hand over £12.5 million to the regulator and remove exclusivity clauses from its contracts with energy suppliers for pre-pay customers, who top up their meters using the company’s services. Ofgem launched an investigation in August 2017 to consider whether PayPoint had abused its dominant position allowing customers with pre-pay metres to top up their supply online or via PayPoint’s 28,000 in-store terminals, by using exclusivity clauses, to the detriment of pre-payment energy customers, typically in low-income households.
The takeover of Air Europa by British Airways owner IAG could face a formal investigation by the competition watchdog, PA Media reports. The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said it is considering whether the £420 million deal could lead to a substantial reduction of competition in the UK. IAG announced plans to buy the Spanish airline in 2019 for €1 billion (£840 million) although the price was slashed when the Covid-19 pandemic hit. Concessions have already been offered to EU antitrust bodies over the deal - although the details have not been made public – after an EU Commission investigation was launched over concerns the plans would reduce competition on Spanish domestic routes and international routes to and from the country. IAG already owns Iberia. The CMA said it will decide by January 19 whether to launch a formal investigation.
British Airways will consider cutting Heathrow flights if proposed increases in charges are implemented, the boss of the airline’s parent company says. The Independent reports that IAG chief executive Luis Gallego told the Airlines 2021 conference in Westminster that the west London airport’s fees are already among the highest in the world and are becoming “more and more expensive”. In October, the Civil Aviation Authority announced a plan to raise the cap on the airport’s average charge per passenger by up to 76%, from the current level of £19.60 to between £24.50 and £34.40. Gallego said Heathrow gives the UK’s aviation sector a “major advantage” but warned that: “The reality is that more than 40% of the people who use Heathrow are connecting passengers (who) could easily go by other, more competitive hubs”.
Online electricals retailer AO World says product shortages, supply chain problems and too few HGV drivers in the Christmas trading period will hit profits. On Tuesday, the firm posted a half-year pre-tax loss of £10m, down from an £18m profit in the six months last year, when lockdowns caused profits to soar. The news sent AO's share price crashing, with the shares down 25% a few minutes into trading on Tuesday.
Usdaw, the shop workers' union, says 88% of its members have been verbally abused in the past year, and the RMT says 58% of workers on trains, buses and ferries had been threatened, assaulted, or spat at since the pandemic began, Sky News reports. Meanwhile, staff at Veolia UK, one of Britain's biggest waste management companies, have faced a 118% increase in abuse over the last year, abuse which includes verbal assaults, acid attacks, and gunshots allegedly being fired at refuse collectors. Hence the company has introduced a new campaign, Streetkind, to take stronger action against those who abuse or endanger its workers while thanking residents who recognise the work of their teams. Veolia employs more than 12,000 members of staff. Between January and October of this year they reported 846 cases of both verbal and physical abuse compared to 389 cases reported in the same time frame last year, while in 2019 before the pandemic, there were 670 cases, Sky News reports.
Ardagh Metal Packaging (AMP) is planning to build a new state-of-the-art £149 million beverage can plant in Northern Ireland, near Belfast, creating full-time jobs for engineers, technicians, and other roles. The initiative is part of a multi-billion-dollar investment programme by AMP involving the construction of new, infinitely recyclable, metal packaging capacity in Europe, North America and Brazil. Metal cans are the most recycled drinks package in the world.
The John Lewis Partnership has launched a £1m fund to award cash to projects working on ending the “throwaway” culture of the UK high street. The Circular Future Fund will be handed out for one year to projects that "demonstrate trailblazing, scalable innovations that can accelerate the transition towards a more circular economy" in the areas of food, textiles, and household products. The £1m fund was raised from the sale of 10p plastic bags in stores and will provide grants of between £150,000 and £300,000 to any organisation less than five years old.
Cosmetics firm Lush is deactivating some of its social media accounts until platforms "take action to provide a safer environment" for users. From Friday, its Instagram, Facebook, TikTok and Snapchat pages will be shut down in all 48 countries Lush operates in. Its Twitter and YouTube channels will remain open "for now", however, as looks to "build better channels of communication elsewhere". Lush said the "serious effects" of social media were barely being acknowledged and compared the situation to when "climate change was ignored and belittled for decades". "I've spent all my life avoiding putting harmful ingredients in my products. There is now overwhelming evidence we are being put at risk when using social media," said Mark Constantine, co-founder and chief executive of Lush. "I'm not willing to expose my customers to this harm, so it's time to take it out of the mix." The retailer has previously closed some of its UK social media accounts, but said it found itself "back on the channels, despite the best intentions," to offer service to customers during coronavirus lockdowns.
Uber is making its first foray into the marijuana market. Uber Eats users in Ontario, Canada, will soon be able to order cannabis products in a dedicated section of the Uber app for cannabis retailer Tokyo Smoke and then pick them up at a nearby store, the BBC reports. Canada's marijuana market is worth around CAD$5bn (£3bn) a year. Under Canadian law, although marijuana use has been legal since 2018, it is still illegal to deliver it. Despite the sale of cannabis for recreational use becoming legal in Canada, illegal producers still control a large share of sales. Uber said that its partnership with Tokyo Smoke will help adults in the country buy safe, legal cannabis, combatting illegal sellers.
A cryptocurrency named after the legendary writer JRR Tolkien has been taken to task by The Lord of the Rings author's estate, The Verge reports. The new digital coin "JRR Token" was first launched in August 2021, and now the estate has recovered the domain name <jrrtoken.com> via the World Intellectual Property Organization arbitration procedure, with the developer of the token unsuccessfully opposing the claim. Action from the estate also stopped the developer operating under the offending name and made it delete the infringing content from all relevant websites and social media accounts. The developer, based in the United States, has paid the Estate’s US and UK legal costs in an undisclosed sum.
El Salvador plans to build a Bitcoin city at the base of a volcano, with the cryptocurrency used to fund the project, President Nayib Bukele has announced. Bukele said the city will be circular to represent the shape of a large coin and take advantage of the Conchagua volcano's geothermal energy to power Bitcoin mining. Addressing a raucous crowd at a promotional Bitcoin event in the coastal town of Mizata late on Saturday, Bukele said the planned new city would include “residential areas, commercial areas, services, museums, entertainment, bars, restaurants, airport, port, rail - everything devoted to Bitcoin" and that no income taxes would be levied in the city, only VAT. He said that half of the revenue gained from this would be used to "to build up the city", while the rest would be used to keep the streets "neat and clean". The president did not provide dates for construction or completion of the city, but said he estimated that much of the public infrastructure would cost around 300,000 Bitcoins. One Bitcoin is currently trading at just under $60,000 (£45,000). El Salvador recently became the first country to use Bitcoin as legal tender.
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