Tax haven London targeted by activists armed with adverts (and palm trees)

Global collective The Rules launches ‘Visit the City’ mock campaign in bid to shine light on tax avoidance

Over a year after the end of the Occupy tented protests in the City of London, a new movement has sprung up to challenge the global economic consensus, in this case focusing on what protesters say is the rampant, worldwide problem of corporate tax avoidance.

The campaign, launched on Monday, features a mock corporate video and a set of posters seemingly extolling the virtues of the City as a place to do business. The slogan is: “Visit the City of London – the tax haven capital of the world”.

It has been organised by a group called The Rules, a loose global collective with links to Occupy, which aims to stage a number of campaigns based on what it sees as major issues connected to fairness and equality in each country.

The London campaign, in which the group has bought poster space on phone boxes and produced the video above, is aimed at focusing attention on tax avoidance and evasion during the UK’s presidency of the G8 group of industrialised nations and ahead of elections later this month in the Corporation of London.

While the Corporation stresses it has no special status related to tax and brings no tax advantages to companies based within its environs, the campaign argues it nonetheless gets special treatment from government – not least because of the square mile’s vehement lobbying – and says City-based firms widely use overseas tax havens.

Corporate tax avoidance has become an increasingly controversial issue, in no small part thanks to the efforts of another loosely organised campaign group, UK Uncut, which has highlighted the tax affairs of companies including Vodafone, Goldman Sachs and Starbucks.

Alnoor Ladha, from The Rules, said: “This campaign is about bringing a global voice to the UK tax debate. This affects us all. The City of London is a global hub for the tax haven spider web that extracts wealth from the developing world. We stand in solidarity with the brave citizens of the UK that are fighting the unjust practices of their government.

“To be clear, this not about a couple of bad apples, such as Starbucks or Amazon. It’s about the underlying system that allows the few to benefit at the expense of the majority.”

The campaign is also intended to promote a more traditional, Occupy-style street event in the City this Saturday, where The Rules will join with activists from Occupy and UK Uncut to – the promise goes – “transform a space in the City of London into a tropical tax haven”.

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Mobile phone charges: ‘Welcome to France’? But we’re in Kent

Residents and tourists at the foot of the white cliffs of Dover regularly get charged for using French network

Visitors to the famous white cliffs of Dover are getting a nasty surprise when they want to use their mobile phones – they are picking up a French signal at higher charges.

Residents and tourists in the seaside village of St Margaret-at-Cliffe and St Margaret’s bay at the foot of the Kent cliffs – just 18 miles from France – regularly get a “Welcome to France” message and the extra costs, including data roaming charges for smartphone users, from companies such as Orange F and SFR.

Landlord of the Coastguard pub and restaurant on the beach Nigel Wydymus, 53, said: “We are a little telecommunications enclave of France here.

“It did not cause a huge amount of trouble for a few years because you got a message saying ‘Welcome to France’, but since smartphones have come in it’s more of a problem.

“Obviously people strolling along the beach in England do not expect to be on a French network and so, unlike when they get off the plane in Spain or elsewhere, they haven’t switched off their data roaming and it causes some extra bills.

“In the village the French signal is patchy depending on the atmospherics and the weather, but here on the beach the French signal is constant because we are at the foot of the cliffs and the UK signal is blocked out.”

Costs for making a call on the French network can be up to four times the cost of using a domestic one with a cost of up to 28p to make a call and nearly 8p to receive one and nearly 9p to send a text.

The signal problem has upset locals who want something to be done to stop the extra charges and inconvenience.

A spokesman for EE said: “We always recommend our customers switch off roaming while they are in this little pocket of an area to ensure that they are connecting to the correct network because we cannot control the networks from the other side of the water.”

The issue is believed to affect all UK networks.

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Sheryl Sandberg’s new book is causing uproar

Facebook’s chief operating officer has written about how women can achieve career success. It has resulted in an almighty row

Age: 43

Appearance: The Corrs’ older half-sister.

I know her – she’s the CEO of Yahoo!. No, that’s Marissa Mayer. Sandberg is Facebook’s chief operating officer and the first woman on its board.

So I was close! They’re both alliterative-named women in charge of modern stuff. Yes. So close.

Why is SS in the news, then? Added an “If you don’t know what you’ve done, I’m not going to tell you” button for status updates? Turned the two ‘o’s in the Facebook logo into little ovaries? Had a child and named it “Like/Dislike”? None of those. She has written a book called Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, about how women can best “lean into” (rather than turn away from) career success, and set up a foundation to help them do so.

Let me guess – it is a feminist tract that has caused outrage among commentators who question her ability to talk from a position of privilege about the lives of the majority of women? Yes, with the added twist that they have been frequently doing so without reading the book.

Impossible! No one in the media would ever dream of saying, printing or rendering in pixels anything that hadn’t been thoroughly researched, considered and investigated from all sides! Alas, some would and some have. The biggest row began with an article by Jodi Kantor (who did appear to have read the book) in the New York Times, which was sceptical about Sandberg and her thesis and included an out-of-context quote from an interview elsewhere that gave a negative impression of her, which the original piece didn’t.

Then what happened? Our own Daily Mail ran a piece that further distorted everything, Maureen Dowd followed up in the New York Times with another sceptical piece, alleging Sandberg’s book and foundation were just moneymaking ventures.

And then? The NYT printed corrections to her article and Kantor’s, but by then everyone was off and running – especially in the blogosphere – and barely even pretending to have read the book, or anything, before laying into Sandberg, and hard.

Life’s a bag of utter balls sometimes, isn’t it? You got that right, my friend. Still a backlash against the backlash now seems to be starting, so maybe we’ll see a considered result in the end.

Do say: “I’m going to get that book out of the library to see what I think.”

Don’t say: “A thousand online commentators can’t be wrong.”

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Why can’t we use Google images on our website?

I set up my sister’s website and used two Google images. It said nothing about copyright – but now Getty has billed us £950

In August 2010 my sister asked me to design a website for her hair and beauty salon.

We found two striking images on Google and used them. We rejected those which had “copyright” or similar words, or where the identity of the model was obvious.

Three months later, Getty Images wrote claiming the photos were subject to its copyright. She was asked to remove them immediately and to cease and desist from further use. She was also billed £950 for “unpaid licence fees”, an enormous sum for a local business.

As I reckoned the images were worth about £50 at most, and were only on the site for three months, I ignored this demand. Getty sent a heavier letter in January 2011. In June, she received a “notice of case escalation” and the fee demanded was now £1,149.50, an impossible amount to pay.

We heard nothing more – I thought Getty had realised there was little point in chasing this – until December 2012 when debt collectors sent a threatening letter. Is this a big organisation trying to beat up a small business? BF, Shrewsbury

Getty Images collects fees for photographers whose work is used.

They have to earn their crust – and pay models, make-up artists, lighting technicians and others involved in a shoot. Using their images for free is copyright theft. But Getty Images acknowledges that when non-professional web designers try to find artwork through a search engine, it can be unclear what – if any – fee there is to pay, and even more unclear how to pay.

Phrases such as “These images may be in copyright” could apply to all, or none, of the images viewed. In your case, you selected two pricey images at £475 each to use for six months.

Getty accepts that you would not have taken these had you known the cost. These images were “digital rights managed” and their use is easily detectable.

You could, however, have chosen “royalty-free” images which would have given you a lifetime’s use for £10 to £20.

There are a number of websites to consult before using images, including Stockphotorights.com and picscout.com/imageexchange.

Getty accepts “that there are many small businesses and image users that are new to licensing content” and says “it is not our core business to chase hairdressers”.

And while it called in debt collectors, it has not sold them the debt – it remains a matter between Getty and you.

Following our call, it has reassessed the situation. It says it is unfair for those involved in the shoot to be unpaid, but it is willing to cut the bill to £500 as a compromise solution.

We feel that this is reasonable.

This week Bachelor and Brignall is guest-written by Tony Levene.

We welcome letters but cannot answer individually. Email us at consumer.champions@guardian.co.uk or write to Bachelor & Brignall, Money, the Guardian, 90 York Way, London N1 9GU. Please include a daytime phone number

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PayPal no friend when I needed help

The company that sold me my tickets went into administration. Now I can’t get my money back

I ordered tickets online in December for the musical The Lion King.

After weeks of chasing the seller, Theatre Line, I discovered that it had gone into administration. As I’d paid through PayPal, I assumed I’d be covered by its buyer protection, but when I opened a dispute it was immediately closed. PayPal confirmed that because 45 days had passed since the transaction, I had no claim.

Can I challenge this? Sometimes you don’t know you have a problem within 45 days, especially when it is a ticket for an event which could be booked many months in advance.

PayPal did say that had I used a credit card I could have claimed under the Consumer Credit Act. PB, Peterborough, Cambs

The obvious point to make here is: always read terms and conditions. But, of course, very few of us do.

If you had, you’d have known PayPal says that customers have to report a dispute within 45 days of the payment date – it then gives you a further 20 days to make a claim if goods don’t arrive. However, 45 days is a pretty stingy given the four to six months debit card users have under the chargeback scheme operated by Visa, Mastercard and American Express and the unlimited timescale offered by Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act. Web forums are loud with the ire of customers who have been caught out by PayPal’s obduracy.

PayPal claimed that 45 days is usually ample, but on this occasion accepted it was not long enough (and that a headline is looming) and has decided to refund you. Next time pay by credit card so you are not tied to a deadline – although persuading your credit card issuer of its liability is another story.

If you need help email Anna Tims at your.problems@observer.co.uk or write to Your Problems, The Observer, Kings Place, 90 York Way, London N1 9GU. Include an address and phone number.

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BT creates 1,000 fibre-broadband installation jobs

New intake follows addition of 1,500 engineers in past year and will include 400 apprenticeships for training scheme

BT is to create more than 1,000 engineering jobs to install household fibre broadband connections.

Of the new recruits, 400 will be apprentices on a training scheme that lasts two and a half years, and BT is hoping a further 200 jobs will go to those retiring from the armed forces.

Demand for faster internet speeds has been picking up as construction of the UK’s fibre network gathers pace. In rural areas, the build-out is being funded by the government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) project, for which BT has so far won all the contracts.

BT has already hired 1,500 engineers in the past year, and after the new recruitment wave, it will have 6,000 people working on its fibre build.

Its apprentice scheme has been oversubscribed at a rate of 40 applicants for every place, with 18,500 vying for the 460 trainee engineer posts filled to date.

The new intake will spend a year working for BT’s Openreach business, installing lines in homes, before going on to learn the full range of engineering tasks. Apprentices will also complete maths, English and technology courses, and will receive diplomas.

David Cameron welcomed the new jobs. The prime minister said that creating a faster broadband network was “vital for driving investment and equipping the UK to compete and thrive in the global race”.

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Electric cars not mass-market solution, says Jaguar Land Rover chief

Ralf Speth criticises government subsidy of ‘poor electric vehicles’ and nationwide charging stations

Electric cars will never be a mass-market solution to climate change and should not get government subsidies, the chief executive of Jaguar Land Rover said on Tuesday .

The British and other governments have introduced generous subsidies to encourage motorists to switch to emission-free electric cars.

Ralf Speth said it was wrong to subsidise “poor electric vehicles” and nationwide charging stations. “At this time I am not a very big friend of electric vehicles,” he said in an interview at the Geneva motor show.

“The batteries are too expensive …the customer must be very rich, and can only use [them] in mega-cities [where there are charging points]. Should we do it only for the rich?”

He said it would be better to wait until the technology improves and there is a greater benefit to the environment.

Speth, who has been chief executive of Indian-owned Jaguar Land Rover since 2010, said the market should decide if electric cars are the future. “The customer is clever enough to decide what he wants or doesn’t want,” he said. “Even with lots of subsidy the demand is not very high.”

Jaguar Land Rover has developed an electric version of the Defender 4×4, but Speth said it would cost “five digits” more to buy than the conventional version. The car unveiled at the motor show on Tuesday will not be for sale.

He said the carmaker would launch the world’s first hybrid sports utility vehicle later this year.

Speth’s comments came as Nissan underlined its commitment to build up to 50,000 Leaf electric cars in Sunderland. Andy Palmer, Nissan executive vice-president and the most powerful Briton at the Japanese company, said northeast production of the Leaf would begin on 28 March. He conceded that demand for electric cars has been hampered by the high price of the vehicles and “range anxiety” – people fear they may not be able to charge their cars if they go too far out of town.

But he said moving manufacturing from Japan to Sunderland had allowed it to cut the price to £23,490 – about £5,000 more than a similar petrol model. The £23,490 retail price comes after a £5,000 government subsidy.

Palmer said range anxiety would reduce following the government’s commitment to invest £37m in paying 75% of the cost of new charging points at garage forecourts, supermarkets and homes.

“The UK is really leading the way in electric cars, and we would like to see other governments picking up on that,” he said.

He said takeup of electric cars had been most extensive in Norway, where there is no import tax on electric vehicles and the country already has an extensive network of charging points used to prevent engines seizing up in cold weather. He said the Leaf is currently the 13th best-selling car in Norway.

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Alexandra Shulman on working from home: it’s not an adequate alternative

Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer caused a stir this week when she banned staff from working at home. British Vogue editor Alexandra Shulman explains why she agrees with her

It doesn’t seem right, does it? Marissa Mayer, a woman who has succeeded where so many women have not yet, in reaching the top of one of the world’s most important technology companies, has let us down. This week, she ordered that the 11,500 Yahoo employees in the US should work in the office or leave the company. She wants them at their desks, round the water coolers, swiping their entry passes, day in, day out. Not for her, and no longer for them, the option of working from home.

The fact that Mayer – not just a woman, but a young woman with a small child – has nixed the rights of her employees to take advantage of the arguably more child-friendly and independent option of working outside the office has disappointed many. It may be a way to reduce the substantial staff numbers at Yahoo, but that is not the issue. The issue is that nowadays we have come to believe that working at home is a completely adequate alternative to showing our face in the office.

But it’s not. Working from home is exactly that. Working in the office is something different. At Vogue, there have been many occasions when a member of the team has suggested to me that it would be incredibly helpful for them if I would consider them working from home for part of the week. We wouldn’t notice the difference, they often say. The rest of their department are happy to make this work. They would be on their mobile and email all day (a notion that always makes me think of some strange person wired into electrical sockets from their bed). Honestly, they would get far more done.

Invariably my reaction is the same. Sorry, but no. This is not born out of some stubborn recalcitrance where I believe that you are only productive if you are seated at a desk in my sightline (far from it – I am always urging people to get out and about), but because I believe in the collective creativity of an office. Some of the best stories in any publication I have worked on have come out of a glancing remark somebody has made about their night before, or a piece of gossip, or a joke. The daily download of chatter within the office feeds into what we produce in an incalculable way. Having half the team sitting at home, fiddling around on a search engine from the kitchen or pasting up mood boards from the sofa does not replicate that.

Every now and again, of course, it is fine for somebody to work at home. If you are trying to write a 3,000-word piece, it’s much easier to do it away from the meetings and coffee runs and other people’s phone messages. I do it myself. I know what working at home means. It means you don’t have to get dressed. It means you can totter into the kitchen to put the kettle on 10 times a day. It means you can take a break and check whether that really is a daffodil poking up in the garden. It means you can be there to let in the electrician, and if you add up the hours you would have taken to get to work and take a lunch break, you are entirely justified in picking up your kid from school. Sometimes when I work from home, I finish what I’m doing at 4pm. It’s too late, I argue to myself, to head into the office. Why not use the time for a run, or make something nice for dinner?

It’s pleasant and often very constructive, but it is not doing the same job as I do at work, and nor is it for anyone else. They might be able to edit a piece of copy at home, but I can’t ask them to change a headline or query a fact without getting involved in a tedious ping-pong of emails. If they have the right system, they might be able to do a page layout, but all the relevant parties can’t look at it together, putting in their tuppence-worth and coming to a conclusion then and there. I can’t suddenly call a meeting to thrash out a problem, and I can’t spontaneously have a chat about an idea. Yes, I could call them on that mobile, but it’s funny how often you get the voicemail, and then, when they ring back, slightly fraught at having missed my call, I’m in a meeting (with somebody who is there). Anyway, I want to be able to see their reactions, and them to see mine. It’s a human thing.

Call me old-fashioned if you will, (inflexible or out of touch with developments in telecommunications are other options), but when I go to the office, I like my team to be around. It’s when I don’t even notice whether or not somebody is there – that’s the time for them to start worrying.

Alexandra Shulman is the editor of British Vogue

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