Consumer Information

International Record Store Day 2011

Today is Record Store Day, a day in which Independent Record Stores through-out the world are celebrated and participate in various promotions.

A list of participating stores in Canada can be found on the Official Record Store Day website.

Epsilon Hack & Canadians

Well, that was some April Fools Day, wasn’t it ?

Epsilon was hacked and confirmed that 2% of their clientelle have had their email lists compromised, Alliance Data confirming that email addresses and their associated names had been stollen from their database.

Bank Info Security has posted a list of companies whose information was compromised. And among these nearly 70 companies are financial institutions, internet merchants and loyalty programs Canadians use.

Most of these companies have already contacted their Canadian customers in regards to this security breach. But what now ?

The Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial Email advises people to change their email addresses as soon as possible, especially when dealing with financial institutions.

Twelve financial institutions were affected according to CAUCE, namely American Express, Ameriprise Financial, Barclays Bank of Delaware, Capital One, CITI, JP Morgan Chase, Moneygram, Scottrade, TD Ameritrade, TIAA-CREF, U.S. Bank and World Financial Network National Bank. But of course even if you don’t have an account at those financial institutions you should consider changing your email address at your financial institution if you’ve been advised by one of the other companies of this breach on your current email address.

The hackers have probably sold your information by now so you will likely be subjected to emails claiming to be from several financial institutions and online payment companies.

They’re of course hoping people will click on the links included in these emails and provide them with passwords and other information to facilitate identity theft. But of course no financial institution or online merchant will ever ask you to provide personal information by email and these companies always use encypted connections on the internet.

The most recent internet browsers either have a confirmation that the connection is secured or a verification scheme that confirms that the web site you’re visiting is authentic. But of course it is up to the user to keep on eye on the address bar at all times.

Internet users that are versed in Phishing know to look for an https:// and/or a picture of a lock in their address bar because scammers rarely purchase security certificates to scam people out of their information. They usually just stick to variations of a web site address to lure the less knowledgable into providing their passwords or other information on a fake website.

Personally, whenever some company sends me a warning about my account I open up a new tab on my browser and I use my bookmarks to access the site. I never click on the link provided in the email or provide account numbers via email. And if all else fails, I call their toll free number to resolve the issue.

Webmail services also offer anti-spam and anti-phishing options that you might consider using. These have worked quite nicely for me. But of course if push comes to shove the webmail address I use on most sites are disposible.

BTW, if you’re interested in obtaining additional security software or information on related consumer issues, I have some links listed in my Consumer Links that you might find interesting.

Must Reads On Usage Based Billing

The following documents dispell many of the claims used to justify Usage Based Billing : “Canada‚Äôs Usage Based Billing Controversy: How to Address the Wholesale and Retail Issues” by Michael Geist and “Myths and Fallacies about Usage Based Billing (UBB)” by Bill St. Arnault.

The later was commissioned by Netflix, who have recently decided to offer additional video quality settings to their customers because of this issue.

For additional information on Usage Based Billing, consult Michael Geist’s blog.

Bell Canada Drops UBB

Bell Canada has decided to drop usage based billing in response to the consumer backlash. They have decided to propose an alternative wholesale internet service pricing scheme, “Aggregated Volume Pricing“.

Details on Bell Canada‘s proposal can be found by clicking here.

Online Retailer Adapts To Usage Based Billing

Netflix Canada has decided to offer additional options to their customers in response to the usage based billing issues.

Canadian subcribers will now be able to access additional options when it comes to the quality of the videos they stream from Netflix in order to reduce their consumption of bandwidth.

According to Netflix, they will now offer three levels of video quality to their Canadian customers :

  1. Good – Max. 625 kbps Video/64 kbps Audio, which translates to about 9 gigabites of data for 30 hours of content.
  2. Better – Max. 1300 kbps Video/192 kpbs Audio, which translates to about 20 gigabites of data for 30 hours of content.
  3. Best – Max. 4800 kbps (1080p HD video) and 384 kbps (5.1 audio), which translates to about 67 gigabites of data for 30 hours of HD content.

On the Best setting transfers will fluctuate depending on if the content is in HD and/or whether there is congestion. This means 30 hours of non-HD content on the Best setting will translate to about 31 gigabites of data.

It should be noted that American and Canadian television episodes from before 2009 are not likely going to be available in HD, so people who enjoy watching this content can use the Best setting. And several films on Netflix are not available in HD as well, including many by Paramount, who have just signed onto the service in Canada.

HMV Canada For Sale ?

The CBC has reported that HMV Canada may be sold by Maidstone, England based HMV Group PLC to pay for a $200 Million dollar debt.

The company claims that they have not discussed the sale to a potential buyer yet.