North Carolina residents who frequently shop at Amazon.com can breathe a sigh of relief, while privacy rights groups can give each other high fives. You see, state officials wanted Amazon to fork over sensitive information, including names, addresses, and what items North Carolina residents purchased between 2003 and 2010. Rather than comply, Amazon decided to fight the good fight...and won.
According to U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman, the request seeks too much and "runs afoul of the First Amendment." She then granted Amazon a summary judgment.
In siding with Amazon, Pechman said state officials have no need for such details. "In spite of this, [North Carolina] refuses to give up the detailed information about Amazon's customers' purchases, while at the same time requesting the identities of the customers and, arguably, detailed records of their purchases, including the expressive content."
It should be noted that Amazon doesn't have any offices or warehouses in North Carolina, and so the company has no legal obligation to collect the state's 5.75 percent sales tax.
Alright, smart shoppers. Start your engines, grab your plastic cards, and let's get shopping. But not just yet. You'll want to grab this week's Firefox Extension of the Week, The Camelizer, if you want any shot at making informed purchasing decisions. And by that, I mean waiting until the time is just right to pick up whatever it is you're hunting after from one of the major retailers of your choice.
Click the jump and get ready to do some hardcore shopping... Firefox-style!
More and more it seems that e-commerce differs little from a shell game. Both have the expressed purpose of taking away my money without giving me something tangible in return. It’s almost as if my having a dollar or two in my pocket, my bank account, or on my credit limit, is too much for someone to bear--they have to find a way to separate it from me. While a traditional shell game requires my explicit participation, e-commerce doesn’t, making the task all too easy.
The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation has been conducting an investigation into the matter, and has turned its attention to the big credit card companies: American Express, MasterCard, and Visa. Why? Because of all the parties involved they were best positioned to detect the scam and, acting on their customers best interests, put an end to it.
Credit card companies are at the forefront of the complaint process. When something that shouldn’t appears on a bill, it’s the credit card company that gets the complaint. But, the credit card company also gets to ‘wet its beak’ on all of the action--so it charges both the consumer (fees and interest), and the merchant (a percentage) for each transaction processed. The $1.4 billion Webloyalty, Vertrue, and Affinion accumulated through their bogus practice may have been just enough for the big three to turn a blind eye, despite thousands of consumer complaints. This is what the Senate Committee wants to find out.
While this particular little racket may come to an end, its unlikely those involved will get more than a slap on the wrist. And, the big players will still be there, just as unconcerned about your welfare as before. The lesson here: always carefully check your monthly statement.
Windows 7 party hosts looking to make a quick buck on eBay by selling their "Signature Edition" copy of the OS may want to pay attention to three little words: Not For Resale. It's pretty clear what that means, and likely at the request of Microsoft, eBay has begun shutting down auctions of the OS.
"While we cannot confirm why eBay has removed these specific auctions, Microsoft routinely works with online auction sites such as Ebay to remove infringing auctions," the Redmond company said in a statement. "The Signature Edition of Ultimate that was includied in the Party Packs is clearly marked on the outer wrap Not For Resale."
That doesn't necessarily mean you're out of luck if you didn't host a party but are itching to get your hands on a Signature Edition copy. While Microsoft hasn't said anything, they wouldn't be breaking new ground by making the OS available through select e-tailers. When Vista launched, Microsoft sold a Bill Gates signature copy version through Amazon. And in the meantime, there's still plenty of auctions that have managed to slip under the radar, such as the one offered by 'pcsalemaster,' who's only asking $1,249. o_0
As newspapers and other media struggle to come up with a plan to remain profitable in today's online landscape, Google may have the solution: Micropayments.
According to a document Google submitted to the Newspaper Association of America, the search giant is hard at work on a micropayment platform, which it plans to offer "to both Google and non-Google properties within the next year."
"The idea is to allow viable payments of a penny to several dollars by aggregating purchases across merchants and over time," Google wrote. "Google will mitigate the risk of non-payments by assigning credit limits based on past purchasing behavior and having credit card instruments on file for those with higher credit limits and using our proprietary risk engines to track abuse or fraud. Merchant integration will be extremely simple."
Google went on to propose a revenue sharing model similar to the Android Market, which takes a 30 percent cut of the revenue. It also brought up the possibility of publishers syndicating their content on third-party sites and sharing ad revenue.
It doesn't take a study to confirm that there are shady sellers scattered all over the Web, but what you might not know is how bad the problem really is. According to a survey conducted by authorities in 28 European countries, more than half of all online electronic vendors might be running afoul of the law.
The survey honed in on 369 sites selling digital cameras, mobile phones, music players, DVDs, computer parts, and games consoles. A full 55 percent of them showed at least one irregularity, such as concealing charges, misleading buyers, or refusing to provide an address to return products.
Out of the sites which failed to make the cut as a safe haven for online shoppers, the biggest problem was failing to provide accurate information about a buyer's legal right to return defective goods for refund or repair for two years, affecting about 66 percent of said sites.
Meanwhile, Newegg still kicks ass. Where do you shop online for electronics? Hit the jump and tell us your experiences, good or bad.
Yahoo on Monday launched what it claims is the first website to provide daily deals, online coupons, grocery coupons, local coupons, store circulars, and exclusive deals all in one place. Dubbed 'Yahoo! Deals," the new portal also integrates social and community features, as well as videos offering tips on how to save money.
"Frugality is the new 'cool,'" said Greg Hintz, head of Yahoo! Shopping. "We now know that couponing and bargain hunting are losing their stigma and are now a regular habit for many people. Our goal at Yahoo! is to be the center of people's online lives and we're making Yahoo! the easiest place for consumers to find and manage the coupons and deals that are relevant to their lives."
Some of the features on Yahoo! Deals include a gas finder module that helps users find the cheapest gas by zip code, improved search functions to help users find deals from across the site, offers for local chain and neighborhood restaurants, retailers, and service providers provided by Valpak, and exclusive deals from partners like TechBargains.com, LogicBUY, CouponAlbum, and others.
To kick off the new site, Yahoo will be giving away to $20,000 as part of its Purple Piggy Bank Giveaway. The contest will be open through September 7, 2009.
As if Paypal critics needed any more ammunition, the online payment service has been assessing new fees to personal accounts since June, and you probably didn't even know about it. That's because the fees -- 2.9 percent on purchases marked "goods" or "services" -- were only announced in an email that said they had changed their Terms of Service (ToS), but you had to actually go read re-read the ToS page to be made aware of the fee change.
Sounds rather sneaky, doesn't it? But according to Paypal, there was nothing underhanded going on.
"We didn't want to make a huge formal communication out of this pricing change, because we weren't really adding any fees, and we were hoping it would be a more useful experience for people," said Charlotte Hill, Paypal's PR manager.
Take from that what you will, but we've heard slicker sales pitches on used car lots, and you probably have too.
Tired of staring at a shelf full of discarded gadgets? Wondering what to do with old digital media players, digital cameras, and laptop computers? Want to get some cash for your technological discards? Gazelle.com provides an earth-friendly answer worth considering.
Gazelle.com offers users with unwanted cell phones, MP3 players, digital cameras, GPS devices, laptops, camcorders, gaming consoles, satellite radios, and portable hard drives a way to sell their products without the uncertainties of other methods like eBay or consignment sales. Gazelle buys unwanted products from you, refurbishes them, and then resells them through a variety of channels.
Selling Items to Gazelle
According to PC Magazine, Gazelle currently offers listings for over 18,000 products in these categories. You can search by category, brand or model name. However, you can also sell unlisted items to Gazelle: if you enter an unlisted item, Gazelle pops up a customized quote form.
The price you're offered by Gazelle is based on the item, its condition, and the accessories provided with the item. Gazelle provides free shipping, emails you when the product has been inspected and evaluated, and pays you promptly. If you don't like Gazelle's offer, Gazelle will return your item to you. If you prefer to donate your sale proceeds to charity, select from a list of over 20 non-profits and Gazelle will do the rest.
To find out how Gazelle helps you decide if now's the right time to sell, and for your chance to give us your thoughts, join us after the jump.