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Archive for April, 2015

30 April
Comments Off on Michigan Senate committee puts a rush order on no-fault insurance changes

Michigan Senate committee puts a rush order on no-fault insurance changes

LANSING, MI — The Senate Insurance Committee on Wednesday moved a bill that would make major changes to Michigansno-fault law after adoptingsubstitute language that stakeholders and even one legislator said they hadnt had a chance to read.

The committee meeting was posted Tuesday and took place Wednesday at 12:30 pm Thesubstitute legislation that was advancedmade deep changes to Senate Bill 248, which alters the states insurance code.

Michigan has no-fault auto insurance. Every driver is required to buy auto insurance, and when an accident results in serious injury, the persons lifetime medical expenses over $530,000 are covered by the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association, which reimburses the persons auto insurer for those costs. To provide that, the MCCA assesses a fee of $186 per vehicle.

But the high cost of car insurance in Michigan has had legislators eyeing the entire system for years, including ahigh-profile push by former House Speaker Jase Bolger last session.

According to data from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, Michigan had the 7th highest average car insurance rates in the nation in 2014 at $1,049. The average cost of insurance in Detroit is $10,723, making it the most expensive city for car insurance in the nation.

The new proposal, as substituted, would:

o Spin off the existing MCCA into an unincorporated group that handles legacy cases

o Establish a new group, appointed by the governor, to place an assessment on vehicles and assume the liability for claims

o Limit payments to family members who care for the people injured in car accidents to $15.00 per hour, adjusted to the Consumer Price Index going forward.

o Stipulate that medical providers would be reimbursed at Workers Compensation rates

o Appropriate $150,000 to the Department of Insurance and Financial Services for an additional full-time employee who will prepare a report on the effects of the bills changes to the legislature.

o Establish a Michigan Automobile Insurance Fraud Authority that is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act.

John Cornack of the Coalition Protecting Auto No-fault said that payments tied to workers comp reimbursement rates were inadequate for the level of catastrophic injury from car accidents. Hes concerned that the bill — which he, like many, didnt get to read — wouldnt adequately grandfather patients in and could affect their care.

This is offensive. Its a big issue, and it has to be remedied with all the right answers, Conack said.

He said the folks this would really benefit would be insurers.

Were not talking about auto no-fault right now. Were talking about insurance profits, directly to their bottom line. By carving out the care thats delivered in the state of Michigan, they gain profits, Cornack said.

Pete Kuhnmuench, executive director of the Insurance Institute of Michigan, said under the new structure all of the treatments would be consistently handled by one entity that is better able to negotiate than individual insurance companies. IIM supported the bill.

These common sense reforms will bring much-needed stability to an excellent but overburdened automobile no-fault insurance system, Kuhnmuench said.

But multiple people during public comment said they would like a chance to read the bill, claiming it was being consideredin a rushed fashion.

My life is voted on in less than 24 hours, said one commenter from a wheelchair.

Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, defended the swift action.

Ive read it, Jones said. . . . this isnt something weve decided in 24 hours. This is something weve looked at for years.

Sen. Steve Bieda, D-Warren, said he hadnt had a chance to look over the substitute and could not vote for it.

It is absurd that Senate Republicans are planning to overhaul our states entire auto insurance system while giving legislators zero notice to review the bills and weigh in, said Bieda. On its face, this legislation is likely to benefit insurance companies without any guarantee that Michigan consumers will see any savings. We should be given the proper chance to consider all of the repercussions before voting on it.

The bill was voted out of committee with five yays, three nays and one member abstaining. It could be considered by the full Senate at any time, though it is not on the agenda for Thursdays regularly scheduled session.

Emily Lawler is a Capitol/Business reporter for MLive. You can reach her at elawler@mlive.com, subscribe to her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter: @emilyjanelawler.

30 April
Comments Off on A Sky customer spent an hour and a half trying to cancel his contract… and …

A Sky customer spent an hour and a half trying to cancel his contract… and …

A customer spent 96 minutes and 3,800 words trying to end his contract with Sky.

Gavin Hackwood, 36, from Newport, used Skys online chat service to try to cancel his contract but said the experience was a nightmare.

The father-of-two said the Sky representative he was talking to refused to allow him to leave the provider without going through the process.

MailOnline reports that Mr Hackwood told his operator, called Rachael, from the outset that he had no interest in staying with the company after finding a cheaper deal with rivals Virgin, which would save him £23 a month.

An absolute nightmare

But she continued to ask him a series of ridiculous questions and eventually said he was not allowed to terminate his deal anyway because he had a separate cancellation pending on his Sky Movies.

RELATED: Houston, what it is, we have a problem

Mr Hackwood told MailOnline: It was just an absolute nightmare. Part of the reason that I used the chat service was because I had tried to cancel over the phone before and I thought this would be easier. But clearly I was wrong.

I was just in disbelief really. I had made it quite clear that I wasnt interested in her sales pitch: all I wanted to do was to cancel. But she kept going on. I found it quite rude and aggressive.

I think they knew what they are doing: its a tactic. There are plenty of people who would just give up and stay. Thats clearly what they want.

30 April
Comments Off on British car insurance premiums fall in first quarter-AA

British car insurance premiums fall in first quarter-AA

LONDON, April 21 (Reuters) – British car insurance premiums
fell by 1 percent in the first quarter due to discounts on offer
early in the year, roadside recovery service the AA
said on Tuesday, following two quarters of price rises.

The average quote for an annual comprehensive car insurance
policy was 530.47 pounds ($790) in the first quarter, the AA
said in a quarterly statement.

Insurers often cut prices in the first quarter to attract
customers, Janet Connor, managing director of AA Insurance, said
in the statement.

Premiums have fallen 5.8 percent over the past 12 months, in
a competitive environment for specialist motor insurers such as
Admiral and Direct Line.

But claims for whiplash injury, including fraudulent claims,
are putting upward pressure on prices, the AA said, because the
cost of claims is greater than premium income for many insurers.

Were starting to see insurers quoting higher prices and I
think thats the beginning of a trend, but the market remains
very competitive, Connor said.

($1 = 0.6711 pounds)

(Reporting by Carolyn Cohn. Editing by Jane Merriman)

30 April
Comments Off on Here’s What a Ticket Does to Your Car Insurance Rate

Here’s What a Ticket Does to Your Car Insurance Rate

Getting a traffic ticket is bad enough, but whats even worse is getting stuck with higher insurance premiums as a result. Whether or not a ticket will mean those costly extra charges, though, depends on a few things and theyre factors that are largely out of your control.

In a new survey, InsuranceQuotes.com digs into the demographics of who pays higher insurance premiums after getting a ticket, and it finds that not all drivers are created equal.

First, the good news: Just under one in five drivers will be stuck paying higher premiums after getting a ticket, compared to nearly a third just two years ago.

When it comes to avoiding a premium hike after the fact, being older helps. InsuranceQuotes finds that drivers under the age of 50 are three times likelier to pay higher rates after a ticket than those 50 years old and older. Part of this could be due to how often insurance companies take a peek at your driving record: Younger drivers who have a reputation for riskier driving are checked more frequently than older drivers.

But drivers under the age of 30 are actually less likely to get tickets in the first place than those between the ages of 30 and 49, the survey finds.

Wealthier drivers are also more likely to get ticketed. Those with incomes of $75,000 or higher were the most likely income bracket to be ticketed although theyre less likely that the poorest drivers to see a subsequent rise in their insurance rates.

While 21% of the wealthiest drivers paid higher premiums after a ticket, 24% of those earning under $30,000 a year had to pay higher rates. Drivers who earn between $30,000 to just under $50,000 fare the worst: 27% of those who got tickets saw higher rates.

In terms of income brackets, the sweet spot seems to be the upper-middle income bracket, as just 7% of those who earn between $50,000 and just under $75,000 paid higher premiums after a ticket.

Also, racking up more than one moving violation also increases the likelihood of having to pay more for insurance. While the most common citation, by far, is speeding, other common infractions include driving without a license, not using a seat belt, running a red light or stop sign, or using a cell phone while driving. InsuranceQuotes finds that, among drivers who have been ticketed over the past five years, just over 10% accrued four or more tickets.

29 April
Comments Off on With retro games, GameStop is once again too late

With retro games, GameStop is once again too late

Console wars have changed. Its no longer about cartridges, bit counts, or d-pads. Its an endless series of proxy servers, fought by robots and marketing machines. Console wars, and their consumption of time, have become a well-oiled machine. ID tagged gamers play on ID tagged consoles. Online stores on their systems enhance and regulate their abilities to buy games. The age of cartridges has become the age of clicking. All in the name of encouraging convenience when purchasing AAA titles. And those who control the online stores control the market. When the AAA titles are all available online, console wars… become routine.

What Im trying to say is, its 2015 and the 8- and 16-bit game market is wildly different from when GameStop left it decades ago. Its still the big name in game stores, but that category has been feeling pressure from downloadable games for a long time, and is finally starting to react to the burgeoning collectors market for retro games.

And how will GameStop do with selling classic games? Probably the same way it does with online games. And, well, when was the last time you used, or have you ever even heard, of Impulse?

Four years ago, GameStop bought Stardocks digital distribution platform, Impulse, to make its own online store to rival Steams. No one used it, because they already had Steam. And Steam had better sales. GameStop tried to react to a change in the market and its new focus on digital distribution and failed, and then complained about how digital distribution was hurting gaming. The demand for online game stores was already met by Steams supply, and Impulse didnt bring anything worthwhile to the table.

Of course GameStop is still around, and its still a big force. Its the countrys largest chain of game stores, and theres still a big market for physical media. I personally like having physical media if its available, and I get discs rather than downloads whenever possible for console games. But now GameStop is heading to an uncomfortable realization in the other direction, about how demand for retro games has outstripped supply.

8-, 16-, and 32-bit games have gone over the hump of last-gen-therefore-cheap-and-pointless, and have become collectors items. Theyre the gaming equivalent of vinyl, and theres a huge market for nostalgic gamers who want old-school games in their original versions. The market seems to have stabilized, but classic games in good conditions still arent cheap, and some titles have undergone spikes in prices thanks to attention online from Lets Players and other gaming video producers. People want these games. The demand is there.

The problem is the supply. Nintendo isnt making new NES or SNES cartridges. Sega doesnt make any hardware anymore. Sony offers classic PlayStation games, but only in downloadable form. The retro game market is strictly an aftermarket. Unless GameStop has warehouses or landfills of forgotten cartridges lying around, it needs trade-ins.

GameStop is infamous for what it offers on game trade-ins. Unless youre the sort of fiscal genius who can buy two months worth of groceries with $4 thanks to coupons, youre not going to make any decent cash trading your new games at GameStop. The best you can hope for is getting half of what you paid for back on a game you purchased a week ago. So what incentive will GameStop offer to gamers or collectors who have cartridges they want to get rid of, and who can already sell on eBay or Craigs List?

The collector selling market is out for GameStop, because nearly anyone else will offer a better deal. That leaves parents and grandparents cleaning out their storage and finding their kids games, and not realizing that they might be worth something online. They might be willing to sell those games to GameStop, but that would require that theyve heard of GameStop and are aware that they buy games at all.

GameStop needs a source of retro games if its going to make any money on them, and unless they have a ton in storage they havent gotten rid of yet, they arent going to get enough from gamers who still have cartridges. Because now those cartridges are worth something.

GameStop was dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century with digital distribution, and its the same for classic games. It still has a place for retail game sales and current- and last-gen aftermarket sales, but theres no room in retro gaming.

If it starts its pilot program and the shelves turn out to be filled with cartridges, Ill be proven completely wrong. And Ill be there to see it, because the two cities its starting the program in are New York City and Birmingham, Alabama. But right now, I think the pickings are going to be dry, and Ill still have to go to Video Games New York, Game Champ, or the good old Internet to find a copy of Illusion of Gaia. Im ready to eat my words if it turns out I can get any remotely interesting cartridges at GameStop, but Im not optimistic.

And if it turns out they had a warehouse full of cartridges all along? Im going to need some shelf space. But the little, expensive game stores in the city will still have a better selection. I can guarantee that.

29 April
Comments Off on 10 states with the most expensive car insurance rates in 2015

10 states with the most expensive car insurance rates in 2015

Listening to GEICO and Progressive tell it, consumers have a great deal of control over how much they pay for car insurance. And while remarketing auto business and tapping into a few discount programs may improve a customers bottom line, the truth is that some factors have far more weight in determining monthly premium where a customer lives, for instance.

According to a recently released analysis from Insure.com, US drivers paid an average $1,311 a year to insure one of the 20 best-selling vehicles in the US with the cheapest available plan. Michigan drivers, however, pay the highest rates for car insurance in the nation $2,476, compared to $805 in Maine, where drivers pay the lowest rates.

This is the second year in a row Michigan drivers have topped the list of most expensive auto insurance rates by state; in fact, Insure.com notes that the Great Lakes State has occupied either the number one or number two spot for the past five years.

This is primarily due to the states unusual no-fault auto insurance system, which requires drivers to carry auto insurance policies with unlimited medical benefits. Insurers pay medical claims up to $530,000 in Michigan, while the nonprofit Michigan Catastrophic Claim Association covers any additional costs.

Car owners are also required to pay an annual assessment to the association, which is currently $186 per vehicle.

Other states with expensive car insurance rates include Montana ($1,886); Washington, DC ($1,799); Louisiana ($1,774) and Florida ($1,742).

Researchers with Insure.com conducted the study by compiling rates from six large insurance carriers in 10 ZIP codes in every state. The rates were for a full-coverage policy for a 40-year-old man with a clean driving record and good credit. Vehicles included the 20 best-selling vehicles in the US, which represent roughly 40% of all vehicles sold. The models were rated on their cheapest-to-insure trim level.

The 10 states with the highest car insurance rates include:

  1. Michigan: $2,476
  2. Montana: $1,886
  3. Washington, DC: $1,799
  4. Louisiana: $1,774
  5. Florida: $1,742
  6. West Virginia: $1,716
  7. Connecticut: $1,690
  8. Rhode Island: $1,656
  9. California: $1,643
  10. New Jersey: $1,595

On the opposite end of the spectrum were Maine ($805), Ohio ($843), Idaho ($877), Iowa ($886), and New Hampshire ($905).

Insure.com notes that its study differs from other state-by-state comparisons, such as the premium comparison by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.

The NAIC figures reflect the average amount that residents spend toward car insurance, regardless of the amount of coverage they purchase or type of car they insure, Insure.com said in its report.

29 April
Comments Off on Marvel announces video game partnership with Telltale Games

Marvel announces video game partnership with Telltale Games

Marvels Peter Phillips,executive vice president and general manager for interactive and digital distribution, and Jay Ong, vice president of games, were joined byMarvel Games creative director Bill Roseman and executive producer Mike Jones to discuss the entertainment giants future video games.

According to Roseman, the companys future Marvel games will strive for authenticity, will feel exquisite and sexy, and will be celebrated by Marvel fans. Roseman said the games will look eye-popping, and feel well-built and hand-crafted.

Marvel is about storytelling, Phillips said, saying that the Marvel brand promises heroic, complex and relatable characters.

Telltale Games already works with a number of high-profile properties, including The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones and Minecraft.

29 April
Comments Off on GB squad for Baku European Games named as human rights concerns rise

GB squad for Baku European Games named as human rights concerns rise

The British Olympic Association has named a 153-strong squad for the inaugural European Games in Azerbaijan and BT Sport has announced it will televise the event. However, the announcements come against a backdrop of growing concern over an intensifying clampdown on freedom of speech and human rights by the regime led by the president, Ilham Aliyev, in the leadup to the opening ceremony in June.

The Baku Games, organised by the European Olympic Committees , will feature 6,000 athletes from 50 countries competing in 20 sports. However, in the past week alone two respected human rights activists have been imprisoned on what are widely deemed to be trumped-up charges linked to the event, which runs from 12-28 June.

Related: Turning black gold into sporting glitter: what Azerbaijan tells us about modern sport

Rasul Jafarov, a campaigner who was planning a Sport for Rights movement during the Games, was sentenced to six and a half years in prison last week. On Wednesday a prominent human rights lawyer Intigam Aliyev was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison on charges of tax evasion, illegal business and abuse of authority.

Amnesty International, which has identified at least 20 prisoners of conscience in Azerbaijan, said the charges were “spurious”. Aliyev, who has a range of health problems, has taken more than 200 cases to the European court of human rights and been successful in more than 40.

Critics are concerned that, far from forcing Azerbaijan to engage on issues of human rights and freedom of expression, the staging of the event is accelerating its determination to intimidate and silence independent journalists, activists, lawyers and opposition politicians.

Denis Krivosheev, Amnesty International’s deputy director for Europe and central Asia, said: “Intigam Aliyev is the latest victim of a concerted campaign by authorities in Azerbaijan to sweep all of the country’s problems under the carpet as they prepare to host one of the largest European sports events in less than two months. The message is: ‘Tell the world about our problems and you will be punished’.

“The only crime Intigam Aliyev has committed is to defend the human rights of his fellow citizens. He should have never been jailed in the first place and must be released immediately and unconditionally.”

Khadija Ismayilova, an investigative journalist held since December and facing a possible 12-year prison sentence, had compiled a list of around 100 political prisoners before her arrest. Next month she will be honoured by the anti-censorship organisation Pen with an award for her work.

A coalition of human rights groups and sporting bodies including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, FifPro (the international football players’ union) and Supporters Direct Europe recently wrote to the EOC’s president, Pat Hickey, to call on him to speak out against human rights concerns. Eduard Nazarski, director of Amnesty International in the Netherlands, said: “The European Olympic Committees are in a unique position to raise these pressing human rights concerns with President Aliyev.

“By remaining silent, the European Olympic Committees risk sending a message that it is acceptable for the Azerbaijani government to silence critics while hosting an event that, according to the Olympic Charter, should stand for human dignity and sport at the heart of the harmonious development of society.”

Index on Censorship also condemned the imprisonment of Aliyev and called on other countries to speak out. Its chief executive, Jodie Ginsberg, said: “Index condemns this latest sentence from Azerbaijan – a country that forms part of the Council of Europe, yet upholds precious few of the human rights it has pledged to protect as part of that grouping.

“As Azerbaijan gets ready to welcome the rest of Europe to the first European Games in June, it is imperative that the rest of the world speaks out against the country’s brazen human rights abuses, and joins us in calling for the immediate release of Aliyev and his colleagues.”

The Games will be held amid intense debate over whether global sporting bodies such as the International Olympic Committee and Fifa should consider basic human rights concerns when choosing a host country. The IOC recently inserted a new non-discrimination clause in its host city contracts.

The Guardian revealed last month the Azerbaijani organising committee was funding the entire British squad and those of other competing nations. The BOA will send 153 athletes, it announced on Thursday, including Olympic medallists such as the boxer Nicola Adams and the taekwondo fighter Jade Jones, as it looks towards next year’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Team GB’s chef de mission, Mark England, said: “It’s fantastic to be able to announce the athletes who will be competing for Team GB at Baku 2015. It’s a great opportunity for many of them to test themselves against Europe’s best, gain crucial multi-sport Games experience or build on their road to Rio 2016.

“I’m also delighted to see such a large team from Great Britain heading out to Baku – our largest travelling delegation since the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games – and I’m sure it’ll be a hugely proud moment for each of them.”

The future of the European Games is uncertain, with swimming and athletics showing little appetite to roll their own European championships into the event. In Baku, swimming is a youth event while track and field, taking place in the new 68,000 capacity National Stadium, will feature only third-tier athletes.

However, 10 sports are using the Games as part of the qualification process for Rio and the EOC claims to have strong interest in hosting the 2019 edition.

It has also been announced, after an extended attempt by organisers to find a UK broadcast partner, that the inaugural European Games will be screened by BT Sport in the UK

28 April
Comments Off on Video Games Should Be More Expensive

Video Games Should Be More Expensive

There are a lot of shady business practices that go on in the video game industry, from graphics downgrades to day-one downloadable content (DLC.)

But a lot of the practices that bother consumers the most, from DLC to pre-order bonuses to micro-transactions in full-priced games, are a result of one unpleasant truth: Video games really ought to cost more thanks to inflation than they do today.

Colin Moriarty makes this point quite well over at IGN when he reminds us that NES cartridges were selling for $50 in 1990; N64 games often cost as much as $70 in 1998, or about $100 in today’s money, all thanks to inflation.

So when I saw this picture posted to Twitter by my colleague Jason Evangelho, I couldn’t help but chime in with this (admittedly unpopular) observation.

In 1994, it cost about $2.49 to buy a 20 oz box of Oreo cookies.

In 2014 it cost about $4.49 to buy a 14.3 oz box of Oreo cookies.

This reflects the relatively higher price of manufacturing one box of Oreo cookies and the rate of inflation. Oreo cookies haven’t gotten that much more expensive to manufacture, but inflation has settled in and made a smaller box cost nearly twice as much as a larger box twenty years ago.

Video games, on the other hand, have seen skyrocketing development costs, with much larger teams required to create a AAA product than in the past. Besides the larger teams, voice-acting and scoring and various other additional costs have been added. (Voice-acting didn’t used to be a very big piece of the pie back in the day, before professional voice actors were taken seriously in the industry and celebrities were brought in on a regular basis.)

Competition has also become far more fierce in the video game industry, and marketing budgets have exploded especially for high-profile games likeDestiny.

The fact is, games are actually cheaper than they were before and yet they cost quite a lot more to make. That’s why we have DLC and micro-transactions. To balloon the cost of an under-priced $60 game closer to the inflation-adjusted $100 it should be at.

The alternative is cheaper games and smaller budgets, something that seems plenty unlikely these days.

I’m not a fan of all the revenue models and business practices deployed in the video game industry, but there’s little denying that games ought to have gotten more expensive over the years. The suggestion in the above picture that we are getting merely the “bun” and have to pay for all the add-ons applies to the discount airline industry more than video games. A typical AAA game isn’t nearly so pared down as this image suggests. Meanwhile, much of the cost is going into more expensive assets and development, which along with nostalgia may make gamers feel more ripped off than they actually are.

On the other hand, maybe some of the ways game creators are spending money is equally problematic. Maybe the trend toward big-budget, cinematic experiences and marketing oversaturation needs to shift back a gear or two. It’s a race to the bottom. There has to be balance. If games ought to be more expensive than perhaps we need to demand that modern games also meet certain standards of quality control that only a handful of companies seem to hold to, such as Nintendo.

It’s a complicated issue. I’m not claiming otherwise. The burger picture just strikes me as gross oversimplification.

There are a lot of things that go on in the industry that I find problematic, from the rise of questionable Early Access titles, to equally worrisome crowdfunding, to games with little to no replay value being sold at full retail. Not to mention free-to-play quandaries, shady monetization, and so on and so forth. But your basic, AAA video game selling at $60 is a steal just in plain economic terms. That doesn’t mean it’s going to be good, but it sure is cheap–all things considered.

Update:

A lot of people have pointed out that cost of distribution has gone down over the years. Discs are cheaper than cartridges. Digital is cheaper still. This is one way game makers can and have lowered costs.

Others have noted that the growing size of the video game market offsets inflation, which is also true. However I would still argue that in spite of both these factors, costs have ballooned in game development especially for AAA releases. This means game creators either need to raise costs, find other ways to increase revenue (ie IAPs, DLC, etc.) or lower cost of development. Since the first and third both seem unlikely, we’re left with increased use of add-on content, sometimes in a fair and positive way, and sometimes as “nickel-and-diming.”

Follow me onTwitter,Facebook, YouTube amp;Twitch.I’m also a Curator on Steam.

Read my Forbesbloghere.

28 April
Comments Off on Bill could lower car insurance premiums, but could cost healthcare providers …

Bill could lower car insurance premiums, but could cost healthcare providers …

The cost of automobile insurance in Michigan is at, or near, the most expensive in the county.
nbsp/nbspDrew Moore