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  • Australia fines Sony $2.4 million for refusing refunds on faulty PlayStation games

    Playstation

    A court has ruled that a unit of Japan's Sony Corp broke the consumer law by denying customers refunds for faulty PlayStation games and ordered the company to pay a A$3.5 million (approximately $2.4 million) fine, Australia's consumer watchdog have said.

    KEY POINTS:

    • Australian court rules Sony Corp broke consumer law by denying refunds for faulty PlayStation games
    • The business was fined approximately $2.4 million or telling four customers it did not have to provide refunds for faulty games
    • Sony admitted liability and would contribute to the regulator's legal costs for the case

    The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) had filed a lawsuit against Sony Interactive Entertainment Network Europe Ltd in May last year for telling four customers it did not have to provide refunds for faulty games after they had been downloaded, or more than 14 days since purchase.

    The court also rapped the global video game company for offering only store credits rather than cash to refund another customer.

    "What Sony told these consumers was false and does not reflect the consumer guarantee rights afforded to Australian consumers under the Australian Consumer Law," ACCC Chair Rod Sims said in a statement on Friday.

    Sony Europe had admitted liability and would contribute to the regulator's legal costs for the case, according to the ACCC.

    Sony did not immediately respond to a request from the news agency Reuters for a comment.

    Initial reporting via our content partners at Reuters. Reporting by Shashwat Awasthi. Additional reporting by Shriya Ramakrishnan in Bengaluru. Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips.

    This article was published by Platform Executive, the home of the platform economy.

  • TikTok owner ByteDance shuts down overseas news aggregator TopBuzz

    ByteDance CEO

    ByteDance, owner of the global hit short-video app TikTok, has shut down its artificial-intelligence-based news aggregator TopBuzz, one of the company’s earliest products aimed at the global stage.

    KEY POINTS:

    • ByteDance shutters its artificial-intelligence-based news aggregator TopBuzz
    • The move highlights the difficulty ByteDance experienced in moving into global markets prior to TikTok
    • TopBuzz’s sluggish performance has not stopped other Chinese companies and entrepreneurs from starting news apps

    "We’re proud of the work that we accomplished with TopBuzz, but (we) have determined that other areas of the business should be our priority going forward,” ByteDance said in a statement sent to the news agency Reuters on Friday.

    The closure of TopBuzz underlines how ByteDance's moves into international markets have not been entirely smooth in spite of TikTok's success.

    Launched in 2015, TopBuzz was the overseas equivalent of Chinese news aggregator Jinri Toutiao, meaning “Today’s Headlines", which was one of Beijing-based ByteDance's first successes. The app recommends personalised news articles to users with different interests based on its AI-driven algorithms.

    However, TopBuzz was not as popular as the later TikTok app.

    TopBuzz's downloads declined to 1.2 million in the first half of 2019 from 7 million in all of 2018 on the App Store and Google Play combined, according to researcher Sensor Tower. TikTok had 345.2 million downloads in the first half of 2019.

    TopBuzz began shrinking its operations last year, according to two sources familiar with the matter. The app used to have operations in multiple languages including Spanish and Portuguese, one of the sources said. But now its website only shows English and Japanese versions.

    ByteDance is currently under a US national security inquiry into TikTok's handling of user data, and also facing tightened scrutiny from regulators around the world.

    TopBuzz’s tepid performance has not stopped Chinese entrepreneurs from starting global news apps.

    News Break, founded by Yahoo alumnus Zheng Zhaohui in 2015 and backed by Chinese investors, was ranked as the Number 1 news and magazine app on Google Play in the US by usage over the past 28 days, followed by Twitter and Reddit, according to app performance tracker SimilarWeb.

    Via our content partners at Reuters. Reporting by Yingzhi Yang in Beijing and Brenda Goh in Shanghai.

    This article was published by Platform Executive, the home of the platform economy.

  • Investors say it may take time to see a spike in Bitcoin

    Bitcoin

    Investors expecting a sudden surge in bitcoin's price, after it underwent a technical adjustment three weeks ago that reduced the rate at which new coins are generated, may have to wait a few months, or perhaps a few years.

    KEY POINTS:

    • Bitcoin underwent a technical adjustment three weeks ago which reduced the rate at which new coins are generated
    • Investors may be waiting a few months, or even years to see the price spike
    • Beyond the short term, many investors still expect to see a price surge
    • Leading crypto manager believes there's much momentum and interest in investing in digital currencies in the face of global economic uncertainty

    Bitcoin traded in narrow ranges after it went through a third so-called halving on the 11th of May, which cut the rewards given to those who "mine" bitcoin to 6.25 new coins from 12.5.

    There were some expectations that bitcoin would soar, similar to what happened after the two previous adjustments as the "halving" effectively decreased its supply.

    The virtual currency has gained 11% since the adjustment, but it had more down days than up days and analysts said technical momentum overall was negative. In contrast, bitcoin had soared more than 40% from January this year until the "halving."

    On Thursday, bitcoin was at $9,783. It breached $10,000 twice after the "halving" but retreated as it found tough resistance at that level.

    "Bitcoin is on a see-saw, between bulls and bears," said Nicholas Pelecanos, head of trading at NEM Ventures.

    "On one end, we have network data and technicals; the other, strong fundamentals and a correlation to US stock indices."

    He added that bitcoin's network data is flashing more bearish than bullish signals, as he expects further short-term selling.

    Beyond the short term though, many investors expect a price surge.

    The first halving, in November 2012, catalysed a rally for bitcoin from about $10 to $1,160 in 12 months. The second halving, in July 2016, saw bitcoin jump more than 300%, from $650 to $2,800 within the same time span.

    "It may take six to 12 months for investors to reap the rewards of post-halving price movements," said Lennard Neo, head of research at Stack Funds.

    "In reality, there is a significant time lag between the halving event and the establishment of renewed market equilibrium based on general supply and demand," he added.

    Since miners' profits have contracted as block rewards decreased by 50%, the "halving" has affected the supply side of bitcoin and increased the time needed for miners to find their break-even point.

    Once this is found, Stack's Neo said, bitcoin is likely to realise its "halving-induced" price appreciation.

    Investors are also banking on higher institutional demand to further propel the price of bitcoin. Fund flows into the biggest crypto asset managers have been robust in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

    "When we look at institutional inflows for our products and that of another asset manager, what you're seeing are purchases that have now outstripped, for the first time, new bitcoins being created by 150%," said Danny Masters, chairman of CoinShares, with $1 billion in crypto assets.

    Michael Sonnenshein, managing director at Grayscale with $4 billion in crypto assets under management, said since April the firm's bitcoin investment fund has ballooned to $3.5 billion as of June 2, from $2 billion at the end of the first quarter.

    "There's a lot of momentum and interest in investing in digital currencies particularly in the face of uncertainty, the pandemic, political tensions, and the amount of stimulus being pumped into the global economy," said Sonnenshein.

    James Wo, chairman of Digital Finance Group, a $500 million crypto and blockchain fund, likens bitcoin to digital gold, and as such, the digital currency has barely scratched the surface.

    "Bitcoin has great potential to grow," said Wo.

    "Gold has an eight trillion-dollar valuation, while bitcoin has less than $200 billion dollars in valuation. It just needs more time for mainstream adoption. People need enough time to fully understand and believe in it."

    Via our content partners at Reuters. Reporting by Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss. Editing by Alden Bentley and Steve Orlofsky.

    This article was published by Platform Executive, the home of the platform economy.

  • Twitter disables Trump video tribute to George Floyd over copyright complaint

    Twitter

    Twitter Inc has disabled US President Donald Trump's campaign tribute video to George Floyd on its platform, citing a copyright complaint.

    KEY POINTS:

    • Twitter has disables President Trump's tribute video to George Floyd on its platform
    • The company said the video on the president's campaign account was affected by its copyright policy
    • The clip is still available elsewhere
    • It is unknown as to whether this is a strategic decision by the Board of Twitter, the actions of employees, or management seeking to enforce policy

    The clip, which is a collation of photos and videos of protest marches and instances of violence in the aftermath of the well respected Mr Floyd's death, has Trump speaking in the background.

    Floyd's death last week after a fatal encounter with a police officer has led to nationwide protests. In widely circulated video footage, a white officer was seen kneeling on Floyd's neck as Floyd gasped for air and repeatedly groaned, "I can't breathe," before passing out.

    Twitter said the video on the president's campaign account was affected by its copyright policy.

    "We respond to valid copyright complaints sent to us by a copyright owner or their authorised representatives," a Twitter representative said.

    The three-minute 45-second video uploaded on Trump's YouTube channel was tweeted by his campaign on June 3.

    The clip, which is still on YouTube, had garnered more than 60,000 views and 13,000 likes. The video-streaming platform's parent Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

    The social media platform has been under fierce scrutiny from the Trump administration since it fact-checked Trump's tweets about unsubstantiated claims of mail-in voting fraud. It also labelled a Trump tweet about protests in Minneapolis as "glorifying violence."

    Trump has pledged to introduce legislation that may scrap or weaken a law that shields social media companies from liability for content posted by their users.

    Via our content partners at Reuters. Reporting by Aakriti Bhalla and Rama Venkat in Bengaluru. Editing by Tom Hogue and Stephen Coates.

    This article was published by Platform Executive, the home of the platform economy.

  • Work to increase the average lifetime value of your customers

    Lifetime Value per Customer

    When running a start-up, it’s easy to get caught up in the rush acquiring and then welcoming your new customers to the business. Generating new business is always vital to any business.

    However, if you work concentrate solely on winning new customers, you can end up ignoring the customers you already have that might have a lot more to offer. Here, we’re going to look at a new KPI to track, and how lifetime value of each customer can be a better focus for the business’s longevity.

    WHAT IS IT?

    To make sure you’re using it correctly, learning how to measure customer lifetime value is key. As the name suggests, this is the overall lifetime value of your customer relationships: i.e. how much they are likely to spend on your business, including the costs of acquiring them. Overall, it shows you how much each and every one of your customers contributes to your business’s profitability.

    Do you know the current average lifetime value of your customers?

    MAKE SURE YOU ARE WINNING THE RIGHT CUSTOMERS

    When you’re working on lead acquisition, it’s essential that you take the time to appropriately qualify your leads. When you gain new leads, you need to work out how likely they are not only to convert but if they’re also likely to become one of the business’s more recurring customers. If you can take the time to qualify them, you can start estimating how much their customer lifetime value will be and ensure that your sales team’s efforts are directed in the right place: winning those customers who are likely to spend more.

    TAKE THE RELATIONSHIP SERIOUSLY

    The biggest mistake business owners are making, on the whole, is spending all their time chasing new customers when return customers can be a lot cheaper to win back. The right platform for CRM for small business can help you do that. By keeping a record of each client and customer that your business has interacted with in the past, you have a better idea of each individual’s purchase habits and are also able to get in touch at the right points to tempt them back with new offers suited specifically to them.

    KNOW WHEN TO USE INCENTIVES

    A good CRM system can help you know when is the right time to retarget old customers, but it’s a good idea to make sure that there’s an incentive to bring them back as well. For instance, a lot of businesses have now implemented loyalty systems, that make use of points that can be earned exclusively by spending on their products and services to offer deals that aren’t available elsewhere.

    Referral systems also work by much the same concept, but they instead incentivise customers to spread the word of the business to their contacts. Either way, you reward their loyalty.

    Winning over new customers is important, of course, but don’t fail to spot the additional value that lies within all of your existing customers, too. Start focusing on improving the lifetime value of your customers can you can start to see some major revenue increases.

    This article was published by Platform Executive, the home of the platform economy.

  • Facebook moves to limit spread of ‘Boogaloo’ groups after charges

    Facebook

    Facebook is making it harder to find user groups associated with the term "Boogaloo," which refers to a potential US civil war or the collapse of civilisation, the company said on Thursday.

    KEY POINTS:

    • Facebook is making it harder to find user groups associated with the term "Boogaloo," which refers to a US civil war
    • A Facebook spokeswoman announces that Facebook will no longer recommend such groups to members of similar associations
    • Facebook said the politics of Boogaloo members it looked into "ran the gamut" from right to left

    Facebook will no longer recommend such groups to members of similar associations, a spokeswoman for the world's largest social media network said.

    At least two of three men charged on Wednesday with plotting violence at a Las Vegas anti-racism protest participated in Boogaloo groups on Facebook, according to an FBI criminal complaint.

    A series of reports this year by researchers and media have drawn attention to the loose movement and its propagation on social media. Back in April, an advocacy group called the Tech Transparency Project warned that Boogaloo followers were discussing taking up arms while promoting protests to "liberate" states from coronavirus restrictions.

    On the 1st of May, Facebook banned the use of Boogaloo and related terms when they accompany pictures of weapons and calls to action, such as preparing for conflict.

    The specific terms Facebook is was acting against are evolving, it said on Thursday. To evade the scrutiny, many have switched to terms such as "Big Igloo" or "Big Luau" while maintaining the same discussions about weaponry, future wars and conspiracy theories.

    Many Boogaloo participants identify with white nationalist groups or militias, researchers say, but others are gun-rights advocates or just anti-government overreach and even support Black Lives Matter protests against police brutality.

    Facebook said the politics of Boogaloo members it looked into "ran the gamut" from right to left.

    One of those charged Wednesday, Stephen Parshall, had publicly "liked" several Boogaloo-themed groups, his personal page showed until Facebook closed it after the case was filed. He had also posted a picture of a Confederate battle flag.

    Via our content partners at Reuters. Reporting by Joseph Menn. Editing by Greg Mitchell and Richard Chang.

    This article was published by Platform Executive, the home of the platform economy.

  • Uber Eats features black-owned restaurants on its US and Canadian delivery platform

    Japan Uber Eats

    Uber Technologies has launched a feature on its food delivery app Uber Eats that allows customers in the United States and Canada to order from restaurants owned by black people.

    KEY POINTS:

    • Uber Technologies includes new functionality on its Uber Eats app to help promote black owned restaurants
    • The functionality is available in America and Canada
    • The feature comes in response to ongoing protests over the tragic death of George Floyd at the hands of local Police

    The feature comes in response to US-wide protests over the death of a black man, George Floyd, while in police custody, which has become the latest flash-point for rage over police brutality against African-Americans and prompted calls to support black communities and businesses in solidarity.

    Customers who open the Uber Eats app in major US and Canadian cities will see a banner reading, "Support Black-owned restaurants," and are provided with a list of nearby restaurants. Delivery fees for those orders are being temporarily waived, a statement on the app says.

    Uber said the new feature is a response to requests from customers and that various Uber employees had compiled the restaurants based on publicly available sources and with input from local organisations and business associations.

    Uber said it does not ask restaurants for information on race when including them on its platform. Restaurants were informed about the initiative ahead of time and can opt out of the program, as well as refer other black-owned restaurants not yet included.

    Via our content partners at Reuters. Reporting by Tina Bellon in New York. Additional reporting by Ayanti Bera in Bangalore. Editing by Leslie Adler.

    This article was published by Platform Executive, the home of the platform economy.

  • Slack revenue growth fails to impress; scraps billings outlook

    Slack

    Slack Technologies withdrew its 2021 billing outlook on Thursday and reported a 50% jump in quarterly sales that failed to surpass lofty investor expectations driven by a surge in demand for workplace messaging platforms as more companies shift to remote work.

    KEY POINTS:

    • Slack Technologies withdraws its 2021 billing outlook
    • The company reported a 50% jump in quarterly sales
    • The jump in sales failed to surpass investor expectations driven by a surge in demand for workplace messaging platforms

    Shares of the company, which had surged nearly 80% this year, dropped 16% in extended trading after Slack withdrew its forecast for billings citing uncertainty driven by the coronavirus pandemic.

    Social distancing protocols have led many companies to rapidly adopt remote work, expanding the market for apps that allow workers to stay in touch and boosting Wall Street expectations for companies such as Slack.

    Investors had heightened expectations going into the quarter, and may have expected growth to be higher than reported, said D.A. Davidson & Co analyst Rishi Jaluria.

    Slack's close competitor, Zoom Video Communications Inc, on Tuesday nearly doubled its expectations for annual sales as more people worked from home. Slack's platform, unlike Zoom's video focus, centres on messaging.

    Jaluria added that billings are an important metric which investors view as a future indicator for growth of companies like Slack, which have a subscription-based model.

    Slack's first-quarter revenue rose 50% to $201.7 million from a year earlier, above analysts' average estimate of $188.1 million, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

    However, the workplace messaging company's total operating expenses in the first quarter jumped 63% to $252.2 million.

    The economic damage brought on by the global coronavirus health crisis might also force companies to cut back on technology spending, Slack had warned in March.

    Via our content partners at Reuters. Reporting by Neha Malara and Manas Mishra in Bengaluru. Editing by Devika Syamnath.

    This article was published by Platform Executive, the home of the platform economy.

  • Spain’s lower house to draft new 3% digital tax on internet giants

    Spain Digital Tax

    Spain's lower house has voted to begin drafting a 3% tax on revenues of internet giants, the latest of such moves by US trading partners that has spurred a US investigation and could lead to punitive tariffs.

    KEY POINTS:

    • Lower house of Spain's parliament votes to begin drafting a 3% tax on revenues of internet giants
    • Platform impacted would include Facebook, Google, Apple and Amazon and more
    • Economists estimate that the tax would yield approximately $1.12 billion in annual revenues for its struggling economy
    • The tax is in-line with EU plans for a similar digital tax

    The tax would apply to revenues booked locally by tech firms such as Facebook, Google, Apple and Amazon and would generate approximately $1.12 billion in annual revenues for the state.

    The US Trade Representative's office said on Tuesday it was launching a "Section 301" investigation into digital services taxes that have been adopted or are being considered by Spain and other US trade partners.

    "We are prepared to take all appropriate action to defend our businesses and workers against any such discrimination," US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said.

    Finalising Spain's legislation will take 3-4 months in light of the challenges in agreeing a final text faced by the minority government of Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez.

    Spain's tax would take effect only if Organisation for Cooperation and Development (OECD) member states reach agreement to launch a joint digital levy - an effort to take better account of the rise of big tech companies that often book profits in low-tax countries.

    "It is a transitional and provisional decision until a regulation is approved at international or at least European level," Budget Minister Maria Jesus Montero told fellow lawmakers.

    If approved, the bill would apply a levy of 3% on the local digital revenue of companies with annual global sales of more than 750 million euros and at least 3 million in Spain, lining up with an European Union proposal on the matter.

    France is among European Union countries that have already passed a digital tax which it plans to apply this year regardless of whether there is progress towards an OECD-wide deal.

    Via our content partners at Reuters. Reporting by Belen Carreño and Inti Landauro. Editing by Andrei Khalip and Mark Heinrich.

    This article was published by Platform Executive, the home of the platform economy.

  • Facebook places state media labels on Russian, Iranian and Chinese broadcasters

    Facebook

    Social media giant Facebook will start labelling Russian, Chinese and other state-controlled media organisations, and later this summer block any ads from such outlets that target US users, it said on Thursday.

    KEY POINTS:

    • Facebook will soon start labelling state controlled media outlets
    • Amongst those impacted will be Sputnik (Russia), Press TV (Iran) and Xinhua (China)
    • The platform will also block ads from the outlets that target American users

    Russia's Sputnik, Iran's Press TV and China's Xinhua News are on the list of organisations that will receive the label from world's biggest social network.

    US news outlets will not be labelled, as the company has determined that even US government-run organisations have editorial independence, said Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook's head of cyber-security policy, in an interview.

    Facebook, which has acknowledged its failure to stop Russian use of its platforms to interfere in the 2016 US presidential election, announced broad plans last year to create a state media label.

    Via our content partners at Reuters. Reporting by Katie Paul.

    This article was published by Platform Executive, the home of the platform economy.


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