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Wirecard scandal hits UK consumers as online banking apps freeze accounts

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The Curve card and app displayed on a smartphone. 

Curve

Thousands of British consumers have been unable to access their cash as some financial technology apps relying on scandal-hit payments processor Wirecard were forced to freeze their accounts.

On Friday, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) ordered the German firm’s U.K. unit, Wirecard Card Solutions, to stop carrying out regulated activities. It follows the revelation that 1.9 billion euros ($2.1 billion) of cash had gone missing from Wirecard’s accounts.

That regulatory action impacted several British online banking apps, including Curve, Anna, Pockit and U Account, as they relied on Wirecard’s systems to process payments. Customers of the apps range from individual users to businesses depending on fintech services to operate.

Curve has, however, recently managed to get its cards up and running after staff worked through the weekend to fix the situation. The company has transitioned payment processing from Wirecard to Checkout.com, a rival fintech company based in London. Curve users can now pay with their cards again, however mobile wallets like Google Pay and Apple Pay still aren’t available yet.

Experts say the debacle could lessen the public’s trust in the U.K.’s fintech sector. Britain has one of the world’s top fintech industries, with well-known homegrown start-ups including Revolut, Monzo and TransferWise.

The issue with apps such as Curve and Anna is that they rely on e-money licenses that allow them to handle payments, rather than full banking licenses that would let them hold customers’ funds. Instead, the money is held with licensed third-party banks.

Curve has more than 1.3 million accounts on its platform, while Pockit counts more than 500,000 users. Anna has 20,000 business banking clients. Pockit users rely on the app to receive wages and benefits payments.

No ‘Plan B’

Kirstin Pauk, 37, uses U Account as her main banking provider. She told CNBC she was very disappointed at no longer being able to access her money or log into the app. Pauk said she is a paid user of the service, which provides free basic accounts as well as monthly subscriptions for access to additional features.

Leanne Docherty, 40, is an Anna customer who started a clothing business three weeks ago. She says she is lucky as funds in her account were low, but “there are other people who have (high) amounts in their accounts and cannot pay staff.”

“I think Anna are in an incredibly difficult position,” Docherty, who is based in the eastern English city of Peterborough, told CNBC Friday. “They have been great to work with during the set up of my business and have made the process so easy.”

But Docherty said she couldn’t understand why there was no “Plan B” at Anna to migrate away from Wirecard. Allegations of fraudulent accounting had been made about the firm as early as January 2019, while the company admitted last week that the missing cash flagged by its auditors likely didn’t exist.

Wirecard has said it is not commenting further on the matter.

Anna told customers last week that their cards and accounts had been “temporarily suspended” due to the FCA’s shutdown of Wirecard’s operations in the U.K.

Curve, Pockit and U Account all made similar statements on their websites.

Loss of trust

The FCA has also updated its initial announcement to say that it’s seen “good progress” from Wirecard in meeting a set of requirements it laid out last week.

But there have been renewed calls to end the suspension of Wirecard’s activities in the country. The Emerging Payments Association, an industry lobbying group that counts Curve as a member, warned in an open letter to the regulator that there could be “significant and lasting damage” to the U.K.’s fintech sector if the issue isn’t resolved soon.

Ed Emsley, a 28-year-old freelance video producer based in Hertfordshire, England, banks with Anna. He says the experience of being locked out of his account has dented his trust in fintech companies.

“I’ve already begun the process of setting up with HSBC,” Emsley told CNBC, adding that he doesn’t “feel safe with new fintechs anymore.”

And Emsley likely isn’t the only Brit rethinking where he should be putting his money. Sarah Kocianski, head of analysis and research manager at fintech consultancy 11:FS, said the issue could affect the wider fintech industry.

“Providers that have had to suspend or end operations, through no fault of their own, will be trying to find an alternative provider (and there are many) as quickly as possible,” she told CNBC. “But even if they get up and running again quickly, the damage to customer trust is likely to be irreparable.”

Source: https://www.cnbc.com/2020/06/29/wirecard-scandal-hits-users-of-uk-fintech-apps-curve-anna-and-pockit.html

CNBC

Spotify will soon automatically transcribe podcasts

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Spotify has announced a few accessibility improvements for its mobile apps, including automatic podcast transcripts. In the coming weeks, the company will start generating transcripts for some of its original and exclusive podcasts on iOS and Android. Along with reading a text version of the podcasts, you’ll be able to tap on a section of a transcript and start playing the podcast audio from that point.

Eventually, Spotify plans to switch on automatic transcripts for all podcasts. That’ll be useful for podcast creators who’d like to make their shows more accessible, but might lack the resources to create transcripts by themselves.

Spotify is also improving accessibility in its user interface. Starting today, you might see changes to how buttons look. Spotify is tweaking the color, text formatting and size of some buttons to make it easier for visually impaired and low-vision people to use the app. The company suggests the tweaks, including to the shuffle playlist button, might be helpful for everyone in low lighting situations or when there’s a high level of screen reflection. Spotify also says switching button text formatting from all caps will create more room for translation and localization into other languages.

Additionally, Spotify is adding support for larger text size options. On iOS, you can make adjustments via the Larger Text option in the Display & Text Size section of your device’s accessibility settings.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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Source: https://www.engadget.com/spotify-automatically-transcribe-podcasts-accessbility-mobile-165029865.html

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How to watch Google I/O 2021

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In less than an hour, Google will kick off its annual I/O developer conference. Back after it was cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic, Sundar Pichai has promised “significant product updates and announcements” at the multi-day event. If you want to follow along with the Engadget team, we’ll be livestreaming the day one keynote and providing commentary along the way. 

As for what to expect, Google is likely to spend a significant chunk of the event talking about Android 12 and improvements to Assistant. Wear OS could also get some love and attention from Google after what seems like years of neglect. And if you can’t watch live, not to worry; we’ll have a roundup of all the biggest announcements following the keynote. 

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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Source: https://www.engadget.com/how-to-watch-google-io-2021-160830701.html

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‘Divinity: Original Sin 2 – Definitive Edition’ comes the iPad

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Divinity: Original Sin 2 – Definitive Edition, is now available to play on both the iPad and iPad Pro. The RPG is one of the most well-regarded to be released in recent years and, since its Windows debut in 2017, has already been ported to the PS4, Xbox One, Switch and macOS.

Developer Larian Studios says that it has rebuilt the title from the “ground up” using Apple’s Metal graphics APIs. The company committed that the game would run with an experience that was comparable to its appearance on other platforms.

On the 2018 iPad Pro, D:OS 2 – DA will run at settings equivalent to “highest,” while on the new M1 iPad Pro, the title runs at 60fps. In addition, the local co-op, which offers “seamless split-screen,” will enable your friends to drop-in and drop-out as they see fit.

Larian says that this is (potentially) the first 1:1 AAA game recreated for a mobile device, down to the dynamic lighting and shadows. In addition, the title will integrate with Game Center and offer cross-play with PC and Mac versions of the game, too.

Divinity: Original Sin 2 – Definitive Edition is available for iPads and iPad Pros from today, priced at $25.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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Source: https://www.engadget.com/divinity-original-sin-2-definitive-edition-ios-ipad-pro-011233223.html

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NVIDIA brings its performance-enhancing DLSS to VR games

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NVIDIA’s Deep Learning Super Sampling (DLSS) tech is coming to nine more games this month, including three virtual reality titles. It’ll be the first time that VR games have supported the upscaling technology, which boosts performance and improves visuals.

No Man’s Sky is one of the more notable games to get a DLSS upgrade in May. NVIDIA says an update that will arrive later this month will improve desktop performance by up to 70 percent when playing in 4K and make gameplay smoother and more responsive. 

NVIDIA claims DLSS doubles the VR performance of No Man’s Sky when the Ultra graphics preset is used. If you have an Oculus Quest 2 and a GeForce RTX 3080, the tech should keep the framerate at 90 fps. The other two VR games to get DLSS support this month are Wrench (which now supports ray-tracing on both VR and desktop modes) and Into The Radius.

DLSS will be also enabled in Metro Exodus PC Enhanced Edition, Scavengers, Everspace 2, Amid Evil, Aron’s Adventure and Redout: Space Assault by the end of the month, though some support the tech already. Meanwhile, NVIDIA has rolled out a Game Ready Driver for Days Gone, a PlayStation Studios game that arrived on PC today.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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Source: https://www.engadget.com/nvidia-dlss-virtual-reality-games-no-mans-sky-154453795.html

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