Australia’s financial crime watchdog has accused Westpac bank of 23 million breaches of anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing laws.

The Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (Austrac) said each breach carries a maximum a penalty of A$21m ($7.5m; £11m).

Westpac, the country’s second largest bank, said it is “reviewing” Austrac’s claim.

It is the second top Australian bank to face huge fines for breaching the laws.

Most of the breaches concern a failure to report international transfers to Austrac in a timely manner.

Westpac allegedly failed to properly report more than 19.5 million international funds transfers between 2013 and 2018.

Austrac Chief Executive Nicole Rose said Westpac’s failure to properly report the transfers undermined “the integrity of Australia’s financial system” and “hindered its ability to track down the origins of financial transactions, when required to support police investigations”.

The unreported transactions amounted to more than A$11bn over a period of up to six years, Austrac said.

The bank also allegedly failed to retain records and perform certain due diligence functions with potentially high-risk overseas banks.

Those banks all disclosed relationships with high-risk or sanctioned countries, including Iraq, Ukraine and Zimbabwe.

“The risk posed to Westpac was that these high risk or sanctioned countries may have been able to access the Australian payment system through these nested arrangements, unbeknownst to Westpac,” Austrac said in its statement.

The agency also said there were a small number of transactions on accounts that were potentially linked to “child exploitation risks”.

It argued Westpac failed to implement the necessary automated detection procedures on these transactions.

Banks under pressure

Westpac’s share price dropped 2.5% in Sydney trading after the announcement.

The bank said it had self-reported the potential breaches to Austrac and had previously disclosed the investigation to shareholders in its annual results.

Westpac said it will update the stock exchange once it has assessed Austrac’s claims.

Westpac’s competitor Commonwealth Bank paid an A$700m fine for similar breaches last year.

The country’s banking sector has also been the subject of a royal commission – Australia’s highest form of public inquiry – that earlier this year exposed widespread wrongdoing in the industry.

Coalition aims to help users spot and remove covert trackers

A collection of security, privacy, and digital rights groups have joined up to push a campaign against stalking software.

Dubbed the Coalition Against Stalkerware, the campaign will aim to help victims of stalking and domestic violence spot when their mobile phone (or other device) has been infected with tools designed to covertly track their activities.

The coalition will count among its members Kaspersky, Norton LifeLock (aka Symantec), Malwarebytes, G DATA, and Avira, as well as the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the National Network to End Domestic Violence.

Among the first efforts of the groups is to set a working definition for what exactly counts as “stalkerware.” While spyware and unwanted tracking tools have long been in use, there are a particular class of apps that have been used by abusers and stalkers to keep tabs on their victims without knowledge or consent.

Here is the coalition’s formal definition:

Stalkerware is software, made available directly to individuals, that enables a remote user to monitor the activities on another user’s device without that user’s consent and without explicit, persistent notification to that user in order to intentionally or unintentionally facilitate intimate partner surveillance, harassment, abuse, stalking, and/or violence.

“Stalkerware, used for spying on phones and computers in domestic abuse or harassment situations, is a very serious problem, and it often goes hand-in-hand with other forms of abuse, up to and including physical violence,” said Eva Galperin, EFF director of cybersecurity and a longtime anti-stalkerware activist.

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“The ubiquity of stalkerware is a complex problem and we need stakeholders from all parts of society in order to fight it effectively.”

In addition to protecting the victims of domestic violence and tracking, the coalition also notes that it is looking to stop the use of stalkerware on a larger scale by oppressive governments. In many cases, the same tools and technologies offered by stalkerware apps are used to similar ends by governments for human rights abuses.

“Just like the abuse it can enable, stalkerware also proliferates away from public view, leaving its victims and survivors in isolation, unheard and unhelped,” noted David Ruiz, online privacy writer with Malwarebytes.

“Forming and fighting together with the Coalition against Stalkerware is the next, necessary step in stopping this digital threat—a collaborative approach steered by the promise of enabling the safe use of technology for everyone, everywhere.” ®

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Social networking site Twitter has said the Conservative Party misled the public when it rebranded one of its Twitter accounts.

The @CCHQPress account – the Tory press office – was renamed “factcheckUK” for Tuesday’s live TV debate involving Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn.

After the debate, the account reverted to its original branding.

Twitter said it would take “decisive corrective action” if a similar stunt was attempted again.

But the firm does not appear to have taken any action over this particular incident.

“Twitter is committed to facilitating healthy debate throughout the UK general election,” a spokesperson said.

“We have global rules in place that prohibit behaviour that can mislead people, including those with verified accounts. Any further attempts to mislead people by editing verified profile information – in a manner seen during the UK Election Debate – will result in decisive corrective action.”

The Tories were earlier criticised by genuine fact-checking agency Full Fact, which said in a statement: “It is inappropriate and misleading for the Conservative press office to rename their twitter account ‘factcheckUK’ during this debate.

“Please do not mistake it for an independent fact checking service such as FullFact, FactCheck or FactCheckNI.”

Conservative Party chairman James Cleverly defended the rebranding.

He told BBC Newsnight: “The Twitter handle of the CCHQ press office remained CCHQPress, so it’s clear the nature of the site.”

Mr Cleverly added the decision to rebrand the account would have been made by the party’s digital team, which he said operated within his remit.

He said he was “absolutely comfortable” with the party “calling out when the Labour Party put what they know to be complete fabrications in the public domain”.

Reacting to the decision, the Labour Party tweeted: “The Conservatives’ laughable attempt to dupe those watching the #ITVDebate by renaming their twitter account shows you can’t trust a word they say.”

The Liberal Democrats, meanwhile, said the ploy was “straight out of Donald Trump or Putin’s playbook”, adding the Tories were “deliberately misleading the public”.

Twitter has policies regarding deceptive behaviour on the platform. The company said it can remove an account’s “verified” status if the account owner is said to be “intentionally misleading people on Twitter by changing one’s display name or bio”.

Other users on the platform subsequently changed their display names to mock the move. Among them, writer Charlie Brooker, who tweeted: “We have always been at war with Eastasia”, a reference to George Orwell’s dystopian novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four.

This latest controversial move on social media comes less than a month after the Conservative Party was criticised for posting a “doctored” video involving Labour’s Sir Kier Starmer, in which the shadow Brexit secretary was made to look as if he met a question, posed by ITV’s Piers Morgan, with silence.

Conservative Party chairman James Cleverly said the video, since taken down, was meant to be “light-hearted”. The party later posted an extended version of the interview.

Full Fact, which is a charity supported by donations from the likes of Google, described the incident as “irresponsible”.

Rohit Prasad has 17 smart speakers in his home powered by Amazon’s smart assistant.

“I test my own technology – with all of them being called Alexa, I see which one is waking up and whether it is the right device,” says the chief scientist of the AI division responsible for the tech.

That’s a lot of Alexa. But, it seems, still not enough.

In a one-on-one interview with the BBC, Mr Prasad discussed plans for Alexa to both become smarter and to follow users wherever they go. This is known in the trade as ubiquitous ambient computing, and Amazon hopes to corner the market.

In the US, it already sells an Echo system that plays Alexa through a car’s speakers. And Mr Prasad says he also wants the virtual assistant to accompany users as they walk about too.

To achieve this, he explains, the tech needs to get better at contextual reasoning.

“If you are in a store and you say, ‘Where are the tomatoes?’ it will need to have the context,” he says.

“You are actually looking for the aisle so it may need a store map.

“Or if you are in a hotel room and you ask for the swimming pool hours, it should give you the hours for the hotel and not the community pool.”

To pursue this goal, the firm recently launched its own Alexa-enabled earbuds and is testing other wearables including glasses and even a ring with select customers.

The more users Alexa attracts and the more time they spend chatting to it, the more data Mr Prasad’s team and the training algorithms involved can draw on to make improvements.

There are, he says “hundreds of millions” of devices worldwide already taking billions of requests each week from customers. He adds that Alexa now offers 100,000-plus skills – its version of apps – and can communicate with other smart products from more than 9,500 brands.

And it seems Amazon is getting the upper hand.

According to market research firm Canalys, Amazon’s smart speakers outsold Google’s by nearly three-to-one worldwide in the last quarter. Moreover, it said Amazon’s sales were still accelerating while Google’s had slumped.

Gender choice

Google, of course, benefits from the fact that its assistant is baked into Android, meaning handset owners are already using it across their daily lives.

But in the contest to offer the smartest smart assistant, Mr Prasad says Alexa is evolving at a rapid pace.

“All of these components have become smarter by four times in terms of what our error rate was in 2014 to now,” he says.

The figure, he says, is based on accurate handling of four common tasks:

  • waking up to the chosen trigger word – Alexa, Amazon, Echo or Computer
  • speech recognition, which converts spoken commands into text before it is processed
  • language understanding, which involves making sense of context and the various ways words spoken by users can be arranged in sentences
  • text-to-speech synthesis, which is used to provide Alexa’s responses in its distinctive female accent

Amazon is about to let users buy alternative celebrity voices for Alexa, starting with that of the actor Samuel L Jackson.

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But will it ever give users the choice of having a default voice that isn’t female? In other words, letting owners chat to Alex rather than Alexa?

Gender-neutral AI is, Mr Prasad says, a “very hot topic”.

“This is a debate we have every few months. It is not just about gender, but about Alexa’s voice and choice of words,” he adds.

“We wanted a personality that was very relatable to our customers.”

“If we felt that there has to be another gender for Alexa, well we’d also have to think what would the wake word be, because its personality and gender all sort of go together and you have to think about overall personality, not just gender.”

Testing trust

Despite all the work that’s been done on Alexa, tales of “fails” persist.

Amazon had to act to curb a spontaneous creepy laugh reported by users last year, while reports persist of it struggling with some accents.

According to Martin Garner, an analyst at research firm CCS Insight, Alexa’s capabilities may have “moved on a lot over the last two years… but smart assistant voice services have the effect of raising people’s expectations very rapidly too”.

“All providers are racing as fast as possible to extend the range of questions they can answer,” he added.

Users also need to feel they can trust Amazon if they are to surround themselves with its microphones. And that confidence was recently challenged after revelations that the firm was using third-party contractors working from home to listen back and label recordings.

Amazon has since made it easier to opt out of the process, but Mr Prasad says it has no plans to drop human-based checks.

“Supervised learning is a key aspect, where humans label a very small fraction – actually less than 1% – of the data that goes though Alexa,” he said.

“We are making it much easier to delete but also by bringing the convenience of voice. You can say, ‘Alexa tell me what you heard,’ and if you’re uncomfortable with what is was, you can delete it.”

But some have questioned this “easy option”, pointing out that in order to exclude themselves users have to locate a setting buried several menus deep on the Alexa app and Amazon’s website.

New etiquette?

Even if many consumers make an active choice to have Alexa in their lives, others may be unhappy at having their voices picked up.

Last month, Google’s devices chief Rick Osterloh told the BBC that he informs guests to his home that smart speakers are in use before they enter.

But Mr Prasad says he does not believe there’s a need for such etiquette to become widespread.

“It’s very important to realise that the devices don’t listen for anything but Alexa, the wake word,” he says.

“We have to be clear about that in terms of what detection means.

“You can mute the button on the device. And Alexa is quite transparent when it is streaming to the cloud because the blue lights come on.”

Even so, as Alexa is added to more devices and becomes more omnipresent there’s a question about how obvious this will always be.

You win some, you lose… 75 per cent of your share value

The shares of satellite operators continued to plummet today after it became clear that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) was going to seize valuable spectrum off them and resell it to mobile phone companies.

On Monday, FCC chair Ajit Pai tweeted that he was going to back a public auction of the so-called C-Band spectrum running between 3.7 to 4.2GHz in order to provide enough bandwidth for next-generation 5G networks.

Shares in Intelsat nosedived by 40 per cent on Monday and dropped a further 24 per cent on Tuesday. Likewise shares in the other main satellite company that currently uses the spectrum, SES, collapsed by 23 per cent.

By going for a public auction, Pai effectively shut the door on a proposal by satellite companies – which have traditionally controlled the relevant spectrum space – to run a private auction. A group of those companies, calling themselves the C-Band Alliance, have been desperately trying to persuade the FCC and lawmakers to go with their solution, in large part because the proceeds from the auction will go to… themselves.

The only argument in their favor was that they threatened massive legal action if the FCC effectively took the spectrum off them. But money talks and lawmakers have already started eyeing up how much money they can make from the auctions by rerouting the dosh to the states through rural broadband programs.

In a somewhat shameless inquiry at a Congressional hearing on the topic last month, Representative Susan Brooks (R-IN) asked if there are “some requirements that the FCC could incorporate into its order to make a private sale much more rural friendly?” Basically meaning, will my state still get a ton of money from the private auction? She got a yes but there was another factor at work: the White House.

Mexico will pay for it

President Donald Trump is also eyeing up the billions of dollars that will likely result from a public 5G auction – the proceeds of which will go into the Treasury. Observers warns that the president is likely to see that money as a useful fund that he can tap for pet projects. Top of the list is likely to be construction of a vast border wall with Mexico that Congress has repeatedly refused to foot the full bill for.

In a desperate attempt to build support for its private auction plan, the C-Band Alliance suddenly discovered it would able to free up even more spectrum for 5G communications than it had previously estimated: from 200MHz to 300MHz.

But it was all for nought. Former mobile phone company exec Pai made his decision and for once it may actually be in US citizens’ interests – although that is more by accident than anything else.

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Pai still needs the votes of two other commissioners to pass the measure – but the three Republican commissioners are thick-as-thieves so that’s pretty much a formality. The decision may even be joined by the Democratic commissioners in this case, although there is liable to be an argument over where the money goes.

The FCC won’t end up voting until early next year but Pai concluded in his tweets – because that’s how government works these days, over Twitter – “After much deliberation and a thorough review of the extensive record, I’ve concluded that the best way to advance these principles is through a public auction of 280 megahertz of the C-band conducted by the FCC’s excellent staff.”

Why was Pai so undecided? It turns out because his former employer – Verizon – was actually in favor of the private auction. Why? Because it was going to be quicker to run than the public auction, meaning that Verizon was going to be able to catch up with rival AT&T faster (AT&T has much more spectrum to hand and so can roll out 5G faster and more broadly.)

That certainly explains why, soon after announcing he preferred the public auction route, Pai went out of his way to stress that he’s “confident they’ll quickly conduct a public auction that will give everyone a fair chance to compete for this 5G spectrum.” ®

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Fast fashion has a bad reputation among environmental campaigners who accuse it of fostering a wasteful culture.

But leading chain Primark has hit back at its detractors, saying shopping on the High Street is better for the planet than buying online.

The boss of AB Foods, Primark’s owner, told the Times that its efficient global supply chains meant it was less polluting than online delivery vans.

However, George Weston’s assertions are questioned by energy experts.

Mr Weston told the newspaper: “Far from being a problem, we are a solution.”

He said Primark, which does not have an online shop, had “one of the world’s best supply chains”.

“We don’t air freight the goods, we ship them, which has far lower emissions,” he added.

Mr Weston said delivery vans “puffing their way up and down a street” were more damaging than people collecting products in-store, which was “more environmentally sustainable”.

He dismissed concerns that Primark was selling disposable clothes, saying his customers were not “buying them to wear just once”.

So how well-founded are Primark’s claims?

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US have argued that shopping online can actually be greener than doing it in store.

That is because when a company receives an order, it can consolidate everything in a single, bigger lorry. And this beats multiple cars driving long distances to a store or shopping centre.

The caveat, of course, is when people travel to the shops by bicycle or less-polluting public transport.

The researchers also said the introduction of ultra-fast deliveries in recent years – which meant lorries did not always travel fully loaded – had pushed up online shoppers’ carbon footprints.

Nevertheless, they said traditional shoppers tended to have a much higher carbon footprint than online-only customers.

But Dr Patsy Perry, senior lecturer in fashion marketing at the University of Manchester, thinks the claims from Primark’s Mr Weston carry weight.

She told the BBC that by not selling its clothes online, the fast fashion retailer avoided “the extra last mile, sending individual packages to individual homes”.

She added that shipping in stock was indeed less polluting than flying it in.

And she said that people tended to return more clothes when shopping online, because they were the wrong size or otherwise failed to meet expectations, and that also had an environmental cost.


How to be a greener shopper

  • Plan ahead and get your orders in fewer shipments
  • Shop locally whenever possible
  • Make sure you can take delivery of the item first time, as repeated delivery attempts will increase emissions
  • Choose “green delivery” options that combine several deliveries in one area
  • Only buy the things you need.

Source: The Energy Saving Trust


Others, like the Energy Saving Trust, an organisation that promotes energy efficiency, take a more nuanced view. It says that if people have driven long distances to get to the shops, they will indeed be creating more carbon emissions than if they ordered online.

But it adds: “If you live further away, then it’s better to shop online.”

Meanwhile, the Centre for Sustainable Fashion at the London College of Fashion argues both shopping in store and online harm the environment.

“Online retail incurs a high carbon footprint through transportation, excessive packaging and high return rates, with little infrastructure of financial incentive to repair or process these meaningfully,” the centre’s Monica Buchan-Ng told the BBC.

“But the bricks-and-mortar model also has a considerable impact, with temporary displays and high energy and building costs.

Ms Buchan-Ng stressed that however clothes were bought, their price did not reflect the true environmental cost.

She blamed the fashion industry for “mass overproduction” and called on it to “radically decrease the volume of clothing manufactured to truly make a difference to the climate emergency”.

‘Right direction’

Primark has been praised in the past for taking steps to be more environmentally friendly. For example, it uses sustainable cotton rather than polluting polyester.

It has also been using paper carrier bags instead of plastic ones since 2002.

However, while the ethical fashion site Good On You last year called such measures “a step in the right direction”, it added that they “just aren’t enough to minimise the brand’s huge carbon footprint as a fast fashion chain”.

It took Sir Tim Clark a long time to face up to the climate crisis.

The President of Emirates, the biggest long-haul airline in the world, was no climate change denier. But he was pretty sceptical about some of the claims.

Not now, though. “The stark reality of climate change is with us. I’m a climate change believer. I have to say, it took me a long time to get there.

“And we [in the aviation industry] aren’t doing ourselves any favours by chucking billions of tons of carbon into the air. It’s got to be dealt with,” he told the BBC.

It’s a frank admission from one of the most powerful people in an industry that has many commercial reasons to bury its head in the sand.

Another surprise is his admiration for climate change activists. “I quite like Extinction Rebellion and Greta Thunberg for having brought a real focus to the issue; a focus on the fact that we are not doing enough at the speed we should be.

“I’m not condoning some of their methods. But Extinction Rebellion and Greta have a role to play… We really need this kind of thing to force us to make decisions.”

Activists have done more to highlight the issues than any government or industry body ever has, he says.

Sir Tim, 70 later this month, has spent half his working life helping to establish and then run the Dubai-based carrier. Emirates is now one of the world’s most successful airlines, carrying 150,000 people a day.

So, tackling the airline’s carbon footprint is not the first challenge he’s faced. But it’s up there with the biggest.

Emirates, which also includes a big cargo operation, burns through an astonishing 100 million barrels of oil each year. So finding a viable alternative to fossil fuels is not going to happen any time soon, Sir Tim says.

He has little faith that electric battery alternatives will ever be capable of powering a big airliner. And while biofuels are an option, they won’t be scalable to meet demand.

Sir Tim thinks synthetic fuels offer the best alternative, but these are years from being fit for purpose.

Nevertheless, meaningful change is happening, Sir Tim insists. “But the industry has been a very bad articulator of the good things we’ve done.”

Aero-engines are far more efficient – 50% more efficient than 30 years ago, he says. Use of lighter materials in manufacturing airframes means a lighter fuel burn.

Airlines are stripping out plastic use where they can – “more difficult than you’d imagine”- and changing the way aircraft taxi on runways.

It would also help if governments improved airspace use. “Aircraft don’t fly in a straight line. Even in Europe we have to make too many dog-legs,” he said.

There are plenty of other small changes – what he calls “low hanging fruit” – that cumulatively could make a big dent in the industry’s carbon footprint. “We are trying every trick in the book to improve things,” he said.

Except, emissions are forecast to rise over the next couple of years as air travel in the Middle East and Asia continues to grow. And Emirates is expanding its fleet to meet that growth. Sir Tim spoke to the BBC at the Dubai Air Show, where the airline has announced another blockbuster $16bn order for aircraft.

He understands that most activists and “flight shamers” won’t be happy until aircraft stop flying. But it’s not practical and, frankly, it’s just not going to happen, he said. Sir Tim also wonders if people in Europe and the US should be denying newly-affluent travellers elsewhere the same benefits the West had.

While he accepts there will be no meeting of minds with those on the other side of the table, he would like activists to at least know they have helped push through change. “We not longer dragging our feet,” he said.

Contractors and other flexible workers should enjoy a higher minimum wage than those with secure employment, the Demos think tank has urged.

A higher rate would insulate workers from some of the risk they face as a result of unsecure earnings.

The think tank also suggests that banks or trade unions could administer benefits such as holiday pay.

The report, financed by NatWest bank, suggested access to loans and mortgages was poorer for flexible workers.

“Self-employed workers are not protected by the safety net that many of us take for granted, from sick pay to maternity cover,” said author Ben Glover

“This bargain is only fair if self-employed people earn enough to cover the additional risk they take on, but too often in Britain today this is simply not happening. That’s why we are calling for a new, higher minimum wage for the self-employed.”

Financial training

Having another body rather than government oversee employment benefits would be similar to the so-called Ghent system, named after the Belgian city where the idea was piloted. Countries including Denmark have adopted a similar plan.

“Workers in these countries voluntarily join unemployment schemes and, after having contributed to these schemes for a certain amount of time, are able to enjoy fairly generous unemployment insurance, amongst other benefits,” it said.

Flexible workers include the self-employed, freelancers, those employed in the so-called gig economy, such as Uber taxi drivers, agency and temporary workers, those on zero hours contracts, and people with several jobs, it said.

Demos does not recommend an hourly figure, but says the Low Pay Commission should investigate what it ought to be.

Wage promises

Other recommendations include training from the government and banks on managing finances when being self-employed, and automatic pension contributions.

At present, the government’s National Living Wage pays £8.21 an hour for workers aged 25 and over.

For younger workers, the National Minimum Wage is currently set at £7.70 an hour for 21-24 years olds and £6.15 for those aged 18-20.

Workers aged 16 to 17 can only expect a minimum hourly wage of £4.35, or £3.90 if they are part of an apprenticeship scheme.

The Conservatives plan to lower the age limit for the National Living Wage to 21 and pay around £10.39 per hour by 2024.

Labour pledges to introduce a £10 minimum wage in 2020 for all employees aged 16 and over.

Which? says that Amazon and eBay have failed to stop toys from being listed for sale which appear to have been declared unsafe by the EU.

The consumer group is asking the next government to make online marketplaces legally responsible for stopping dangerous products from being listed.

Which? found products for sale which it believed posed a risk to children.

EBay removed 12 flagged products, while Amazon took down the five listed for sale.

Which? looked at toys which had been registered as dangerous by the EU’s safety gate system since 2017.

The scheme flags products which have been recalled, withdrawn from sale or stopped at the border over safety worries.

The toys on eBay included toy slime, a Transformers helmet and a cartoon helicopter, all of which seemed to be very similar to dangerous products.

The Amazon listings included a magnetic building set, an inflatable swim ring and a remote controlled car.

The safety risk in the toys across both sites included high levels of chemicals in some toys, too much lead in others and the risk of intestinal blockage from parts in others.

Earlier in the year, the British Toy and Hobby Association raised similar concerns – warning that one in five toys it found sold on Amazon and eBay were dangerous for children.

Which? tested out Amazon Marketplace itself by listing for sale a squishy toy, which had been recalled in October 2018 because it posed a risk of choking or suffocation.

The toy remained on Amazon for two weeks before Which? withdrew the listing itself.

It also put on the site a soft fabric car seat, which are illegal in the UK.

Online marketplaces are not currently responsible for making sure that the products sold on their sites are safe.

Caroline Normand, Which? director of advocacy, said: “It’s clear that consumer protections have not kept pace with the changes to the retail industry, and it is not acceptable for marketplaces to pass the buck for the responsibility of the items sold on their sites by simply pointing the finger at sellers.

“The next government must make marketplaces legally responsible for preventing unsafe products from being sold on their sites, establish clearer requirements for taking down dangerous products and ensure better enforcement is in place to keep consumers safe.”

EBay told Which?: “Sellers aren’t permitted to list dangerous products on eBay, or items that have been recalled. The listings flagged have been removed and we have requested that sellers contact customers with a safety notice and their refunds policy.”

And an eBay spokesperson told the BBC: “Consumer safety is our number one priority and we invest significantly in keeping our marketplace safe and educating users on product safety.

“Between October 2018 and October 2019 our filters automatically blocked five million listings from entering the marketplace on product safety grounds.

“While eBay goes beyond the legal requirements for safety, we are constantly working to improve the systems and policies already in place on our site and welcome further clarification on guidelines so we can continue to play our part in ensuring consumer safety.”

Amazon said: “All sellers must follow our selling guidelines, and those who do not will be subject to action including potential removal of their account. The products in question are no longer available.”

It also said its first objective is to block suspicious, unsafe, or non-compliant products from being listed.

It told Which? that it uses proprietary technology to screen partners and block suspicious businesses, as well as to check product listings, and has teams of compliance experts who conduct manual checks.

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The president of Oxford Union has resigned over a row involving a blind student who was “violently” removed from a society debate.

Ebenezer Azamati was “accosted” by a security guard when he tried to return to a seat he had earlier reserved before the discussion on 17 October.

On Saturday, he was cleared of any wrongdoing.

President of the society Brendan McGrath apologised for his “mistakes” and resigned.

Postgraduate student Mr Azamati, from Ghana, said his treatment made him feel “unwelcome in the union, Oxford and even the country”.

After the charges against Mr Azamati were successfully appealed, Mr McGrath apologised to the Africa Society “for the distress and any reputational damage” to the student.

Helen Mountfield QC, representing Mr Azamati, had said there were ongoing talks with the union over what steps it could take to address the “failings” exposed by the case.

In a letter to the standing committee, posted on Oxford Union’s Facebook page, Mr McGrath said: “For all my shortcomings, and all of my mistakes, I apologise profusely and unqualifiedly.”

He said managing the response to Mr Azamati’s eviction from the debate had been “the most difficult thing I’ve ever been charged with”.

He added he had been asked by those present to bring the disciplinary complaint against him on behalf of a staff member but added he “should have recognised a wider obligation”.

“The right response would not have begun with prosecution and apportioning blame; it would have addressed immediately the extreme distress of all involved,” he continued.

Before signing his resignation, he added he had proposed “a full, public and independent review” of the union’s policies in relation to disability, how it trains its staff and whether the current security system “is fit for the purpose of a student society”.

The Oxford Union, which is independent from the university, has a tradition of hosting debates and speakers stretching back to 1823.

The university previously tweeted its support for Mr Azamati, and said it shared “the widespread outrage regarding the unacceptable treatment” of the student.