The Great Set-top Box Swindle

Posted on 10 December 2002 in Television (No comments)

Once upon a time in a galaxy far far way...

In the wave of people moving to digital TV, Andrew Bowden joined the revolution with his spangley OnDigital box.

He watches digital TV through his aeriel and even renews his prepay subscription for a second year.

Unbeknownst to him, dark forces are gathering and the evil twin emporers, Emperor Granada and Emporer Carlton unleash their force of imperial receivers.

The army of Deloitte and Touche scour the galaxy until they find the galatic off switch.

Miffed at loosing £60, our hero continues to watch what television remains as the rebel Freeview group attack the twin Emporers.

They sweep through the UK but disaster looms as the Imperial Liquidators take over. The new force of Grant Thornton appear, and threaten to take Andrew's box away unless he pays the price of £39.99.

The saga continues.

Meanwhile in London...

To be fair Grant Thornton have every right to take my old OnDigital box. Even though I say it through gritted teeth, it's true. The box was never owned by me, merely loaned.

And had it not been for the fact that the closure of ITV Digital meant that I lost £60 because I'd opted to prepay for 12 months in advance and only got 6 months service, I wouldn't be so annoyed.

But I've already lost money and now they want me to hand over even more.

Does the word 'ripoff' mean anything to you?

The price to buy the set top box currently sitting in my living room, isn't even a good deal. It will no doubt be sold as seen. If it breaks, I loose out again, and given that my trusty box has been slightly flaky of late, that means I'd have to shell out an extra £9.99 for breakdown insurance. £49.98 looks like an even worse deal.

The box may work (for now) but it's slow and cumbersome. The new boxes are faster and smaller. If I'm going to have to shell out money, better to spend it on a decent piece of hardware

So no I won't be paying. The box will go back. However if you think they're getting it back easily, think again. I lost a lot of money, and just happen to have an asset owned by those that lost me that money, which has now been valued at just under forty quid.

Money Money Money.

Although I don't quite know at this time how they intend to get it, I will be playing it by my terms. And my terms are pretty tough. If they really want that box, they're going to have to put some effort in.

But what would they really want to put the effort in?

One of the possible tactics being used here could simply see how many people will willingly hand over £40 so that they can that they own the box legally. With over a million boxes out there, if just 1000 reply that's £40,000 - a triffle in the ITV Digital debt mountain, but still a lot of money.

A three year old OnDigital box (I got mine in the spring of 2000 but thanks to signal difficulties my subscription wasn't activated until the following November) isn't exactly going to have a huge resale value.

Whilst brand new boxes were sold off for around £80 after ITV Digital collapsed, we're looking at something that has had some wear and tear on it. Three years of use, a remote control with buttons looking slightly worn.

So how much is that box worth? Well I doubt it's even worth v40 myself. By the time the box has been collected, refurbished, packed in a new box with a new manual, how much is it going to be able to sell for? £80? No chance. £40? Unlikely. Would it even cover the costs of doing it?

Forty Quid? You're Having A Laugh?

Even if they do want to collect it, what if I'm out when they come to pick it up? What if they can't determine a time to pick up the box because I refuse to waste my money phoning their national rate phone line? What if it just becomes too much hassle? Who knows what will happen. I don't. I never thought they'd dare even to do anything other than just leave the boxes in homes and forget about them.

If you don't want the box, why keep it?

Why keep the box if I don't want it? Cos if I can delay spending that £100 for a new adapter, I will do. No point in paying out that cash when I don't need to.

And then there's the revenge side. ITV Digital has lost me money. As a subscriber I'm very unlikely to see any of the cash raised by this little scheme. In fact the people who will get most of the money are the people who lost me my money in the first place. ITV Digital's two biggest creditors are Carlton and Granada. The people who pulled the plug, are owed the most money. Those two companies made sure that £60 of my money went down the drain never to be seen again.

So really, if I can make sure they get just a little less cash, even if it's less than a tenner, then good. They don't deserve it.

We Will See.

All I know is that I'm down £60 on this deal. I'm not prepared to do anything illegal. I'm not prepared to put anything like credit ratings at risk. But that doesn't mean you can't play the system.

What the result will be, who knows. But rest assured, when it happens, you'll know.

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