Former subscribers of defunct British digital terrestrial platform ITV Digital must hand back their set-top boxes or pay to keep them, according to the firm’s liquidators.

The boxes were given away free of charge when consumers signed up to the service prior to its collapse in May. Around 1.1 million are thought to be in circulation still, many of which can be used to pick up the broadcasts of the latest digital platform Freeview.

In a bid to recoup for creditors some of ITVd’s massive loss, Grant Thornton, the firm hired to wind up the platform, has written to all former ITVd subscribers asking them to return the boxes or a pay £39.99 ($62.93; €62.41). The liquidator insists box owners are “legally bound” under the terms of their contracts to pay up or return the devices.

However, the request has reportedly elicited a furious response from some subscribers, and Grant Thornton admits it has not come up with a plan to deal with those who do not respond.

The whole situation may seem farcical, but the Consumers Association is concerned it may have serious implications for the dTV industry.

“This course of action is legally correct, but it further damages consumer confidence in digital TV,” warned the CA’s senior policy adviser Alan Williams. “This is another setback to the government's plans for digital switchover.”

Data sourced from: BBC Online Business News (UK); additional content by WARC staff