Potential subscribers to EE’s recently announced TV service are being told their set top boxes are only on loan and must be returned at the end of the contract.
First announced last month, the box offers a mix of Freeview channels and on-demand apps, including BBC iPlayer, BBC News, Demand 5 and YouTube, and allows users to watch live and recorded TV on tablets and smartphones.
It also includes access to Wuaki.tv, which offers digital rentals and buy to keep downloads.
A press statement issued on Thursday states: “Worth £300, the EE TV smart box is free for new and existing EE mobile customers who also subscribe to EE Broadband plans of £9.95 a month or above, delivering even greater value to EE’s 25 million customers.”
However the box doesn’t appear to be available to purchase outright at the claimed £300 value and EE’s terms and conditions state it “will remain our property at all times. We provide you with free hire of the set-top box so you can receive content.”
The contract conditions, available online, also state:
“If you cancel your television Service (whether that’s during or after the expiration of the minimum term), you will need to return the set-top box to us.
“If you fail to return it to us within fourteen (14) days, then in addition to any fee payable for early termination of your plan, we may also charge you the cost of the set-top box as set out in our Price Guide and lock the services provided on the box, including pause, record, rewind, replay, restart, multi screen and catch up services.
“If we lock your box, you will only be able to watch the free to view channels.”
Of the established subscription TV services, only Virgin Media requires customers to return their boxes, as the closed nature of the cable firm’s service renders them unusable without a subscription.
Sky, BT and TalkTalk all allow customers to keep their boxes at the end of the minimum contract term, and BT and TalkTalk supplied boxes remain fully able to pause, rewind and record programmes without an ongoing subscription.
The requirement to return the boxes means cancelling customers who buy content via the Wuaki.tv app would need to purchase a replacement device should they wish to continue watching content on their TVs.
EE’s terms and conditions also reveal limitations in the box’s Replay feature.
The sales website says: “Set your box to record your six favourite channels. Replay means you’ll have an extra day to watch whatever has been on your favourite channels.”
However the T&Cs advise that customers do not have a free choice in all of the channels they can use the feature with, stating:
“Replay is currently only available to record standard definition (“SD”) channels and high definition (“HD”) channels are excluded. The box will not record between the hours of 3am and 5am so anything airing partially or fully between these times will not be recorded.”
“You will only be able to select six channels from two pre-defined groups. This may result in not all of your favorite six channels being available for this feature. The allocation of channels into groups is outside our control, and is dictated by Freeview channel allocation.”
An EE spokesperson told SEENIT: “We offer EE TV as a free hire to EE Broadband customers.
“Unlike some other TV services, we also include free repair or replacement if there is a fault with the box for as long as the customer’s account is active, so they will not have to pay for additional cover or a replacement.”
In keeping with all services, this provision excludes damage or faults caused by the misuse or mistreatment of the box.
Commenting on the Replay feature, the spokesperson added: “Initially, the Replay function will be compatible with SD channels. When more smartphones and tablets are able to support HD Replay, we will look at introducing the functionality.
“As always, customer experience has been at the heart of EE TV’s development. We will continue to monitor user feedback and adapt our approach in order to deliver the best television experience possible.”