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Customers still waiting for their 'free' box

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A company offering TV set-top boxes for free is facing increasing anger from consumers after the boxes have failed to arrive, despite a £10 downpayment.

Freebox Ltd offers a seemingly incredible product - a set-top box that plays DVDs, CDs, offers Internet access, email and makes a smashing cup of tea - all for free. Those that wished to receive the box were asked for a £10 returnable downpayment and told the box would arrive before Christmas.

However, despite the cheques being cashed, the boxes haven't arrived and customers are complaining they have not heard anything from the company and it is impossible to contact. Several have complained to their bank and investigations into the matter have begun.

They have a point. We attempted to contact Freebox to ask what was going on. The company's enquiry line links through to an appliance-selling company that says it has never heard of Freebox. A second, order number, is merely a recorded message asking people to send their order to a Bristol PO Box address.

However we eventually managed to get a message through the company's secretary Joshua Church, who called us up to explain. Joshua admits that the company has had trouble getting back to people but claims that 90 per cent of those that sent £10 in have had the situation explained to them. He promised to find out what had happened to the company's enquiry line.

Mr Church said that the delay is due to the company having to suddenly pull out of a manufacturing deal with American company Maxit - their boxes were found to be insufficient for the market Freebox was after. Joshua assures us that the new delivery date for the boxes - June/July - will be met as the company has signed up with a UK manufacturer (which he can't name yet).

Money is not a problem Mr Church assures us - the company has just done a deal with a major UK bank (which he can't name yet). The box manufacturers will be meeting the enormous cost of making the box and sending it to the 200,000 people that are said to have signed up.

Mr Church told us he had had no communication from his bank, Barclays, concerning customer complaints. ®

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