back to article Indiegogo to ailing ZX Spectrum reboot firm: End of May... or we call the debt collector

Retro Computers Ltd, the infamous ZX Spectrum Vega Plus firm, has been given until May by crowdfunding platform Indiegogo to deliver its years-late product or expect a visit from a “third party collections agency”. As reported by the BBC, Indiegogo – which has consistently kept the troubled campaign at arm’s length – has …

  1. wolfetone

    "The Companies House record for Retro Computers Ltd currently says its accounts are overdue. They should have been filed on 31 January."

    I forsee the next story involving RCL to be along the lines of: "RCL file for administration".

    1. MrClump

      They can't file for administration

      Well technically they can, but if they do their accounts will have to be handed over, it will then be revealed they've been trading while insolvent and then the directors will become personally liable for all the debts. So really, they can't, they're stuck between a rock and a hard place.

    2. Roj Blake Silver badge

      They're a little over a week late. That's not at all unusual.

    3. Dan 55 Silver badge
  2. msknight

    I did get two emails from them...

    ...but couldn't be bothered to actually read them. I mean... what's the point?

    Fortunately for me, I got a refund the moment the specs showed a composite output, but I still get the e-mails.

  3. ForthIsNotDead
    Stop

    QUICK - SEND MORE POPCORN

    I'd be interested to see the "contract" (if any) that exists between Indigogo and RCL. My impression was (possibly wrong) that Indigogo simply handed over the money, but had no contractual relationship with them. IF they have no contract between them, then they can not claim to be a debtor, and RCL could quite rightly tell their bailiffs to fuck right off.

    There isn't enough popcorn in Aberdeen to see this one through...

    1. tony72

      Re: QUICK - SEND MORE POPCORN

      The Indiegogo Terms of Use says

      "Campaign Owners are legally bound to perform on any promise and/or commitment to Contributors (including delivering any Perks).".

      That implies to me that there is a legal contract regarding that obligation; I don't think they would use the term "legally bound" if they couldn't back it up. Then this;

      Recovering Funds

      By using our Services, you acknowledge that Indiegogo reserves the right to attempt to recover or hold funds from your Campaign, or the connected Stripe or bank account associated with your Campaign, for reasons including but not limited to: refunds, lost chargebacks, a Campaign Owner does not act in accordance with Indiegogo’s Terms, or other situations resulting in negative balances.

      We may obtain reimbursement of any amounts owed by a Campaign Owner to Indiegogo by holding funds from your Campaign, or the connected Stripe or bank account associated with your Campaign, or seeking reimbursement from the Campaign Owner by any other lawful means, including by using third-party collections agencies. You authorize us to use any or all of the foregoing methods to seek reimbursement..

      So if RCL has experienced any of the conditions which could cause Indiegogo to be seeking cash from them, the the bailiffs may well be called upon. Assuming the Terms of Use are legally binding, or reflect the contents of a legally binding agreement signed by the campaigns, of course.

      1. ForthIsNotDead
        Pint

        Re: QUICK - SEND MORE POPCORN

        @tony72 - thanks for the clarification. Beer -->

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: QUICK - SEND MORE POPCORN

      And where did "bailiffs" come from anyway? I suspect that's journalistic licence, or perhaps failing to understand that "third party collection agency" is not synonymous with "bailiffs".

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: QUICK - SEND MORE POPCORN

        failing to understand that "third party collection agency" is not synonymous with "bailiffs".

        Indeeed. I use Baj Ivan the Bulgarian Wrestler for small debts, the Corleone collection agency for medium size sums and if it is something above a few hundred thousands I end up having to discuss collecting it in Russian.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: QUICK - SEND MORE POPCORN

        +1, until it goes to a COURT, and the court decides if there is a case to answer.

        If there is a case and the judge finds against them, the court will very likely impose monetary damages. ONLY then if they fail to cough up will it then be handed to court appointed bailiffs.

        DCA's (or the 3rd party recovery agents!) have about as much power as a junior disprin.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: QUICK - SEND MORE POPCORN

          If there is a case and the judge finds against them, the court will very likely impose monetary damages. ONLY then if they fail to cough up will it then be handed to court appointed bailiffs.

          And what will the bailiffs do? It's a limited company, I suspect it will have no worthwhile assets, no owned property, and the crowdfunding money will all have been spent on generous salaries and high living. Far be it from me to even imply that with no other income stream, they've just had a two year paid holiday, courtesy of the gullible. The best the investors/creditors can hope for is to have the company declared insolvent and get the directors barred - and for the 72 year old chairman, I can't see that would worry him much.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: QUICK - SEND MORE POPCORN

            "for the 72 year old chairman, I can't see that would worry him much."

            Couldn't he be held personally liable if it can be shown that he knew they were trading while insolvent?

      3. katrinab Silver badge

        Re: QUICK - SEND MORE POPCORN

        Bailiffs coukd follow as a result of the CCJ that one customer has, but only for their order.

    3. Guildencrantz

      Re: QUICK - SEND MORE POPCORN

      Mate a contract in the common law world needn't be in writing, it just needs offer, acceptance, consideration, economic subject-matter, and mutual intention to create legal relations (well and a few little bits). A judge can and will deem these to exist in a range of circumstances, after looking at the entirety of the context.

  4. Simon Ward

    "We have not been issued an ultimatum"

    Oh I dunno, it sorta-kinda sounds like you have ...

  5. Lee D Silver badge

    “Firstly, we have decided we will no longer be silenced by the people who have orchestrated a campaign of harassment and credible threats against us."

    Were you ever silenced? It's all I hear him whine about. P.S. Call the police in the case of a credible threat, or a solicitor. What that's got to do with customers, bailiffs and IndieGoGo (unless said threats were made on their forums, in which case why are you not saying they aren't dealing with them?) I can't fathom.

    "The BBC report from yesterday is completely misleading. We have not been issued with an ultimatum by Indiegogo, in fact, we have been in dialogue with them for some time to discuss the harassment and serious threats, and they are very understanding of our situation.”

    Correct - they haven't issued an ultimatum. They don't say that. They say they WILL. And I should hope you're in dialogue. Again, what that's got to do with product delivery or sending in the bailiffs, I can't fathom.

    "She also alleged the Beeb had ignored an offer to interview 72-year-old David Levy"

    And? So? What's that got to do with delivery of the product and/or sending in the bailiffs?

    I'm not a backer, because I saw this one coming.

    Try this:

    Deliver the product. Or offer a refund.

    Sue or have arrested people making credible threats. Or stop whining about them.

    Deal with your customer's non-threatening complaints. Or stop whining about people complaining.

    Dig out the paperwork that says that ex-director doesn't have any rights. Or pay him.

    Oh, and file your returns.

    It's really quite easy. Currently the only path I see is bankruptcy and you seem to have no care addressing that concern to your customers and would rather go bankrupt owing them all money than trying to give them something back.

    I honestly don't care, I have no interest in the project and wouldn't touch it because I've learned to spot the slimy salespeople who do this (I skipped OpenPandora for the same reasons - I spotted that the guy in charge at the start wasn't ever intending to deliver, and then it turned into a shower of asking for more and more and more money and then delivering units only to whoever-paid-the-most instead of whoever-backed-from-the-start). I have no connection with ANY of the people mentioned. But you're running a slimeball business and using the same soundbites and distractions that I'd expect if you were one of those people who just runs the company into the ground, takes their percentage, runs, screws over all the customers (and most of your own staff), and then sets up elsewhere on something else to try it again.

    If you want to combat that image, make the choices above. If you don't, but carry on with the "oh, we're being harassed", "it's all that guy's fault", etc. distractions/excuses, then you're quite possibly going to end up in court, maybe even jail, and I and many others certainly will have nothing to do with ANYONE so named as being on this project ever again.

    If you had a shred of decency, the next blog update wouldn't be a rant. It would be a stating of the situation, a reasonable date by which you will guarantee delivery or refund, and an apology.

    I don't see that happening, though.

    1. Spartacus Mills

      100% agreed with all that, well said

    2. werdsmith Silver badge

      "I'm not a backer, because I saw this one coming."

      I'm also not a backer even though I like the concept - the original product design was superb, but I saw it as a £50 product, not £100. Also their crowdfunding target would barely cover toolmaking for production, even in China.

      They have shown some production tooling and some redesigned cheaper housing and buttons etc. It now looks like a £30 product.

      If they ever deliver these things then I will be keeping an eye on Ebay for a cheapy one.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Given that it was only ever a software-based emulator that needed to run on arbitrary (and not very high-powered hardware), and given the tenuous justification for its existence (there being nothing here you couldn't already do on generic hardware- all this offered was an all-in-one "ready to go" officially-endorsed solution)...

        This was already a solved problem. I'm sure there must be numerous manufacturers in China offering pre-existing generic handheld designs (already running Linux or something) based on low-powered chips that they could manufacture with custom-modified firmware and superficial trimmings.

        The Rick Dickinson-designed Vega+ case is nice enough, but not particularly akin to any of the original Spectrums (#), so probably not worth the cost of the tooling it- or any custom case and design- would require. Especially not after mismanagement has depleted their funds.

        Of course, if they *had* gone with a lightly-customised off-the-shelf design made in China, someone might have complained that it was just some random hardware with a "Spectrum" badge and custom firmware. But that's essentially what it would have been anyway.

        At any rate, the whole fiasco doesn't exactly help Indiegogo's reputation as the dodgier "look the other way" sibling of Kickstarter for projects even the latter throught dubious.

        (Apparently they wanted to build it in the UK. Which is nice, I'm sure, but whether it would have been worth the setup costs for such a small run is unclear; at this point, I doubt they have the resources to do that, if they ever did).

        (#) Unlike the strange parody of the rubber-keyed Speccy's case that the original Vega featured. Or the Spectrum Next, whose Spectrum+ style case (also designed by Dickinson) evokes- and improves upon- the original.

    3. Sam Therapy
      Pint

      Well said

      Couldn't have put it better. Have a pint.

  6. msknight

    I can't see this happening

    I decided to go onto the indegogo site and see the recent three updates.

    There are no photographs there which convince me that they have any quantity of anything. Just a load of engineering machines which could be making anything really (because I can't zoom into the images to get more detail) and a bag of red buttons which look awfully like thinkpad nipples and... for some inexplicable reason given the number in the bag... none of the buttons in the bag are actually faced up, to see what's printed on them.

    To my inexperienced eyes, one of those machines looks like a commercial boiler. No picture contains more than five consoles, and those that do, show different versions of the design progression.

    I would be expecting pictures of these large amounts of parts that had arrived, to provide weight to their words. However, this is sorely missing.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I can't see this happening

      There are no photographs there which convince me...

      And the Reg has followed the trend, using a stock image of a bouncer in his DJ, 'cos everybody knows that bailiffs are the same as bouncers, and wear dinner suits when collecting debts. If you employ the more up market bailiffs they'll even wear a top hat on request.

    2. whitepines Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: I can't see this happening

      Looking closely, I see four pictures of the same generic machine (some type of hydraulic press? unless it's a garbage compactor for the Vega+ units I see no bearing on this project). Then there are two shots of a really crappy PCB and some sort of industrial control (for the hydraulic press? or is it an automobile ECU reprogrammer? can't tell!).

      5 of those pictures could have been taken from a drone flying around inside some random factory. Yeah, real credible....

  7. Matthew Smith

    Overdue?

    The Spectrum was late in satisfying early orders too. No big problem.

    Though I am dreading the QL+ sequel.

  8. Tom 7 Silver badge

    This is what you get when you let advertising precede engineering.

    Or just use indigogo I suppose.

  9. Zog_but_not_the_first Silver badge
    Trollface

    Easily side-stepped...

    Just use a Sinclair calendar where 28 days = 3 months.

  10. Christian Berger Silver badge

    Meanwhile in Serbia

    People are building a much more useful "retro" computer just as a badge for a meetup.

    https://twitter.com/Voja_Antonic/status/961134402670661632

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Happy

    I'm amazed no-one's thought of this...

    ...but if RCL is issuing refunds, then there's more stock available for the rest of us! I've just gone and, without any help or advice from so-called 'IT experts', increased my order of 1 Vega+ to 25 of the beauties. Then when they arrive soon, I'll keep one and the rest will all go straight on eBay, and I'll retire. I can't wait! We'll see who's laughing then... etc...

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My Vega+ is safely in the cloud...

    That's what RCL told me anyway.

    1. Gerard Krupa

      Re: My Vega+ is safely in the cloud...

      There is no cloud; it's just somebody else's villa in Tuscany.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's a swamp

    I contributed to this https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/wedg-the-personal-cloud-you-ve-been-waiting-for/#/

    The campaign owner did a runner with the money, created a fictitious campaign owner and company which Indiegogo accepted without a blink.

    Indiegogo does not care about it. Lots of us have raised it. To stunning silence. They have got their cut and moved on. I asked what due diligence there was in changing the campaign owner. No answer.

    Any of the original media who published about it citing it as a coming thing, are not interested now following it up.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It's a swamp

      It's interesting the court judgment. If it is deemed that the 'backers' are actually 'purchasers' then the company that takes your money - Indiegogo could actually be the 'retailer' in which case they could be on the hook for the delivery of the product.

      It might be why, for seemingly the first time ever, they have started to get tough with the supplier.

      I have long though there should be more oversight and regulation of these types of backer sites as they are becoming a fraudster's playground with the site owners just shrugging and saying 'nothing to do with me'.

      1. wedgstolemymoney

        Re: It's a swamp

        I also contributed to the Wedg project. I and 967 other people lost an average of $135 each.

        Wedg Limited took funds for a considerable period of time, some of which I believe they had to have known about the legal claim against their codebase. If there was indeed a codebase to have a claim against, that is.

        The worst part about the whole thing is there's no one to contact regarding the failure - the creator is gone, the company and it's directorship are dissolved or are in the process of being dissolved by Companies House, and Indiegogo simply closes help requests with no reply.

        I'd at least like a "You Get Nothing! Good Day, Sir!" from Indiegogo instead of the silence we get now.

        1. wedgstolemymoney

          Re: It's a swamp

          In regards to the Wedg project https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/wedg-the-personal-cloud-you-ve-been-waiting-for/x/14264443#/ I made a request of Indiegogo to refund my pledge, as the companies involved with making the device are dissolved, or are being dissolved.

          Indiegogo simply closed the request without a reply. I wonder what was done to make them refund this particular (ZX Spectrum reboot) campaign...

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: It's a swamp

            It would be an interesting exercise to send them an e-mail citing the court judgement of 'backers' being 'purchasers' and state you feel there is two options.

            1) Indiegogo to refund your money without fuss

            2) You will seek a court judgement ruling that, as you are deemed a purchaser and the Wedgies are a supplier, IndieGoGo as the shop front and the 'money taker' are the retailer and should therefore be responsible under EU law as a retailer. Once that judgement is made, it could seriously change their business model.

            1. wedgstolemymoney

              Re: It's a swamp

              I've sent them requests for refunds stating both their own TOS terms that creators must make good on campaigns even if they can't deliver the indicated product, and that the creator can't deliver because they no longer exist. I haven't tried the court ruling route, but I may do that after the final dissolution paperwork is filed at Companies House. This should be finalized within the month.

              The second option, that of a legal proceeding is made difficult by not being an EU resident. I've been contacted by or have contacted consumer agencies/legal counsel in the UK, but none were able to provide much beyond "We're sorry, we can't help you as you're not resident."

              Indiegogo literally does not care - Wedg wasn't a high profile bruise on their fragile funding scheme, and no matter the request it is closed without comment.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Playing favorites?

    Up until now we could assume that IndieGoGo was basically the messenger or platform for others to use. There were rules but to my knowledge none of them demand a delivery within a specific required timeframe.

    And it also creates weird situations too I think. So now this project is required to deliver.

    The waterseer project can not only be easily debunked as a fraud (it will magically get water out of thin air, around 30l per day in the middle of a desert. Who needs laws of physics? Laws were meant to be broken!) but it has also failed to deliver a project within years. Heck, if you look at the current comment section you'll notice comments stating that they ordered something and after one whole year they're still waiting for delivery.

    Which begs the question: why is IndieGoGo going after this company while leaving others alone? Others which are basically doing worse things (making false promises and unreasonable expectations).

    My guess? Damage control. This company has made some headlines so IndieGoGo has a reputation to uphold. But by doing so they're also showing their true colors: picking favorites and allowing others to get away with the exact same thing. Heck: I get the impression that taking money on false promises is about the only thing which is being done on IndieGoGo!

    1. SeanR

      Re: Playing favorites?

      half the number of backers,

      2/3 the money

      1% of the comments.

      easily debunked

      and only 25 months old

      theyre hardly comparable.

      also, no one cares. if enough people make enough noise maybe they will move on it. try tweeting with the hashtag #takingyoudownwiththem when you tweet @indiegogo about it? good luck

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Really...

    How difficult can it be to make this work, a RaspPi is a fancy case ?

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: Really...

      But a RaspiZero in a 'fancy' case can run emulators for pretty much any 8 bit machine - and a thousand other things as well. The hard bit is stopping that.

  16. BebopWeBop Silver badge
    Holmes

    Intersting history

    David Levy has what might be described as a chequered past... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Levy_(chess_player)

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Intersting history

      Yeah, I read that bit about the connections with Ronnie Biggs. I wonder if the Police have ever had a word with him about that? I'm pretty sure that assisting in the escape or continued fleeing from justice of an offender is generally frowned upon.

  17. Grease Monkey

    The ZX Spectrum Next thing looks like a much more promising project anyway. I think the Vega thing is so late it's dead in the Easter now. Don't know why more people haven't sites for their money back.

  18. Marco van de Voort

    Of course it is all a conspiracy by Commodore fans.

    Of course it is all a conspiracy by Commodore fans.

  19. Horaced

    Big

    Tick tock: If Retro Computers Ltd doesn't deliver by May, Indiegogo says it will call in the heavies.

    So, Suzanne Martin again.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Anything Sinclair is Cursed!

    There were those two doomed Sinclair models of electric bike, two distinct flavours of vapour featured on the Reg, neither of which materialised and now this!

  21. Jaap Aap

    “Firstly, we have decided we will just make up some stuff about us being harassed. We are all working overtime to make credible threats against ourselves. The BBC report from yesterday is completely true. We might have been issued with an ultimatum by Indiegogo, we don't know, we have been ignoring them for some time. We think they are very understanding of how we operate our scam, they just don't want us to draw too much attention to ourselves.”

    FTFY.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YLRTDy3Pvhw

    Maybe RCL should try to get saved by the government, just like sinclair has done a couple of times.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What's the expression about a fool and their money being easily parted?

    Oh, that is the expression.

  23. Mike Richards

    Behold there are miracles after all

    We have the unusual spectacle of a 'platform' taking responsibility for its content.

  24. anothercynic Silver badge

    Indiegogo...

    Given how Indiegogo washed its hands of a campaign I helped crowdfund, and the campaigners then demanded another payment for us to get our hands on our rewards, I don't trust Indiegogo anymore, at all. That said, I wrote that crowdfund off on the basis that it was an investment into a risky venture, and that intrinsically carries risk. It's just the fact that the owners in question decided to ransom off the rewards (which they *did* have ready but got screwed by their factory) is what rankled.

    Kickstarter on the other hand... every single campaign has delivered on their promises. There's one outstanding...

  25. Mike Richards

    Well done - this might be the ultimate piece of clickbait text

    'She also alleged the Beeb had ignored an offer to interview 72-year-old David Levy, RCL’s chairman, who appears to be developing a new public persona as a cheerleader for sex robots.'

    Of course I clicked - and immediately regretted it.

  26. Fizzle
    FAIL

    But what I don't understand is this...

    why does anyone actually want one of these old things?

    You can do the same thing with a Raspberry Pi for about £30 and a bluetooth keyboard for about £10.

    As I am (official) old fogey, can someone please explain the desirability of these things?

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