Digital+ loses STB case, market opens

To date, Spanish pay-TV operator Sogecable has imposed a rented decoder on its subscribers, charging a monthly fee. But that is set to change after a judge labelled this situation abusive.

The Madrid Provincial Audience has forced the operator to liberalize the market for set-top-boxes after a court action by the Consumers Association of the province of Pontevedra. This association claimed the damages to the consumers and enterprises involved amounted to 927 million although the judge's decision does not refer to this amount.

The association asked that the clauses of the rental contract the operator signes with its clients be eliminated. The lawyer representing this group of consumers called Digital+'s Call Center asking whether he could use a different decoder to the one rented by the operator and the answer was "no". This conversation was recorded and used as proof in the trial. Thereafter the judge's final decision was appealed and the Provincial Office said the appealer was right.

So from now on decoder manufactuers have the green light to sell any decoders compatibls with the operator's conditional access to Digital+s clients. On the subscribers' side they will be able to buy any decoder of this type the free market can offer them, bringing to an end to Digital+'s dominance of set-top-boxes - good news for the Spanish decoder market.