Crowdfunding site Indiegogo has called time on a high-profile British project to create a retro handheld console.
The US firm has told backers of the Sinclair ZX Spectrum Vega+ that it is appointing a debt collection agency to recoup funds from the London-based company behind the campaign.
It said Retro Computers Ltd (RCL) had failed to meet the conditions it had set to be given more time.
The BBC has asked RCL to comment but has yet to get a response.
But the firm’s Twitter account has posted: “To be clear we offered to demo the unit to Indiegogo’s London-based representative and this is how they have reacted.”
Indiegogo, however, had demanded a unit be couriered over to its offices so that it could carry out its own checks.
“The campaign owners have not met the requirements Indiegogo sent last week,” a spokesman for Indiegogo said in a statement.
“Our Trust & Safety team is now continuing the process of sending this campaign to collections in an effort to return funds to backers.
“During this time, the campaign owners are still able to pursue fulfilment of the project and they are not prevented from shipping any units that are ready to be sent out to backers.”
The Vega+ campaign raised a total of £512,790 from more than 4,700 people on Indiegogo before the US firm blocked it from accepting more funds in March 2017.
In addition, RCL has claimed that “pre-orders” for the games machine have been “selling fast” via its own website.
The chairman of the company, Dr David Levy, told the BBC last week that he was “determined to deliver” the handheld computer, and intended to send out the first units by 15 June.
RCL had, however, previously missed multiple deadlines. The company had originally pledged to deliver the console in the summer of 2016.
Indiegogo had given three conditions for it to postpone a the threat of intervention, which it had made in February.
- RCL had to courier over a final production unit by end of day Tuesday to prove its existence
- the firm had to refund any backer who no longer wanted to receive the console
- the company had to provide contact details for representatives at the broadcaster Sky who supposedly were delaying the consoles being sent out
Sky does own some of the intellectual property rights involved, since it owns Amstrad, which acquired Sinclair’s marketing and merchandising rights in 1986.
However, a spokeswoman for the firm denied it had held up deliveries.
According to RCL’s most recently filed accounts, it had £433,008 of assets at the end of March 2017.
Dr Levy declined to provide an update when asked last week.
A website campaigning for Sir Clive Sinclair – the original inventor of the ZX Spectrum computers – to intervene has identified 106 backers who say they have requested refunds.
It says that they have requested a total of £13,270 be handed back.
What powers do debt collectors have?
While the involvement of a debt collection agency will escalate matters, it will not necessarily bring them to a close.
Unlike bailiffs, such agencies cannot seize assets themselves. In past cases, some companies have simply opted to ignore them.
When this has happened, the agencies have sometimes had to pursue legal action on their clients’ behalf.
And only when they won have enforcement officers been appointed with the power to confiscate property.
Bearing in mind that backers neither have a stake in RCL nor have they bought something in the traditional sense – rather they funded an endeavour – it is not clear how a judge would rule were Indiegogo to pursue this route, or even if the dispute would get to court in the first place.
“This is a complex and difficult case,” commented Peter Wallwork, chief executive of the Credit Services Association.
He added that even hen companies are forced to hand over funds, the effort required often involves “additional charges that would have to be met by the debtor business”, eating into the sums recovered.