Telecommunications company StarHub announced that it will be offering customers who are using illegal set-top boxes that can stream free pirated movies and television shows an opportunity to exchange their devices at a discount for non-infringing ones from July 24 onwards.
Users will only be required to pay a flat subscription fee of S$30 a month to watch legitimate content, and this will include TV series and blockbuster films from Disney+ and HBO Go.
This new initiative by the local telco is its attempt to “encourage the move towards legitimate content sources ahead of time” as well as to make legal option more attractive price-wise.
Under the exchange offer at selected StarHub shops, the company will give customers S$120 to pay off the usual S$5 a month fee customers pay for renting its StarHub TV + set-top box for 24 months, which is the length of the subscription contract.
Following that, the box rental fees will kick in.
Although access to HBO Go content under the plan lasts for the 24 months contract period, the free Disney+ access will come to an end on 22 February 2023.
However, current users of StarHub’s set-top box who pay the monthly box rental fees and content subscription fees will not have their rental fees waived. But if their StarHub plan is up for renewal, they have an option to switch and sign up for the new set-top box rental-free plan.
“Starting tomorrow (24 July), StarHub will grant a total of S$120 to each customer willing to part ways with pirate set-top boxes that may not be in compliance with the proposed amendments to Singapore’s Copyright Act,” said StarHub in a press release.
It added, “In exchange, customers will get free two-year rental of StarHub TV+ box, a plug-and-play Android TV-based media player which offers one-screen-for-all cinematic viewing experience with Ultra HD 4K support and fast Wi-Fi connectivity.”
Based on the Copyright Bill that was tabled in Parliament earlier this month, it will become illegal to sell set-top boxes that give access to pirated content if the proposed amendments are passed.
If an individual is found guilty of selling illegal boxes under the proposed amendments, he or she can be fined up to S$100,000, jailed for up to five years, or both.
For entities like companies, they can be fined up to S$200,000.
If the proposed amendments are passed in Parliament, they are expected to come into effect from November 2021.
With the tightening of the Copyright Act, it will also allow owners who have rights to the shows or movies to sue retailers.
All this while, there has not be clear indication on what the penalties are for retailers who sell the offending set-top boxes. This is partly because it is not even clear if such boxes violate the current Copyright Act.
Over on social media, netizens voiced their disappointment towards the telco for its set-top boxes due to its poor quality and constant problems it has been causing. Penning their thoughts in the Facebook page of The Straits Times, online users explained that there are always issues with their products which include poor internet connection and constant interruption with programs, causing them to frequently call StarHub’s customer care for assistance.
Some say it is also very expensive, noting that they will change to a new service provider once their contract ends with StarHub.
Others shared their bad personal experience with the telco company. They said that dealing with the company is “nightmare after nightmare”, adding that the channels offered are being reduced but customers still have to pay the original subscription rate with much lesser channels now.
“No penalties from them if they break contract, but penalise customers if we do! Just waiting for my subscription to end,” one user wrote.
Another user explained that she signed up for the broadband service in February this year and could not use it since there has been problem with the password. StarHub’s customer care did not get back to her for months on this issue, and she has been forced to pay the fee monthly even though she has not been able to use the broadband.
Some pointed out that set-top boxes are no longer relevant in today’s world as “contents are now streamed through Android applications on a cheaper price and clarity”.
However, a number of netizens expressed that StarHub should not “lock” customers with 2 years contract. They said that users should be given the freedom to watch what they want on platforms like Netflix or Prime.
They also reiterated that StarHub has the tendency to drop channels just like that, making it unfair for customers to pay high with much lesser channels to watch.