back to article ZX Spectrum Vega firm's lawyers targeted by empty-handed backers

Disgruntled customers of ZX Spectrum Vega+ firm Retro Computers Ltd have complained to the Solicitors’ Regulation Authority (SRA), alleging ringfenced company funds are being diverted into its legal battles. The gist of the grievances is an allegation that some of the £513,000 given to RCL by 5,000 members of the public to put …

  1. wolfetone Silver badge

    Have they donated any money to the charity yet?

  2. Lee D Silver badge

    RCL MD David Levy told us: “We are not interested in commenting to The Register due to its repeatedly biased reporting.”

    Is it just me that reads that as "God, if we say the wrong thing they'll tell everyone, and we can only refuse to say the right thing"?

    Sorry, but say "No comment" or give a comment, even if it's just neutralised legalese. Sour grapes just makes me think that you are looking for excuses NOT to talk.

    1. Halfmad

      It's a knee jerk reaction to bad press, much like Disney and the LA times etc.

      Just shows how amateur the company management are!

    2. TheVogon

      >RCL MD David Levy told us: “We are not interested in commenting to The Register due to its repeatedly biased reporting.”

      Uhm, but doesn't the opportunity to comment give you a chance to tell another side of the story if there has been any error / inaccuracy ? I can only assume that there isn't one and everything is 100% accurate and true....

  3. Nevermind

    The only people getting any benefit...

    are the legal bods. Perhaps RCL might like to rename themselves Bleak House or something.

    1. Tom 7

      Re: The only people getting any benefit...

      Blakey House.

  4. Anonymous Coward

    One day my Vega+ will arrive...

    ...and either I or my descendants will enjoy its retro charm.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    repeatedly biased reporting...El reg... hold on

    Biased towards being nearly true, and in some cases, intentionally graphic or sarcastic perhaps.

    I have not found the register particularly biased and there is a large following of commentards to keep things reasonably balanced (as long as Windows and Linux, Apple, and Google are not part of the story in which case it's simply healthy debate rather than bias)

    Do I get the sniff that there is not enough uninformed, no questions asked, propaganda about them (or others) for them to be interested, or indeed that they have no actual statement to make? in believe an official "no comment" can still be used against you... but don't slap the bird that feeds you...

  6. Frank Bitterlich

    "Update" posted

    Looks like they have just posted (an hour or so after this article was posted) an "update" on the progress of the project on the Indiegogo page... A video (low-res, low-quality) that shows some unidentifiable block of metal (tha case?) being worked on in some CNC rig. Oh, and a shot of several sheets of colored vinyl.

    It's on

    And they wonder why they're getting bad press?

  7. DontFeedTheTrolls


    Can't help thinking that if you kick off a legal stink over spending money on legal affairs, more money will be spent on legal affairs.

    Damned if you do, damned if you don't!

    Ultimately this is a perfect example of something going wrong with a crowd funded project. They can be a risky investment, and no matter what is written in any agreement, the investors are going to be last in line to get money back if something goes wrong. You are an investor, not a customer.

    I do hope this one works out and everyone gets their Vega+, it certainly started with good intentions.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Catch-22

      Hey Derek.

      "going wrong" is utterly disingenuous; it implies unforseen obstacles and unaviodable delays that cannot be helped, not frittering vast sums away on legal wrangling and "consultancy fees".

      The only people with "good intentions' were the ex-directors who were forced out after suggesting that perhaps the money should be spent on producing the device rather than lining pockets.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Catch-22

      Suzanne, is that you?

    3. John70

      Re: Catch-22


      If you read the Story section you will find. Take note of the last sentence.

      "The Vega+ project will be marketed by Retro Computers Ltd, a Luton-based start-up in which Sir Clive’s company, Sinclair Research Ltd, is a shareholder. The development and marketing of the Vega+ is under license from Sky In-Home Service Ltd, who inherited the intellectual property rights to the Spectrum computers from Amstrad. Development of the product is complete, and a fully-functioning prototype is ready to go into production."

      "Development of the product is complete, and a fully-functioning prototype is ready to go into production."

      This is what the backers paid for, a completed production ready product.

  8. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

    Angry complaint webpages- the way I.T geeks hit back!

    I thought I'd have a look for the psychadelic 404 page, but the top result is this rather fun "Annoyed Backers" page:

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Angry complaint webpages- the way I.T geeks hit back!

      Under Construction New Website Coming Soon.

      Searching RCL Vega+ gives this top result:

      I hope the product has had more effort put into it.

      1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

        Re: Angry complaint webpages- the way I.T geeks hit back!

        "Under construction"??

        Did I fall asleep and reawake in 1997?

        They seem to have missed off the "This site best viewed in Internet Wxplorer 6" banner though.

        1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

          Re: Angry complaint webpages- the way I.T geeks hit back!

          ... just add a MySpace logo, and the illusion of time travel is complete!

  9. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

    "I do hope this one works out and everyone gets their Vega+, it certainly started with good intentions."

    Yeah well , If you dont theres always all those free emulators to use on your device of choice.

    Thats the route I'd have taken in the first place .... and did..

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    “roll of honour”?!

    I thought it was of interest to the nostalgia-driven oldies like me, not some millenial i-farts?

  11. Jonathon Green

    Sounds familiar,,,

    “RCL has come out with excuse after excuse for not delivering the Vega+, having set numerous new deadlines which have all sailed past without any sign of a product emerging.”

    So, a completely accurate recreation of the original Sinclair early adopter experience then... :-)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Sounds familiar,,,

      yea except sinclair actually delivered a product in the end even if it was late or a touch buggy.

  12. adam payne

    In other news, former sales agent Nick Cooper has been declared bankrupt, following his own legal battle with RCL. Cooper’s firm, Cornerstone Media, was the link between RCL and major retailers, arranging sales of its Vega and promised Vega+ product and collecting monies due.

    So you managed to bankrupt the very people who are going to hopefully get you the sales you need to get yourselves out of the mess you are in. Oh OK, that's a great idea.

  13. Spartacus Mills

    do the math(s)

    Indiegogo (which, correct me if I'm wrong, makes its money by taking a cut of backer contributions) *stopped* any new backers from funding this project over 8 months ago. And in that subsequent 8+ months RCL have failed to provide any evidence of production, merely a long list of proposed delivery dates - all of which pass by, never to be referred to again.

    You don't even need to delve into the whole pile of other damning evidence being dug up to reasonably conclude that RCL are pulling a fast one.

  14. defiler

    I was interested

    I rather fancied one of these wee beasts. Not that I have a great reason to have one beyond fleeting nostalgia. I'm really glad I passed now, but I feel bad for the folks who tipped money into this burning pit.

  15. BarryUK

    Realistic experience

    To be fair, isn't this just like waiting month after month for the original ZX Spectrum to arrive?

    1. wimbledonpaul

      Re: Realistic experience

      no, the original spectrum did actually arrive in the end.

  16. Paul D Smyth

    Vega+ happy backer found riding Shergar while sipping Pims with Lord Lucan

    I didn't back this at the time but intended on buying one when it came out. When the original developers were forced out I began to smell something was rotten and challenged RCL on their facebook page. Over the past year excuse after excuse has been trotted out along with lots of dirty linen and comments about being picked on by the nasty bullies who originally came up with this. I repeatedly demanded to see evidence that Vega+ units were actually being produced. We got definitely by October 2016, then definitely by the end of the year. Then all backers units would ship in February 2017, then March and so on and so forth. I challenged RCL to show pictures of the components to prove that they had enough to manufacture these units. Nada. I am now of course banned from posting on their facebook group. Surprised I was able to for so long to be honest.

    Let's face facts:

    1. The money has mostly gone.

    2. There will never be a Vega+

    3. They do not have enough hardware to produce more than a couple of dozen.

    4. They have no software deals in place.

    5. All backers have lost their money.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Vega+ happy backer found riding Shergar while sipping Pims with Lord Lucan

      I repeatedly demanded to see evidence that Vega+ units were actually being produced.

      It may be worth looking at the prospectus, company announcements, and Companies House filings. Whilst the backers have undoubtedly lost their money, in the most recent Companies House filing the RCL share capital was £100. So were the backers "investors", and if so in what, exactly? Was there a prospectus? Was the company making misleading or incorrect announcements? If they were taking capital, did they have the correct FCA approval? Have they broken any rules? I don't know the answers, but it sounds as though there's something fishy here.

      If you aren't going to see your money again, it might be worth seeing if there's evidence to trigger regulatory action of some kind against the directors.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sinclair Vapourware

    Anything Sinclair seems to be vapourware - I laugh whenever El Reg covers the newest new C5-esque funding ripoff like those damned elec bikes. Crowdfunding is broken.

  18. Dwarf

    Completely authentic

    The original Sinclair machines were unreliable, they are just giving an authentic experience.

    1. wimbledonpaul

      Re: Completely authentic

      unreliable yes, but they actually existed and actually eventually arrived.

      anyone with a brain new the money from your order went to fund production.. exactly what this crowdfunder was for.. except unlike sinclair all the backers cash has been spent on anything but production.

      1. Random Handle

        Re: Completely authentic

        >unreliable yes, but they actually existed and actually eventually arrived.

        ...though if we'd had social media back then they would never have received the later cascade of orders needed to fix the initial botching. Not blaming social media for Vega+ which was doomed to fail with that team, but nostalgia has led us to forget how utterly, woefully useless Sinclair's management actually was.

  19. Captain DaFt

    "instead of rekindling fond memories of my early days with a computer [has] just left me with a sour memory."

    Nostalgia ain't what it used to be.

    Seriously. Once when one waxed nostalgic, you'd get together with old cronies (either at the pub, each others homes, or even online) and talk about how it was, and golden days lost to time.

    Now it's more like:

    "Remember when? You can relive the old days!

    Just Umpty-dump $/€/£/¥ and experience it all over again!

    That's a mere Umpty-dump $/€/£/¥!! Just send cash/debit/BC/firstborn to Shankem Corp today!

    Terms and conditions apply, see our webpage for more details, Shankem Corp accepts no liabilty for anything, ever! Product may not meet expectations, or even exist. No Refunds"

    1. salamamba too

      This has ever been the case. Remember the old Time/Life adverts for nostalgic music?

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Does this thing run

    SCO Linux?

    1. PabloPablovski

      Re: Does this thing run

      HalfLife3 OS

  21. StuntMisanthrope

    Opening Gambit

    Money and a dickhead, a dangerous combination. I predict he'll return to having sex with his robots shortly. #checkmate

  22. Mikko

    The nostalgic backers got a heartwarming dose of what it was like dealing with 80s era home computer entrepreneurs.

    I guess they met the bonus funding goal of the full Jack Tramiel experience.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: The Need For Speed


    Just had a poke around on that site and there are scans of bank statements. This Levy chap is ripping about £10k every 10-15 days out of the company, how is this allowed!? That's seriously taking the p**s.

  24. Anonymous Coward

    Is there any Indie project which did work out?

    So far all I've seen about Indie Go Go projects in the past is one thing: people taking money and not delivering the stuff which was promised. Not even giving you an honest "sorry, it didn't work but..." but just nothing, often mixed with completely changing their original story.

    Waterseer started out as a 'magical' product which would easily condense water from the air around it and by doing so collect / produce water. The first models shown in the advertisements were totally unrealistic (for example: a model which was attached to a bike (between the legs) and was supposed to collect energy through solar panels), and worse yet: if you did the math (first degree physics) you could conclude that this design could never work.

    In the mean time they managed to produce a prototype which is basically nothing more but a water condenser, like the ones already available in stores today. Of course, in the electronics store you pay around $75 - $100, a 'Waterseer' costs you approx. $773,-.

    The reason I mention them: check the comment section, notice anything familiar?

    Heck, just go to a random happening and you'll probably notice "weird stuff".

    I just discovered the "dBrand phone case", a "revolutionary" product: never drop your phone again. Once again, check the comment section. Some people started wondering: "how do you get the right GRIP when you can't even mention what type of phone you have?".

    Seems pretty important to me that you'll know the size of a phone before deciding if your casing can fit. But I guess that company only sees 1 'case' which is revenue and everything else doesn't matter.

    So yeah, anything on Indie Go Go which did work? To me it looks like one huge collection of snake oil merchants who walk a fine line between being a con artist and a plain out scammer.

    1. Spartacus Mills

      Re: Is there any Indie project which did work out?

      Yeah, there needs to be a comprehensive overhaul of 'crowdfunding' rules - meaning rules that apply to everyone. It just seems so vague at the moment, and therefore a playground for scammers.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Is there any Indie project which did work out?

        Go by reputation: have the history of successfully delivering?

        I've funded 3 or 4 projects on Kickstarter and they're all delivered or are about to deliver.

        Otherwise, it's not and never has been a "investment", it's a gamble and you should approach it that way.

        It absolutely isn't an investment! Your ROI will be 0%. Always. The best you will get is the product you think you paid for.

        You're a customer.

        In this particular case, given that it's a UK company, I don't understand why people aren't going for them under the Sale of Goods Act or Distance Selling Regulations or even just a chargeback on their credit card.

    2. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      Re: Is there any Indie project which did work out?

      Nah, you've got that all wrong. Waterseer only tanked (heh) because they never got those power converters from Tosche Station.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Is there any Indie project which did work out?

      Yep, PyDev/LiClipse was a success and actually delivered. IIRC the author also had a legitimate reason to go Indiegogo (at least at that time).

      I do agree however that the choice of crowdfounding platform should be a criterion (one of multiple) when deciding whether to fund a project or not.

  25. Pete4000uk

    Just one of many...

    ... retro kickstart thing that has gone up in smoke.

    Anyone follow the Colecovision saga?

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Welcome to the world of investing

    If you want to know you’re getting something buy it from Amazon.

    If you want to fund a start-up for a hefty discount, you are funding not buying. There is a big difference.

    1. Spartacus Mills

      Re: Welcome to the world of investing

      Yep, and I totally agree with theory.

      However, in practice, the Indiegogo campaign here clearly states that for a specific amount of money (£100 plus p+p) all backers will "Own a first production run Vega+". - and they also stated the device was ready to go into production. Hardly sounds like a random punt now does it?

      If what they actually meant was "please donate as much or as little as you want, then if you're lucky we *might* send you something." then they should've said that from the outset. (and I wonder how much of that half a mil they'd have made in just a few days in that case.)

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    After all the cash is spent on legal bills

    Original investors will be sent a T shirt that states:

    I paid for a ZX Spectrum Vega+ and all I got was this T shirt.

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