Herbies, Grayston record ECJ victory for Sky+ box

Pay-TV broadcaster BSkyB and the world’s biggest ­producer of set-top boxes Pace have won a dispute regarding customs duties in the European Court of ­Justice (ECJ).

BSkyB was advised by Herbert Smith partner Lode Van Den Hende and represented in court by David Anderson QC of Brick Court Chambers, while Pace turned to partner John Grayston of Brussels-based Grayston & Co and was ­represented by Pump Court Tax Chambers barrister Jeremy White.

The two companies asked the court to overturn a ­decision by HM Revenue & Customs to impose a 13.9 per cent duty on pay-TV decoders with recordable hard-disk drives, such as the Sky+ box that is produced by Pace and used by BSkyB customers.

The ECJ ruled on 14 April that the devices should be classified as set-top boxes, which would exempt them from the duty, rather than as recording devices, which would incur the levy.

The ruling said: “The Sky+ box is principally intended to be used to receive TV ­signals and that function is inherent in that device. It thus constitutes its principal function and the recording function is only secondary.”

Pace general counsel Anthony Dixon, who worked closely on the appeal, told The Lawyer: “We’re pleased the ECJ ­supported our view of the classification of the Sky+ type set-top box as import duty-free.

“This successful outcome gives us clarity regarding the duty-free nature of this type of product going forward.”

The UK Government was represented by Owain Thomas of One Crown Office Row.