And it's not "for free" - I've been paying for this service since November 2012 and am still doing so.
You've been paying a monthly fee for the right to view and record the programmes they provide, not for the provision of the equipment to do so.
It's no different to a mobile phone contract where you get the phone free, provided you agree to a minimum term. That device has a warranty. However if it fails outside the warranty but inside minimum term, it's up to you to get it repaired/replaced at your own expense.
I don't believe for a moment that most customers would jump at the chance of losing all the recordings they have made. The engineer who came yesterday told me that a customer (a retired BT engineer himself) had refused to let him take his faulty box the previous week. This was because he was adamant that he owned said box. If BT regarded it as obsolete and not fit for purpose, they should provide another.
I believe now that there are different types of YouView box but when I got mine it was the standard hard drive recordring box.
The information I was given at that time (and still have) is quite unequivocal. It stated that I could keep the equipment provided as long as I was in contract for 12 months. If I cancelled withint the 12 months, the info states that if I did not return the kit, I "might have to pay our (ie BT's) costs to get it back". It may well be that I owned it from day one (though BT seem to want to suggest otherwise), but the fact that I own it now is pretty definite.
If the old box is no longer fit for purpose then legally BT need to provide a replacement so that I can access the service I am paying for. But they have no right to require the original box back as it is no longer their property.
It's simple enough. BTshould provide a new box that is fit for purpose but leave me to watch the recordings I've made on the obsolete one that is now mine. I've paid for the blasted thing multiple times over after all.
This is going nowhere.
There is a simple solution.
it is one I used when BT wouldn't let me downgrade the package I was on. I cancelled the service. On the day it ceased I ordered the service again at the kevel I wanted. Result a brand new box and new contract, I still have the other completely functional box here and working,
Mine is being cancelled in the very near future and I may well not bother to renew.The hassle every time it goes wrong is just too stressful.