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I've recently been sent by mistake a copy of the letter that TV Licensing send out to people who don't have a TV license and since asking around I've found out that the same letter is sent regardless of the reason (not having a TV for example). This is a copy:

“Our Enforcement Officers have now been authorised to visit your address in *************. This is because we have no record of a TV Licence at your address and you haven't responded to previous letters.

Watching or recording TV programmes as they're being shown on TV, without a valid licence, is against the law. If our officers find that you're using TV receiving equipment, they may interview you under caution, in line with the police and criminal Evidence Act 1984 or Scottish criminal law.

What you say in this interview may be used as evidence later. Taking your statement will lead to you being taken to court and fined up to £1,000. Officers from our enforcement team catch around 1,000 licence evaders every day.

If you contact us now and buy a licence, we won't need to visit your home.”

I was very shocked by the aggressive and intimidating nature of this letter which grossly misrepresents the facts so as to read that not having a license is breaking the law and you will be fined, full stop. It would appear that at no point do they offer a free phone number or a reply envelope to facilitate a response and no matter how many times you respond stating that you don’t watch TV you will continue to get these letters and have to respond at your own cost to avoid an invasion of your home. It’s racketeering.

As a fully paying license holder I’ve asked that they reconsider the language to avoid the emotional distress that this letter may cause and pointed out I would be ashamed to have any association with a company that wasn’t concerned about the effects of such unpleasant communications. I’ve not yet had a response but I’ll let you know when I do. If you have a license and feel the same way I’m sure it would help if more people expressed the same concerns. Also, if you don’t have a license and have been harassed it would help to hear your story.

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Replies to This Discussion

Yes. I've received these too and we don't have TV. I also wrote to the licensing authority stating that the tone of the letters is threatening and appear to be deliberately misleading. For example, technically, a computer can be regarded as "TV receiving equipment" because, legally, the term is applied to any equipment capable of receiving broadcasts whether used for that purpose or not. After several exchanges of letters, I finally got written confirmation that computers will only be regarded as "TV receiving equipment" if they have actual evidence of it being used for that purpose (this does not include watching iPlayer, which does not require a licence). Nowhere in the initial threatening letters is this information provided and obtaining it took at least five letters from me, the last one threatening to take the TV licensing authority and the BBC to court with a charge of attempted extortion (demanding money and issuing threats).

The letters also fail to point out the limitations of the "enforcement officer's" powers. They have no right of entry into your home and may only do so in the presence of a police officer if they have actual evidence of licence evasion. As the authority has equipment that can accurately pinpoint households using a TV, there is no justification for sending out these letters to unlicensed addresses without first checking to see if they are actually using a TV.

The letter also fails to point out the householders rights and does not clearly state the circumstances under which a licence is not required. In fact, the letter only acknowledges one justification for not having a licence and that is the possibility that the householder has forgotten to purchase one... and should, therefore, do so at once.

The letter demands money and issues threats. It implies that the "enforcement officers" have greater powers than they actually do. Until the language and threatening tone of the letters is changed, there remains a strong case for extortion, particularly if cases where innocent householders without a TV have been intimidated into buying an unnecessary licence can be identified.

Many such cases can be found in care homes. The law states that only one licence is required for a care home with a TV in a commonly shared space. However, residents' bedroom are regarded as "households" and require a separate licence if they have TV in their rooms. Residents who do not own their own TV are frequently sent these letters (bearing in mind that they are vulnerable people). They are being told by the TV Licensing Authority that they must purchase a licence and they are being assured by a care assistant that they do not. Who are they going to believe? They invariably buy an unnecessary licence rather than risk prosecution.

If you are from the UK and have strong feelings about this, please contact:

Pipa Doubtfire (Yes. That's right... Mrs. Doubtfire)
Head of Revenue Management
BBC TV Licensing
Room 4436
BBC White City
201 Wood Lane
London W12 7TS

Stress your concern that the BBC and the TV licencing authority seem to be using intimidation to extort money.



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