Every month TV Licensing send out thousands of intimidatory letters to properties without a TV licence, irrespective of whether they need a licence or not.
According to John Whittingdale MP, chairman of the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee: "The tactics used by TV Licensing in their letters are intimidatory and cause genuine distress. Their records are not always correct, but they write letters that assume members of the public are criminals".
Journalist Alex Singleton, who used to write for the Telegraph and now works at the Daily Mail, summarised his thoughts: "The letters sent by TV Licensing are not acceptable. Rather than treat the BBC's customers decently, TV Licensing instead sees them as vermin, sending letters that intimidate and cause distress".
The BBC, in its role of Licensing Authority, reviews and approves the wording of every TV Licensing letter that appears in their standard cycle. It should be of huge concern that despite widespread public criticism neither the BBC or TV Licensing see anything wrong with what they do. They consider it perfectly acceptable to threaten people with hefty fines and court appearances when they have no evidence of wrongdoing at all.
It is important for people to realise that TV Licensing's letters are riddled with legal half-truths and innuendo. They are designed to scare people into paying the licence fee, regardless of their legal need to do so.
So what can a non-viewer do if they want to stop the monthly arrival of TV Licensing's noxious correspondence? You can't do this by completely ignoring TV Licensing, which would be our normal advice. Be absolutely clear that no-one is legally obliged to communicate or co-operate with TV Licensing, however, you will need to contact them to set out your stall, so to speak. Here are a few suggestions:
1. No-TV declaration: This option requires voluntary co-operation with TV Licensing. The occupier makes a no-TV declaration to TV Licensing either online or by phone. TV Licensing will record that no licence is needed, but will incorrectly claim they are entitled to come and check. They may place a guard on the address that stops letters for a fixed period of time, usually two years.
2. Cease and desist: This option requires contact with TV Licensing, although no co-operation is required. The occupier writes a letter to the effect that they are not using equipment to receive or record live TV programme services and consequently do not require a TV licence. The occupier asserts that TV Licensing's routine correspondence is causing unnecessary intimidation and harassment and demands they put a stop to it. The occupier also threatens legal consequences for TV Licensing if the letters continue. Past experience shows it's unlikely TV Licensing will comply with such a request, but they may place a guard on the address that stops the letters for a while.
Legally speaking there is little doubt that TV Licensing's letters amount to harassment, but the threat of legal action is of negligible concern to the BBC and TV Licensing. Unlike the occupier, who will have probably worked hard to earn his/her money, the BBC and TV Licensing are given their money on a plate, so aren't worried about the cost of legal defence.
3. Return to sender: This option requires contact with TV Licensing, although no co-operation is required. It will not prevent them from sending further letters, but gives the occupier the satisfaction of causing the BBC and TV Licensing administrative inconvenience and expense. Full details outlined in our previous "TV Licensing: Speak to the Organ Grinder, Not the Monkey" post.