A few days ago we were contacted by a reader called Laura, who told us that her mother was concerned about a letter she'd recently received from TV Licensing.
Laura explained how her mother, who doesn't legally need a TV licence, was visited by a TV Licensing goon a few weeks ago. Her mother explained the situation to the goon and sent him on his merry way.
Given the innocuous nature of her interaction with the goon, Laura's mother was rather surprised to receive a letter saying that TV Licensing believed she was using a television receiver without a valid TV licence. The letter went on to say that TV Licensing could apply for a search warrant (these are exceptionally rare).
This is not the first time we have heard about TV Licensing threatening innocent people with a search warrant. We believe it is a desperate TV Licensing ploy to coerce payment from people with no legal need for a TV licence. The BBC knows all about the Spanish practices employed by TV Licensing, but is happy to turn a blind eye and deny any knowledge of wrongdoing as long as the money keeps rolling in.
A few years ago we mentioned the case of retired engineer Andy Mitchell, who TV Licensing threatened with a search warrant when it wrongly accused him of receiving TV programmes on equipment he didn't even possess.
TV Licensing goons have strict performance targets and can earn attractive commission payments by nabbing a large number of "evaders".
With terms of employment like that, it is perhaps little wonder that some TV Licensing goons decide to fabricate evidence of non-existent offences against legally-licence-free people like Andy and Laura's mother.
The full text of the letter, from TV Licensing's Darwen office, appears below:
This office is responsible for the enforcement of legislation concerning the TV Licensing system.
A visit was made recently to your premises by an Enquiry Officer and as a result of that report we believe than an unlicensed television receiver is being used on your premises to receive television programmes.
The legislation authorises an application to be made to a Magistrates' Court for a "Search Warrant" to enter and search your premises. This will be avoided if you immediately obtain and forward a copy of your licence or receipt covering the use of a television receiver at your address to me.
There are various ways to pay for your TV Licence.
By Direct Debit: You need to have a bank or building society account that accepts Direct Debit. You can pay monthly, quarterly or yearly. When you have chosen which of the following schemes suits you best, just visit tvlicensing.co.uk/dd or call us on 0300 790 6063 with your bank details to hand.
Note that monthly and quarterly options are only available for a colour licence.
Yearly: Your bank or building society will automatically transfer the full licence fee once a year. This means you won't have to worry about your licence expiring.
Quarterly: We split your licence fee into four equal payments which you pay every three months. A small premium of £1.25 will be added to each of the four payments.
Monthly: If you don't already have a TV Licence, you'll usually be able to pay for your first one in five equal monthly payments (although the number of payments may vary slightly depending on when you apply).
After this you can start paying towards your second licence is 12 monthly instalments of less than £12 per month. So, you'll make six payments before your second licence begins and six payments after. Once the Direct Debit is set up, future licences can continue to be paid for in this way. The payments will always add up to the same amount as the annual licence fee.
Cash payment plan: If you'd like to pay weekly for your TV Licence, you can make instalments of as little as £5.60 with a TV Licence payment card. Please call 0300 555 0300.
By post: Just write a cheque made payable to 'TV Licensing' for the full amount. Please write your name, address, postcode and reference number on the back and send it to us at TV Licensing, Darlington, DL98 1TL. Please do not send cash payments.
By debit/credit card: If you have a debit/credit card, such as Maestro, Solo, Visa, Visa Electron or MasterCard you can pay for your licence over the phone. Simply ring 0300 790 6063 with your card details to hand. The full licence fee will be transferred from your account and your new licence sent out to you.
At any PayPoint outlet: You can pay for a full colour TV Licence by cash or debit card at any PayPoint outlet. You will be issued a licence, which you must keep safe. There are more than 23,000 PayPoint outlets across the UK, including newsagents, convenience stores, supermarkets and petrol stations. To find a local PayPoint outlet, visit paypoint.com/locator.aspx or call 0300 790 6137.
A reply envelope is enclosed for you to return a copy of your licence or receipt with this letter.
Thank you for your co-operation.
TV Licensing will end up with egg on its face if it decides to go down the search warrant route. Safe in that knowledge, we have advised Laura's mother to continue ignoring TV Licensing's hot air and bluster. She'll be waiting with a camera if they choose to visit anyway.
No-one should be bullied into paying for a TV licence they don't legally need.