TV Licensing has threatened a customer who renewed his TV licence in good faith, only to learn months later that the payment had actually failed due to an error with its computer system.
Todd Motto, 26, moved into a new property towards the end of September 2016. Moving home is always a stressful time and at the start of October, having unpacked the majority of his belongings, Todd finally found the time to set up a TV licence for his new place.
Like millions of other people Todd bought his new TV licence using the TV Licensing website. Having scrolled through pages of TV Licensing guff, Todd was relieved to finally see the words "payment successful" at the end of the laborious process. The arrival of the new TV licence in his email inbox confirmed, so he thought, that he was now licensed to enjoy TV programmes in the comfort of his new home.
On New Year's Eve, almost 3 full months since receiving his new TV licence, Todd received a letter from TV Licensing saying that actually, despite him having seen the "payment successful" message on its website, the payment had failed due to an error with its system. The letter, dated 29th December, explained that TV Licensing was revoking Todd's TV licence as a result of this error. TV Licensing invited Todd to buy a new TV licence, which it explained would be backdated to the start of October.
Todd, a software engineer and owner of training company Ultimate Angular, was rightly annoyed that TV Licensing had taken 3 months to notice its oversight, let alone waste more of his time going through the entire payment process again. As the New Year celebrations were in full swing, he put the letter to one side and vowed to sort out the TV licence a few days later.
On 5th January 2017, less than a week after telling Todd about its mistake, TV Licensing sent him an aggressively worded threatogram. According to the letter, TV Licensing was giving him ten days to buy a TV licence before it started a full investigation. The angrily worded letter threatened a fine of "up to £1,000". It wrongly stated that TV Licensing had made multiple attempts to contact Todd about his TV licence, when in fact it hadn't.
|An example of the TV Licensing "10 Days" threatogram.|
It is important to stress that in the 3 months between the start of October and end of December, TV Licensing made no effort whatsoever to inform Todd that his TV licence payment - which he made in good faith - had actually failed.
Todd turned to Twitter to vent his frustration at TV Licensing's heavy-handed approach to his situation, particularly as its systems had been responsible for the payment error.
"Your company is unbelievable. Sending me threatening letters after paying my licence 4 months ago in full, and because of your own systems issue, and now you’re blaming me?" he fumed.
"You messed up my payment, don’t tell me for 3 months, revoke my licence, then follow up with a letter warning me of '£1,000 fines', and potential 'criminal record' less than a week after telling me YOU messed up. Unreal." he continued
It is a bit of long-running joke that the TV Licensing website is chronically unreliable. Capita Business Services, the TV Licensing operations contractor, is responsible for maintaining the website and online payment system on behalf of the BBC.
Virtually every month the website grinds to a halt and thousands of TV Licensing customers, just like Todd, are left disappointed by its inefficiency.
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