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This blog is to highlight the unjust persecution of legitimate non-TV users at the hands of TV Licensing. These people do not require a licence and are entitled to live without the unnecessary stress and inconvenience caused by TV Licensing's correspondence and employees.

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Wednesday, 29 October 2014

TV Licensing: Where There's Muck, There's Money

Sue TV Licensing

The TV Licensing Blog is excited to report that one of our readers has successfully sued TV Licensing for the costs incurred having to deal with letters it sent to his correctly unlicensed property.

Phil, not his real name, suffered years of harassment at the hands of TV Licensing, despite having told them on several occasions that he did not legally require a TV licence. In common with thousands of innocent non-viewers across the UK, Phil’s pleas fell on deaf ears and TV Licensing continued to send him threatening letters regardless.

He read our article called "Standing Up to TV Licensing Harassment", which we first published back in October 2012. The article told the story of an ordinary member of the public, Richard Herman, who successfully forced a telemarketing firm to pay for the time he wasted having to deal with its unsolicited telephone calls. We reasoned that a legitimately TV licence-free person could use the same strategy to force TV Licensing into paying for the time they wasted having to deal with its letters. It turns out we were right.

Having read our article Phil set about making TV Licensing pay for the inconvenience it had caused him. It was a lengthy process and he had to jump through many legal hoops along the way, but Phil has just received the cheque TV Licensing was adamant it would never send. Like the bully it is TV Licensing is the first to issue hollow threats, but the last to pay any costs ordered by the court. We remind readers of the difficulty Michael Shakespeare had recovering costs from TV Licensing after its unsuccessful attempts to prosecute him.

For the sake of clarity, we shall explain each of Phil's steps in chronological order:
  • 31st October 2012: Using the "TV Licensing Terms Letter" on our Resources page, Phil wrote to TV Licensing explaining that he did not require a TV licence and would charge a processing fee for any TV Licensing threatogram, phone call or visit that he received (image 001 in the accompanying Google Drive folder).
  • 6th November 2012: TV Licensing's Jason Seddon replied to Phil, stating that he had updated its records to reflect the fact that he didn't need a TV licence. TV Licensing also said it would not accept an invoice for time and costs, because Phil hadn't rendered services on its instruction and no agreement existed between them (image 002).
  • 13th November 2012: Phil wrote back to TV Licensing reiterating the terms given in his earlier letter of 31st October. Phil reminded TV Licensing that if it continued to visit or send correspondence, that would denote its acceptance of liability for any processing fee incurred (images 003a/b).
  • 27th May 2014: Despite having earlier received Phil's terms TV Licensing sent a letter to his property. He duly sent it an invoice for £40 to cover the processing fee incurred (image 004).
  • 10th June 2014: TV Licensing's Rebecca Midgley replied to Phil, stating that she had updated its records to reflect the fact that he still didn't require a TV licence. TV Licensing again said that it would not accept an invoice for time and costs, citing the same reasons as before (image 005).
  • 22nd June 2014: Phil wrote back to TV Licensing and told it that payment of the invoice was overdue. The invoice made use of bold black lettering, in much the same way as TV Licensing's threatograms do (image 006).
  • 1st July 2014: TV Licensing's Chris Giles replied to Phil explaining that it never stops writing to any address, because the circumstances might change over time. TV Licensing again refused to pay the processing fee incurred and pointedly stated that any more letters from Phil would be filed without reply (image 007).
  • 6th August 2014: Using the "TV Licensing Letter Before Action" on our Resources page, Phil wrote to TV Licensing. He explained that if it didn't pay the invoice before 20th August he would commence proceedings to recover the outstanding debt in the County Court (image 008).
  • 14th August 2014: TV Licensing's Jianni Cave replied to Phil, seemingly ignoring the fact that Chris Giles had said it wouldn't respond anymore. In a patronising tone TV Licensing gave the following rationale for sending threatograms: “The course of action we pursue is necessary for the prevention of crime, which is itself necessary in a democratic society for public safety and protection of the rights and freedoms of others.” Once again TV Licensing said it would not accept Phil's invoice, as no contract existed between them (image 009a/b).
  • 22nd August 2014: At a cost of £25 Phil filed his claim against TV Licensing with the County Court (image 010).
  • 12th September 2014: The County Court entered a judgment against TV Licensing, which had failed to respond to the claim. The court ordered TV Licensing to pay £79.03, which included the original £40 processing fee and reimbursement of court postage costs (image 011).
  • 26th September 2014: Having heard nothing from TV Licensing in the fortnight since a judgment was made against them, Phil decided to stir it into action. He wrote a further letter explaining that if TV Licensing didn't pay the £79.03 he would seek a court warrant to recover the debt. Phil informed TV Licensing that the £50 warrant fee and £6.40 in extra postage costs would be added to the outstanding debt (image 012).
  • 8th October 2014: Having still heard nothing from TV Licensing, Phil instructed the court to issue a warrant. The warrant fee was actually £70 (image 013).
  • 6th October 2014: TV Licensing sent Phil a letter and cheque for £79.03, but it didn't arrive until the day after he had requested a court warrant. In the letter TV Licensing offered some wholly unconvincing sob story about receiving the judgment late because it had the incorrect post code on it. It's funny how all the other letters managed to find their way to TV Licensing correctly (images 014 and 015).
  • 16th October 2014: TV Licensing, having learnt about the court warrant, wrote a letter to Phil explaining that a second cheque for the balance of £70 was posted a few days earlier, bringing its total payment to the balance of £149.03. Seemingly ruffled by this stage, TV Licensing said the following: “We would be grateful if you could confirm receipt of the full amount ASAP so as to prevent any further enforcement of the warrant.” It would appear that TV Licensing was worried at the prospect of bailiffs calling to recover the debt (image 016).
  • 20th October 2014: Having failed to receive the second cheque TV Licensing claimed to have sent, Phil wrote a final letter demanding payment before he authorised bailiff enforcement of the warrant. For added impact the letter was given a thick red border, akin to a TV Licensing threatogram. Phil told TV Licensing: “I suggest you stop playing games and send a replacement cheque to me immediately.” He also explained that he has no intention of stopping enforcement action until both of TV Licensing’s cheques had cleared (image 017).
  • 28th October 2014: TV Licensing sent Phil a letter in response to his red-bordered final demand of 20th October. Enclosed was a photocopy of the letter and cheque TV Licensing claimed to have posted on 10th October. The 10th October letter said that TV Licensing "would be grateful if you would contact the bailiffs to confirm that these monies have now been paid". By coincidence the original letter and cheque dated 10th October also arrived with Phil (images 18-20).
We have placed copies of Phil’s documents in this Google Drive folder. In the same folder you will find his comments on the whole process.

At several stages in their dialogue TV Licensing told Phil that it wouldn’t accept an invoice, because it hadn’t accepted the terms set out in his initial letter. In our opinion, which is borne out by this recent judgment, TV Licensing’s argument in that respect is seriously flawed. It is accepted that TV Licensing has a statutory duty to make enquiries about the licensable status of unlicensed properties, but it can achieve that goal by sending a single letter. It is totally unreasonable of TV Licensing to continue its aggressive enquiries, when the occupier of a property has already informed it that no TV licence is needed.

Phil told TV Licensing quite clearly from the outset that he didn’t need a TV licence. At that stage TV Licensing had fulfilled its statutory duty of enquiry. Phil also explained that if TV Licensing chose to send further letters, it was accepting liability for any processing fee incurred. TV Licensing made that choice of its own volition. It had previously been warned, in single-syllable words, of the consequences of making that choice. No-one held a gun to TV Licensing’s head and it could have easily refrained from sending Phil anything else.

Why shouldn’t TV Licensing pay for wasting Phil’s time? TV Licensing knowingly sent letters to a person whose TV-free status was known and who said he didn’t want to receive them. By doing that TV Licensing was expecting an action on the Phil’s part, so why shouldn’t he charge them for the wasted time and effort? Or is TV Licensing making the ludicrous suggestion that it sent letters to Phil without expecting him to take any action? Is TV Licensing seriously trying to claim that it sends 100,000 letters every working day, at considerable expense to the TV licence-fee payer, but doesn’t expect anyone to take the time to open and read them? That’s totally absurd, even by TV Licensing’s standards. TV Licensing chose to send further letters to Phil with the expectation that he would spend time reading them, thus it had agreed to his terms.

Phil's court success is a pivotal moment in the fight against TV Licensing's caustic and legally unjustified methods of enquiry. It demonstrates that TV Licensing can be held to account and is not above the law as it often seems to think. For the princely sum of £25 it is possible to cause TV Licensing considerable inconvenience and ultimately, as in the case of Phil, make them pay for their misdeeds. As Phil would testify, suing TV Licensing has not been a difficult process to achieve, despite it eking out time and trying to sicken him into submission. If enough people did this it would have a negative impact on TV Licensing’s (e.g. Capita's) business and it would be forced to rethink its sinister tactics.

With a bit of legal nouse and perseverance the victims of TV Licensing can fight back and we implore them to do so. Now the precedent has been set, anyone receiving TV Licensing’s noxious correspondence might like to take court action of their own. We really think that a few more CCJs against TV Licensing will help focus its mind. Full details are given in our “Standing Up to TV Licensing Harassment” article.

It's time to make a collective stand against TV Licensing threats, harassment and intimidation.

Anyone seeking further information about this article can contact us via the email address on the sidebar.

Edit (9/11/14): Phil's case was discussed on Nick Abbot's LBC Radio show last night (more info here). A small piece also featured on page 41 of The Times yesterday. We are hopeful that the story will get more coverage over the coming days.


Hughie said...

Hearty congratulations to 'Phil'. You sir,are a star!
At last,someone sticking it to TV Licensing.

Anonymous said...

This should be a sticky on the TVLR forum. One of the reasons that TVL get away with so much is because successes against them tend to vanish into the mists of time.

Anonymous said...

This is tremendous. As you say, it sets a legal precedent. If enough legally license free people are made aware of and take this approach then the tide could really turn in the fight against TVL's archaic tactics.

Anonymous said...

Excellent work, I applaud his patience and tenacity. This is a precedent for all non-live TV broadcast viewers. Now go and get them!

AndyH said...

well done to Phil. i am going along the exact same road at the moment, although I am in the early stages. I am being mocked for it, but when the money starts to come in from TVL i shall donate it to some worthy TV licence fighting cause!

Admin said...

Best of luck with that Andy.
Please be sure to let us know how it goes.

Elby the Beserk said...

"TV Licensing also said it would not accept an invoice for time and costs, because Phil hadn't rendered services on its instruction and no agreement existed between them"

Well, EXACTLY! "No agreement existed between them", hence Capita had no right to keep writing to him.

Anonymous said...

Excellent news, and well done to Phil.

Very importantly, the form of wording that he used can be used by anyone to stem the BBC/TVL's junk mail, or they would risk having the same judgement against them time after time.

Maryon Jeane said...

Brilliant, 'Phil' - well done!

AndyH - don't listen to the people who are too lazy or scared to do what you're doing and who would rather spend their time and energy denigrating your initiative and action, keep up the excellent work.

Joe Public said...

1. Why only £40 per letter?

2. Second and subsequent letters should also have an escalator charge due to the fact that there is more 'previous correspondence' to refer to.

Maryon Jeane said...

Forgot to say: I think that the idea of copying the format of TV Licensing's threatograms which 'Phil' executed so well is really good - and very funny.

Fred Bear said...

Brilliant! Well done, Phil

Anonymous said...

"TV Licensing also said it would not accept an invoice for time and costs, because Phil hadn't rendered services on its instruction and no agreement existed between them"

The hubris!

Anonymous said...

Well done 'Phil'; your story is both inspiring and satisfying.

I am in the same boat as him: I don't have a t.v. and I don't want one. I have told the enforcement agency that I haven't got a t.v., but the letters keep landing on my mat. Twice I have come home from work to find a piece of paper pushed through my door saying that I have refused to answer their enquiries and that I am "under investigation". This despite the fact that I sent the first three or four letters back - years ago now - properly filled out. I have been alternately putting them on the fire and writing 'Return to Sender' on them and putting them back in the box now for ten years or so. I just wish they'd been forced to pay Phil more money. However, I didn't realise it cost so little to give them a bit of a headache, so even if the court doesn't make them cough up, it may still be worth it. Thanks all, and best wishes.

mikebravo said...

Well done to Phil but, he won by default as TV licensing failed to respond to the court. That is the usual way with large money grubbing corporations. It may well have been a different result if it had gone before a JP (member of the thieving establishment).

Anonymous said...

I could have vomited when I read this bit - "The course of action we pursue is necessary for the prevention of crime, which is itself necessary in a democratic society for public safety and the protection of the rights and freedoms of others"

There is nothing democratic whatsoever about the TV Tax as far as I’m concerned. Hypocrites.

Unknown said...

Yeah, and what about the "rights and freedoms of others", don't we, the LLF have a say?! That is one company that has been smoking the "strong stuff". Then again, when you've been the mouth piece of a propaganda machine for a while, you do start to go a bit crazy and start to believe the lies.

Chris said...

I'm more measured over this victory. The outcome appears to be entirely down to Capita's failure to respond to events, ie ultimately a process failure. That's not to say it wouldn't have gone this way anyway but that has not been tested here.

Admin said...

Yes Chris - Capita's arrogance in not responding, because it was scared of any defence it offered failing.

That's an alternative perspective, which we're more inclined to side with.

It wouldn't be the first time Capita had chosen to ignore a court, because it thought it was untouchable.

As luck would have it we think this is enough of a victory for other people to try the same.

Hopefully, when Capita fails to defend a dozen or more of these cases, people will come around to our way of thinking.

Anonymous said...

I did hte same I wrote to them to remove my implied rights of access also with a fee schedule, they wrote back saying they would not pay any fees as no contract existed between us. I wrote back and said that works both ways never heard athing in over a year now, still have all the letters just for if/when court comes.

Dodger said...

CRAPITA, like most "outsourcing" firms, is grossly inefficient. After years of dodging payment of the tax, I eventually qualified for a free licence (age 75 if you ask), so I made a straightforward application some 3 months before my birthday. This must have caused "The Database" to "crash", because while I received an acknowledgement, I heard nothing for 9 months, thereby gaining another 3-month "freebie". Finally the licence arrived, so I'm now "On The Database".

Bill said...

What makes angry me about the B.B.C. and the gravy-trainerst they employ is the self- righteous tone they adopt.Their 'We are the moral conscience of society' type of attitude.When the fact of the matter is they are full of cant and hypocrisy.The whole B.B.C. circus is propped up by a gang of unsophisticated bullies called CAPITAS who seem to delight in intimidating ordinary people going about their lives.The tone of CAPITAS correspondence is unique when compared to other organisations or commercial companies.This tone is thuggish,threatening and coercive.Combined with these attitudes is the staggering presumption that those who do not possess a television or watch online must be criminals.What other organisation could get away with this? While CAPITA is rightfully criticised for its bungling incompetence, its enthusiasm in enforcing the terms of this contract, including the pathetically clownish licence enforcement teams,they,CAPITA, are only a nodding donkey employed by the B.B.C. to do its dirty work.The the B.B.C. is very adept in a slyly calculating way at distancing itself from any controversy surrounding the enforcement regime of its own licence fee. If CAPITA were contracted to anyone else other than themselves-a phone company for example- you could imagine the moral outrage of the B.B.C. A slew of T.V./Radio programmes plunging a knife into the evil heart of that company.The recent furore regarding excessive B.B.C salaries and the broadcasters mendacious response to the public's concern clearly illustrates this devious character.The next time you see newscasters smirking their way through the news, think ,what underpins these confident millionaires,yes, an aura of untouchability.Why can't an 'online' petition be started to address the relationship between the B.B.C. and its enforcer CAPITA.They both appear to be doing very nicely.Thank you. At the end of the day the 'buck' must stop not with CAPITA but with the arrogant B.B.C.

kernowpz said...

I have recently bought a TV license as unfortunately i do now have a TV although i very rarely us it to watch bbc channels mainly because there is nothing of interest. My ex partner was paying the license prior to this as she was the main one who watched TV but when she left i genuinely forgot about it down to the fact that i have never had a tv prior to this. so ended up having a guy turn up to my door regarding the license. i will give him his due he was very pleasant and polite and explained in good detail where i stood with regards to the license and even how i can get out of paying it if i wanted to. But recently i have had a threatening letter from them threatening prosecution if i default. now i have been medicaly diegnosed with anxiety and depression, luckily its only mild but someone with more savere anxiety could end up very ill as a result of such a letter