Cancelling my TV licence
I get a letter
In July 2017 I received a letter from the TV Licensing organisation telling me they'd be taking £147 from my account on the 1st of August. I had set up a "Direct Debit" arrangement with my bank many years before which allowed them to do this, and had forgotten all about it.
When my kids were small, and later in their teens, a lot of TV was watched in my house. We used to watch all the over the air channels, and when things started to move towards digital in the UK I bought a PVR (aka DVR) which converted the Freeview channels into a signal for my analogue TV, and also recorded stuff on demand.
I watched some TV after I retired in 2009, but by 2013 with my kids having left home (to all intents and purposes), and the quality of what was available having fallen to a record low, I stopped.
When this letter arrived I realised I'd been paying for this licence to watch TV for several years without using it.
I throw out my TV
The old analogue, CRT TV sitting in the corner of my room (and the associated Freeview PVR) had not been turned on for 4 years, so it was time for them to go. So I took my TV to the recycling centre with the help of my son. The PVR will be hacked for useful components.
I cancel my licence
Next step was to stop paying this annual licence. The letter told me what to do. I discovered I fulfilled all the requirements listed there:
- I never watch or record programmes as they are being shown on TV
- I never download or watch BBC programmes on demand
- I don't do this on a TV, desktop computer, laptop, mobile phone, tablet, games console, digital box or DVD/VHS recorder.
I called the number on the back of the letter and cancelled.
The guy I spoke to said I'd get a letter of confirmation soon. I asked if they'd cancel the Direct Debit or whether I should. He advised me to cancel myself, so I did it immediately.
I get my confirmation letter
A number of days later I received a letter entitled (rather oddly) "Your No Licence Needed confirmation". It told me my no licence was valid from July 2017 and expired July 2019.
The letter did point out that I might receive a visit to "confirm that a licence isn't needed".
A friendly leaflet accompanying the letter contained the question and answer:
Can I be prosecuted for watching BBC programmes on BBC iPlayer without a licence?
Yes. From 1 September 2016, you risk prosecution and a fine of up to £1,000 plus any legal costs and/or compensation you may be ordered to pay.
I get an urgent letter from TV Licensing
On the 12th August I received a letter from TV Licensing which asked me to call them urgently because my bank had declined a Direct Debit payment request.
I called on the 14th August and was told that this was a mistake and the letter could be ignored.
However, to get this answer I had to navigate 4 menus and give my details to a robot. Of course the person I eventually contacted asked for the details all over again! This made me wonder if the robot is there for any purpose other than to be a deterrent to callers. The same goes for the 4 menus.
I get a phone call from TV Licensing
On 17th August I found a message on my answering machine asking me to call TV Licensing. I did so, and navigated the 4 menus again. This time the robot asked for my licence number, but since I reasoned I didn't have one I gave it the reference number of my no licence. That didn't work.
It then asked for my postcode, street name, house number and payment details. It confirmed the address stuff but when I said I didn't pay for a licence it passed me to a human.
The lady I was speaking to then asked for my name, address, postcode, etc. I asked why I was being asked for this again having just given it to a robot. Apparently these weren't passed through because I "failed" to answer all the questions properly. That's odd because the same happened last time when I got the questions "right"!
This time it turned out that the problem was that my no licence had been cancelled. No reason was given.
I asked why, if a thing I had carefully set up with the expectation of it remaining in place for 2 years had been cancelled, I hadn't been notified. I didn't get an answer.
It seems that TV Licensing has one of the worst systems for managing its "customers" on the planet. I told the representative that this was my opinion while I was on the phone.
I'm wondering what's next in the saga. Will it be the "heavies" at the door (I'm not obliged to let them in without a warrant, I discovered), a legendary TV Detector van outside my house (I'd like to see one and take a picture of it), another spurious money demand or unexplained loss of my details?
However, although it has been bad, this story did give me something to write and talk about for HPR so it's not all bad!