Pensioners to face BBC enforcers after free TV licence axe – what are your rights?

Martin Lewis explains who needs a TV license

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The public broadcaster has instructed Capita, the firm responsible for enforcing the licensing fee, to contact the homes of over 260,000 pensioners in the UK who are being forced to pay up.

During the pandemic, a licence fee amnesty was introduced to financially support those aged 75 or over.

In order to fund the BBC and the country’s public broadcasting services, the Government asks the public to pay a licence fee on top of their taxes.

However, this came to an end on July 31 and the eligible pensioners who have yet to arrange their payments will be asked to fork over their cash or risk prosecution.

Capita will undertake thousands of “customer care visits” to the homes of pensioners throughout the month, after a written warning stating it is a legal requirement to have a valid television licence.

Individuals could face a £1,000 fine if it has been found that they have been watching, recording or downloading programmes illegally, or even be given jail time.

Inspectors are permitted to visit householders in person if the fee is believed to have not been paid, however it is more likely individuals will receive a series of progressively strongly worded letters warning of the consequences of not paying the fee.

If someone refuses to let a TV licence inspector into their home, they will likely get a court order which will allow them to enter that person’s home without their consent.

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Licence Fee: Couple worried

Licence Fee: Pensioners face BBC enforcers after free licence for over 75s axed (Image: GETTY)

Television licence inspectors are not permitted to visit someone’s house if they are not present, unless they have a warrant.

When an inspector visits someone’s home, they will examine evidence of any television’s being set up in the household and ask a series of questions about viewing habits.

Furthermore, they will ask for that person’s signature confirming the accuracy of their notes.

Individuals may be interviewed by the visiting enforcer under the Communications Act 2003, but only after a caution has been issued.

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Inspectors will present two forms of identification when introducing themselves and will only enter the property when given permission.

While enforcers must be respectful of people’s privacy and wishes, they will wear a body camera during the process.

Presently, households have to hold a TV licence in order to watch live television or stream BBC iPlayer.

On April 1, the annual TV licence fee increased to £159 a year or £13.25 per month in line with inflation.

TV Licence: Former BBC buidling

TV Licence: The annual TV licence fee increased to £159 a year or £13.25 per month in line with inflation (Image: GETTY)

Households watching pre-recorded broadcasts or streaming content from providers, such as Netflix and Disney+, are obligated to pay the fee.

Anyone aged 75 or older, who is receiving Pension Credit, is eligible to receive a free TV licence.

Pension Credit is a form of extra payment, outside of a regular pension, which can assist the elderly with their living costs if they are over the state pension age and on a low income.

Adam Stachura, Age Scotland’s Head of Policy and Communications, argues that the scrapping of free TV licenses for over 75s could not have happened at a worst time for the country.

Mr Statchura said: “At a time when many older people are already feeling financially squeezed as a result of the pandemic with rising household costs, there’s a real risk that thousands of over 75s who fall just above the threshold for Pension Credit will be hardest hit and may face difficult decisions about how best to spend their money.

“Going forward, it’s important that any so-called ‘customer care’ visits are carried out with the utmost levels of understanding and respect, if indeed they need to take place at all, and that information is shared sensitively and accessible.

“The last thing we want is these visits being used as a fear mongering tactic, leaving older people anxious about an unexpected appearance at their door.”

Furthermore, Mr Statchura warned of the potential dangers which may arise for many Britons following the end of the free licence fee.

“With payment now expected, there’s also a risk of a surge in TV Licensing scams so it’s vital to be vigilant of any fraudulent request for payment from individuals claiming to be TV Licensing officials.

“If you have family or friends over 75, please check in with them to find out if they need further support – you may very well help them avoid an unnecessary bill.”

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