| Please do not write below this line
I have been vexed for some time by the request at the bottom of
each letter that I am not to write below the line.
I emailed TVL/BBC on 5 November 2006 to find out why:
|I've had a letter from TV Licencing and I'm interested in the
statement at the bottom of the page. It says: 'Please do not write below this
line'. I would like to know why the letter requests this. The line referred to
is about half an inch from the bottom edge of the letter.
What will happen if I write there? How would you know? I am not
asked to return the letter, so why the request?
Seven weeks later, on 27 December 2006, I receive
this from one Kelly Wright:
|Thank you for contacting us. Unfortunately I am unable to deal
with your request, as you have not provided your address and licence number. If
you have moved address I will need both your new and old address. Once I have
this information I will action your request and send you the appropriate form
|Dear Ms Wright,
I do not
have a licence. The letter was sent to me as part of TVL's routine mail-out. It
was not solicited by me. Copies of these letters are commonly reproduced on the
You will see that these letters say "Please do not
write below this line". So did the one sent to me. Please explain to me why I
am not allowed to write below the line.
Evidently, my question was too taxing for Ms
Wright, as the next response came from Ruairi Mcclean, on 3 January
|The reason you would receive such letters is because we would have
no record of a TV licence at your address.
The reason you cannot write below the line is because the letters
go through a OCR machine, and anything below the line is rejected.
OCR is an abbreviation for "optical character
recognition", software that scans documents for editing on a computer.
This explanation surprised me. I did not
understand why, having sent me a letter, TVL wanted it back to scan and edit;
why not scan it before sending it to me? I responded on 27 January
|Dear Mr Mcclean
for your reply. You say that I cannot write below the line because the letter
will go through a OCR machine, and anything below the line will be rejected.
I have two further questions:
i) I take it from your reply that
a TV officer is planning to collect the letter back off me in order to scan it.
Please tell me what purpose this serves.
ii) Anything I write above the line would also be
rejected by the OCR. Why am I allowed to write above the line, if I am not
allowed to write in the narrow strip beneath it?
On 30 January 2007, I received this reply from Cas
Licensing officer may call at your property not to collect the letters but to
check that you are not watching a TV.
You may write above the line but as we advised you
previously anything written below the line when they go through the OCR machine
they will be rejected.
If you would like to confirm your address I can up date our
records to advise no Television is being watched.
|Dear Ms Scott
Thank you for confirming that I may write above the line.
Please explain why, having sent me the
letter, you want it back for scanning. Also, please explain how I am to get the
letter to you.
6 February 2007: I have a reply from Gary
|Dear Ms Scott
Without your address we are unable to amend our records to show
that you are not using TV equipment.
To return an enquiry letter to TV licensing,
simply return it.
I don't seem to be getting a straight
|Dear Mr Bessell
Thank you for your reply. The purpose of my query is not to ask
why you want my address.
The information that I am seeking is why you want the letter back
for scanning. There was nothing on the letter that said I had to return it.
Please note that I
am not Miss Scott.
9 February 2007: a reply from Karen
|The information about returning the letter was not on the letter
itself but on the envelope.
reason we ask you to return the letter is to help us update our records,
however if you could provide us with your address we can update our records
without you returning the letter.
Having kept all my TVL/BBC envelopes, I examined
them to see whether any displayed an instruction that I was to return the
letter. None did. There was a return address but only was for undelivered
letters. I resist the temptation to pursue this point.
|Dear Ms Mcallister
Thank you for your reply.
What I still do not understand is why you would
wish to OCR my letter in order to update the records.
Obviously, the number below the line must be very
important. Please could you explain its purpose.
A reply from Carl
apologise that it has not been made clear to you. An OCR stands for a Optical
Character System. This machine enables us to deal/process with large volumes of
information in a relatively short space of time. The OCR machine reads the
information below the line and updates the corresponding records on our
computer system many times faster than if manually processed.
If the information
below the line is obscured in anyway the OCR machine will be unable to read the
information effectively. The number below the line is a unique number that
relates to the specific property that the letter has been sent to. Once this
number is read by the OCR machine it will automatically update the computer
records that relate to that letter/property/licence/application.
I hope the above
information is helpful.
I am still not satisfied. If I send a letter back
to TVL/BBC, and they scan the number at the bottom, it will generate the same
information as they have already got; so, what's the point?
Let's compare TVL/BBC's operation to another company. Below is a
scan of a pre-paid return postcard from a company called Santander, in which I
am a shareholder, which I am invited to return.
Santander requests that I do not write below the line but, unlike
TVL/BBC, there is an explanation which is on the right hand side. It says that
they will retrieve my personal data (which I have authorised them to hold,
unlike TVL/BBC) by scanning the barcode and number. This makes perfect
TVL/BBC letters, however, do not ask for its letters to be
returned, and Cas Scott has said that the letters are not sought by TVL/BBC
agents who make street visits. Even if they did collect the letters, the number
at the bottom would duplicate the information that they already hold. So, the
original question - why we not permitted to write below the line - remains a
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