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Tips for Avoiding TVL/BBC harassment

No contact

Simply ignore TVL/BBC. Their letters are computer-generated and sent out by the hundred-thousand. The purpose of these "official warnings" and threats of "imminent legal action" is psychologial rather than actual. Once this is realised, the letters cease to have any effect or credibility.

The same applies to street visits. If someone called at your door and asked to see whether you had a washing-machine or a food-mixer, would you let them in? Of course not, so why permit TVL/BBC to look for a TV, video or DVD player? People who work for TVL/BBC have no more right to enter private residences than people selling dusters.

Without entry, TVL/BBC have no sure means of knowing whether a house has equipment set up to receive broadcasts. That is why they rely on mass mailshots, declaring messages such as, "This is your final warning". They rely on householders' own reaction to these letters, and on self-incrimination during street visits. Without YOUR co-operation, TVL/BBC is impotent.

What about search warrants? Before a search warrant can be issued, TVL/BBC must satisfy the court that they have "reasonable grounds" for believing that broadcasts are being received at the unlicenced address. The simple absence of a licence does not constitute this, nor does the householder's refusal to communicate with TVL/BBC. To obtain a search warrant, TVL/BBC must offer the court positive evidence, such as seeing or hearing a television, or the householder's own admission. Without such evidence, TVL/BBC cannot apply for a search warrant, and without a search warrant, they cannot enter. So, they are back to square one.

The "no contact" method is therefore to ignore the letters and to keep the door shut to TVL/BBC visitors. A drawback of this approach is that TVL/BBC will keep coming, but the benefit is that it wastes their time and money: every £100 spent chasing "no contact" households is £100 less spent on the BBC itself. And that can only be a good thing.

Always remember the following if a TVL/BBC employee calls: If you know it is them, do not answer the door. If you do answer the door, and then find out who they are, smile politely and close the door (do not engage in conversation). If they have already been let in, instruct them to leave; they are obliged to do so, as indicated in TVL/BBC's booklet "About TV Licensing":
"If one of our Visiting Officers calls at your home they will ... stop the enquiry if asked to leave ... [they will] only enter a property when given permission" (page 4, About TV Licensing, December 2004).

Finally, under no circumstances, do you admit or sign anything. TVL/BBC employees are not the police; they are a private company, and have no special legal powers. They rely on you providing information, which they will seek to use against you.

Other information

The less TVL/BBC know about you the better, so here are some more ideas to keep them off your back:

i) Be mindful of what information you give retailers. Retailers are required to pass names and addresses to TVL/BBC of all customers who buy a television, DVD or video player. TVL/BBC then use this information to update their mailing database.

ii) If you move house, do not inform TVL/BBC. There is no legal obligation to do so.

iii) Make sure your TV, if you have one, is not visible through the window, or audible from the letterbox. While there is nothing unlawful about having a television without a licence, TVL/BBC will automatically assume that it is receiving broadcasts.

iv) TVL/BBC sometimes send letters by recorded delivery, requiring your signature. This enables them to confirm your identity and update their database. They also hope that signing for an "official warning" will give you a fright. So, ask to see where a recorded delivery has come from before signing. If it is from Bristol BS98 1TL, refuse it (keep a note of TVL's postcode by your front door for easy reference).

v) TVL/BBC sometimes phone people up. If a caller asks for you by name, ask who is phoning before confirming your identity. If the reply is "TV Licensing" or similar, replace the handset. Do not engage in conversation. If you give your identity, it enables TVL/BBC to update their database.

vi) Beware dirty tricks. For instance, a caller pretending to do a survey; "Have you got a music centre?", followed by, "Have you got a TV?", or "What's your favourite TV programme?" Always confirm the identity of the caller.

The following are good practice, regardless of your TV licensing requirements:

vii) Have your details removed from the publicly available version of the electoral roll. You can do this by ticking the relevant box on your voter registration form. See further details from the Electoral Commission.

viii) Have your telephone number removed from the phone directory; details to be found in the phone book.

ix) Join the Mailing Preference Service, the Telephone Preference Service and the Fax Preference Service.

x) Do not give your name on your answer machine's recorded message.

xi) Do not give consent for your details to be given to third parties; for instance, when completing coupons for special offers, magazine tear-off slips and promotional questionnaires and flyers. Always tick the non-disclosure box.

Complaints against TVL/BBC, and how to make them

This website advocates minimal or zero contact with TVL/BBC. However, if you wish to contact them for purposes of a complaint, below is where to write. This is a three-stage process; start with the first address, and move to the second and third if the responses are not satisfactory. According to its 2005 annual report, TVL/BBC received 18,000 written complaints, and 5,000 by telephone, so you will be in good company.

1) Head of Customer Relations
Customer Relations Department
TV Licensing
Bristol BS98 1TL
2) Customer Services Director
TV Licensing
Bristol BS98 1TL
3) Customer Relations Manager
BBC TV Licensing Management Team
PO Box 48309
London W12 6YA