Threatening letters from TV Licensing

in Phones & TV
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  • jsmith9jsmith9 Forumite
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    If I was a cat and had nine lives I MIGHT allocate one of them to fighting Capita and TVL.

    As I only have one life, I will just manjana, fill in 'NoTV' as many times as I need to, give their inspectors a chocolate cookie when they call and sleep well at night.

  • Mickey666Mickey666 Forumite
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    I wouldn't even bother filling in their 'no tv' forms or even open any letters marked as from TVL.
    If an inspector turns up I wouldn't even open the door to them.
    I sleep very well.
  • edited 4 January 2021 at 11:13PM
    CornucopiaCornucopia Forumite
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    edited 4 January 2021 at 11:13PM
    Mickey666 said:
    ... At best, they may stop sending letters for a couple of years but then they'll start again on the pretext that people move house so they 'have' to keep sending them out...

    They must have a mechanism for ceasing harassment without concessions by the householder - this is both a logical conclusion (they wouldn't want to harass MPs, Judges, etc.) and concurs with my personal experience.   Whatever that list is, I am on it.  This follows a number of lengthy complaint letters to the BBC which ended when a BBC Board Director banned TVL from interacting with me.   This was a lot more than the usual 2 years ago, and I have heard nothing from them - nothing at all.

    FWIW, I agree with you - the regime is despicable.   Everything I know about it is highly questionable, and overall it is not something that we should entertain.  

    Personally, I've always suspected that there may be a DPA/GDPR related gambit that could be used against them.   In particular, I would want to test the effect (as FedUpwiththeBBC has suggested) of instructing TV Licensing not to process my data.   I suspect they would claim a law enforcement exemption, and that could then be tested with the ICO. 

    The intention would be to prevent them processing a name and address.  Again, it would be interesting to test whether a person's address was deemed personal info in this context.   Even if the address angle failed, it could perhaps be coupled with Cease and Desist, thereby driving large holes through the TVL process and probably adding another entry to the "No Hassle" list (and an entry on that list could be usefully added as a consent to process data).
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  • Mickey666Mickey666 Forumite
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    "Whatever that list is, I am on it.  This follows a number of lengthy complaint letters to the BBC which ended when a BBC Board Director banned TVL from interacting with me.   This was a lot more than the usual 2 years ago, and I have heard nothing from them - nothing at all."
    Well done!  it sounds as if you spent a lot of time complaining to the right people and certainly got their attention, so all due respect to you for that.
    When I 'engaged' them at a previous address they eventually wrote to me explaining that they would desist from sending any further letters for two years.  This, they argued, was on the basis that circumstances can change so they need to verify that a licence is still not required every so often. 
    Perhaps if I had continued to escalate things instead of just ignoring them then I would also have made it onto the 'do not hassle' list :)
    Personally, I don't worry about them any more because I reckon the days of the TV Licence are numbered.  The BBC's current Royal Charter expires in 2027 so the year or so approaching renewal time will reveal how seriously government takes the whole licencing regime in these days of online streaming.  I wonder which party will inherit this particular poisoned chalice?
  • CornucopiaCornucopia Forumite
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    Mickey666 said:
    Well done!  it sounds as if you spent a lot of time complaining to the right people and certainly got their attention, so all due respect to you for that.
    When I 'engaged' them at a previous address they eventually wrote to me explaining that they would desist from sending any further letters for two years.  This, they argued, was on the basis that circumstances can change so they need to verify that a licence is still not required every so often. 
    Perhaps if I had continued to escalate things instead of just ignoring them then I would also have made it onto the 'do not hassle' list :)
    Personally, I don't worry about them any more because I reckon the days of the TV Licence are numbered.  The BBC's current Royal Charter expires in 2027 so the year or so approaching renewal time will reveal how seriously government takes the whole licencing regime in these days of online streaming.  I wonder which party will inherit this particular poisoned chalice?

    Thanks - the "time" factor was more a question of waiting for the TVL/BBC responses, which could sometimes take months and require "reminders".

    I suppose it shouldn't surprise us that with a thoroughly defective system comes a fundamentally "two tier" set of responses.  Simply tell them to back off and you'll get two years peace, but use the right legal terms and/or make a nuisance of yourself and they will go away indefinitely.   It's unfair, but that is who they are.   No doubt, in their minds, they have a ready explanation in the form of it being a numbers game, and it being pointless wasting time on households that are only going to waste more of their time.

    Even the end game is looking like being a messy process.  My main concern is that Politicians and Civil Servants simply do not grasp the complexity and the legal/moral questions around the present enforcement approach.   Their lack of professional curiosity so far has been lamentable.
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  • edited 5 January 2021 at 1:52PM
    pphillipspphillips Forumite
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    edited 5 January 2021 at 1:52PM
    Mickey666 said:
    I wouldn't even bother filling in their 'no tv' forms or even open any letters marked as from TVL.
    If an inspector turns up I wouldn't even open the door to them.
    I sleep very well.
    What bothers me is you know that their accusations are unsubstantiated and their threats are meaningless but most people don't. Possibly they are ignorant and afraid of authorities / state actors in a position of power (such as TVL) and that consequences will follow if you ignore them. I also think that many people believe that those who have power derived from the state aren't allowed to exercise it improperly by misleading and extorting the general public.

    It seems reasonable to me that TVL should have had a policy, code of conduct and complaints procedure similar to HMRC or the CPS. But perhaps its reprehensible mode of operation will be the cause of its inevitable downfall.
  • Mickey666Mickey666 Forumite
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    Yes, you're absolutely right and that's the basis on which TVL works - it's basic intimidation.
    We can only hope that its mode of operation is eventually its downfall.
    Cornucopia makes a good point about politicians and civil servants behaving lamentably regarding this whole matter.  It really is a disgrace.
  • edited 6 January 2021 at 4:11PM
    CornucopiaCornucopia Forumite
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    edited 6 January 2021 at 4:11PM
    Given that the general move towards decriminalisation has now been put aside for the time being, it's probably time to push for TVL enforcement to be cleaned-up.  

    Step one, I think, is a "silver bullet" letter than affronted legally Licence-free people can use to legally undermine various aspects of TVL's process.   That would likely include Cease and Desist directed at the letters (with a justification that they are harassing), a PACE declaration of intention to decline to be interviewed under caution under any circumstances and (possibly) the GDPR instruction discussed above and/or an HRA claim.   

    I think this would give householders in England & Wales more than enough protection from TVL.   Scottish law makes the situation there considerably different, and the action of the various Scottish law officials in reining-in TVL's worst excesses is already pretty effective and amounts to decriminalisation in all but name.  

    Step two would be for one of the relevant organisations (Taxpayers' Alliance or Defund the BBC) to take proper legal advice on the various problems with TVL's process.   This would be with a view to some kind of super-complaint or class-action leading to a definitive ruling on whether any of the problems render it unlawful.   (I suspect that both the HRA and PACE issues are pretty fundamental, but IANAL).     Even if the legal approach failed, it would generate good PR over the BBC's approach that could ultimately be just as damaging.

    An alternative might be to establish a shadow regulator for TVL (like shadow SAGE).    This could pre-position the known issues with TVL prior to the eventual necessary public discussion.
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  • CornucopiaCornucopia Forumite
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    pphillips said:
    ... I also think that many people believe that those who have power derived from the state aren't allowed to exercise it improperly by misleading and extorting the general public.
    My understanding is that in terms of these general principles and for the purposes of the HRA, the expectation is that no public authority would ever do such a thing (and indeed, it is unlawful for them to breach HRA).   As a consequence, there is no cheap, effective remedy in law.   (It's a big, somewhat patronising loophole, and further shame on the BBC that they appear to be exploiting it).

    I think there is some merit in responding to TVL's letters asking for clarity on what the threats mean in practice, and how they fit with known rights.   At the very least, this would waste their time, and could reveal information of use. 

    pphillips said:
    It seems reasonable to me that TVL should have had a policy, code of conduct and complaints procedure similar to HMRC or the CPS. But perhaps its reprehensible mode of operation will be the cause of its inevitable downfall.
    One of the issues is the lack of a regulator for TVL.   A number of policy documents have been released, but there is no overall Code of Conduct, AFAIK.    Even if there was, it would necessarily need to omit any kind of duty of candour or openness, as these are fundamentally at odds with the working principles of TVL.

    There is a formal complaints process, but this ends at Director level in the BBC, and is therefore of limited value given the BBC's complicity.   I have put most of the fundamental issues to the BBC over time, and have yet to have any success in achieving policy changes to reflect more rational operating principles.
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  • Mickey666Mickey666 Forumite
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    All good suggestions.
    However, I'd say the more fundamental issue is the TV Licence itself.  It is an archaic form of licencing that might have been applicable when first introduced but it now a wholly inconsistent method of funding the BBC.  Thus, you need a TV licence to watch ANY live content, BBC or not, yet you only need a TV Licence to watch BBC content online.  The technology for subscription television viewing has been mature and proven for many years so why not simply require the BBC to operate under the same rules?  Perhaps keep the TV licence for live terrestrial and satellite transmissions but not require a licence for anything online?  It would then be up to the BBC whether to implement a subscription model for its online programming, in exactly the same way as Netflix, Amazon and other 'broadcasters' manage to operate.
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