TV Licensing Law? Virgin TV Package but not watching any live TV

Itsokaytonotbeokay
Itsokaytonotbeokay Posts: 14
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edited 22 December 2023 at 9:41AM in TV MoneySaving
Hello,

I once was confident that we do not need a TV license as we do not watch or record any live TV but have been told we do need one when we have told TV licensing. 

On the TV licensing website there are questions which you can answer to determine if you need a TV license and this indicated we do not need one. We only watch streaming services which are of pre-recorded programmes on our smart TV (i.e. Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney plus). We do not watch BBC iPlayer. 

We have a Virgin TV package which related to it being cheaper than the internet only deal.

We have told TV licensing of our situation and have been told that it is in the Communications Act (2003) that just having the capability of watching live TV by having a Virgin TV package signals intent to watch TV and therefore means we have to buy a license.

I have copied the section of the Act I think they are referring to at the end of the post, with a link to this. I'm not fully confident in understanding what this means exactly and was hoping someone might be able to help us with this. I have found this talked about more specifically by TV licensing and have copied this below it. In my readings, it seems to relate to specifically watching or intending to watch.

I have been a bit confused as to why this information would not be readily available on their website - or even as part of their questions to determine whether one is needed (i.e. a clear message along the lines of, even if you don't watch live TV but have a paid for service that enables the watching of live TV such as Sky or Virgin, you still need a TV license as the law deems this as a signal of intent to watch live TV). This makes me wonder if it is possibly not strictly true. Though, I am not sure and we are struggling to find anything directly about this online, beyond the law itself.

On further research, I have found on the TV licensing website under the heading 'when can I claim a refund?' that "refunds can be given where the licence holder ceases to use TV receiving equipment at their address. The licence holder should not watch live on any channel, TV service or streaming service, or use BBC iPlayer." This seems to confirm my initial view that as we have stopped using the equipment, we don't need one. It seems strange that there would be no explicit reference to there needing to be no TV receiving equipment in the house for no TV license to be needed, should this be the case.

My partner told the TV licensing person that he would look into it further to check this information out. The person tried to get my partner to sign up to a direct debit saying it would not come out for a few weeks and so could be cancelled - I wondered if this could signal a person possibly feeling personally under pressure to meet a target of getting someone to sign up. I realise they have been losing a lot of custom and pressure may be rising.

I primarily want to know as I want to make sure we are not breaking the law. If it isn't true, it feels important to call this out at a broader level as it may be that this is being said to many people at a time where many of us are experiencing financial difficulty. If it is true, it may be helpful for this information to be more publicly accessible as a TV license cost needs to be factored in to working out which internet package is cheapest.

It would be wonderful to hear from anyone with any legal expertise or any experience with this specific situation, but any advice is warmly welcomed.

Thank you in advance for your time and Merry Christmas :)

J

_________________

From Communications act (2003):

Part 4Licensing of TV reception

363Licence required for use of TV receiver

(1)A television receiver must not be installed or used unless the installation and use of the receiver is authorised by a licence under this Part.

(2)A person who installs or uses a television receiver in contravention of subsection (1) is guilty of an offence.

(3)A person with a television receiver in his possession or under his control who—

(a)intends to install or use it in contravention of subsection (1), or

(b)knows, or has reasonable grounds for believing, that another person intends to install or use it in contravention of that subsection,

is guilty of an offence.

(4)A person guilty of an offence under this section shall be liable, on summary conviction, to a fine not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale.

(5)Subsection (1) is not contravened by anything done in the course of the business of a dealer in television receivers solely for one or more of the following purposes—

(a)installing a television receiver on delivery;

(b)demonstrating, testing or repairing a television receiver.

(6)The Secretary of State may by regulations exempt from the requirement of a licence under subsection (1) the installation or use of television receivers—

(a)of such descriptions,

(b)by such persons,

(c)in such circumstances, and

(d)for such purposes,

as may be provided for in the regulations.

(7)Regulations under subsection (6) may make any exemption for which such regulations provide subject to compliance with such conditions as may be specified in the regulations.


Link:

https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2003/21/part/4 

__________

From TV Licensing Website:

TV Licensing and the law

Part 4 of the Communications Act 2003 makes it an offence to use or install TV receiving equipment to:

  • watch or record TV on any channel via any TV service (e.g. Sky, Virgin, Freeview, Freesat)
  • watch live on streaming services (e.g. ITVX, Channel 4, YouTube, Amazon Prime Video, Now, Sky Go)
  • use BBC iPlayer* without being covered by a TV Licence.

*A licence is not needed to watch S4C programmes on demand.


The Act empowers the BBC to make and amend the terms and conditions of a licence. It allows the government to make regulations to exempt or reduce the licence fee for certain persons in certain circumstances. It also makes it an offence for anyone to have any TV receiving equipment in their possession or under their control who intends to use or install it in contravention of the main offence (above), or knows, or has reasonable grounds for believing, that another person intends to install or use a TV receiving equipment in contravention of the main offence.

The Communications (Television Licensing) Regulations 2004 define what is a 'television set.' The regulations also set out the various types of TV Licence, the criteria for obtaining them, the fees payable for them (including the frequency and amount of instalments) and the different concessions available, including concessions for people who are blind (severely sight impaired), people who are over 74 years of age, people who live in residential care and people who run hotels, guesthouses or campsites.

Link:

https://www.tvlicensing.co.uk/about/legislation-and-policy-AB9#:~:text=claim a refund?-,TV Licensing and the law,Video, Now, Sky Go)

_______________


On the TV licensing website under the heading 'when can I claim a refund?' When can I claim a refund?:

1. TV receiving equipment is no longer in use

Refunds can be given where the licence holder ceases to use TV receiving equipment at their address. The licence holder should not watch live on any channel, TV service or streaming service, or use BBC iPlayer. On any device. If the licence has not yet expired, it must not be needed again before its expiry date.

Link:

https://www.tvlicensing.co.uk/about/legislation-and-policy-AB9#refund1

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Comments

  • 400ixl
    400ixl Posts: 2,611
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    Virgin separate their broadband router and their TV box, so if you only have the TV package to make the broadband cheaper and do not watch live TV, I assume you have not got the Virgin Media TV box plugged into anything?

  • km1500
    km1500 Posts: 2,120
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    edited 15 December 2023 at 3:05PM
    you are not required to have a TV license for simply having the ability to watch something

    for example I have regular broadband and should I wish to I could watch sky news live but I don't

    you need a TV licence if you actually watch live TV or iplayer and you don't if you don't
  • cerebus
    cerebus Posts: 512
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    Whoever told you that you need a tv licence simply for having something that is capable of watching live TV is wrong 

    My computer, laptop and phone are all capable of watching live TV or using iplayer does that mean I need a tv licence? No
  • cerebus
    cerebus Posts: 512
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    Signals intent! Don't make me laugh

    I carry tools in the back of my car does that signal intent that I'm going to use them to commit a burglary? No

    Crapita seem to think people are guilty before proving innocence!
  • Heedtheadvice
    Heedtheadvice Posts: 2,421
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    edited 15 December 2023 at 10:26PM

    '(1)A television receiver must not be installed or used ....' - without licence

    'We have a Virgin TV package'

    That surely means you have a fully installed TV receiver therefore in contravention of the
    Act as written. I would assume that is the interpretation that has been given to you.

    'We only watch streaming services'
    As written in the Act extracts you have given that is irrelevant  as now 'No intent' to watch live tv is excluded in the Act above! ...As is no actual watching ??? Things seem to have moved on to try and stop those who have the capability but maintain they do not use it, whether the case or not.

    However it seems to me that we have (another) case of the law not keeping up with the technology. Not sure these days how a TV Receiver is defined....noted above computers, tablets, smart phones.....a smart TV is really just  a computer in  different package!!
    Most have Radio Frequency capabilities and Internet capabilities. Really blurred boundaries  (hopefully not blurred pix!).

    The law is an !!!!!! springs to mind.

    I would think you might be on dodgy ground especially as you have been clocked by the authorities. If your actions are truly as you say then life will seem unfair.
    Yet another reason to change the way the BBC is funded to avoid all the anomalies  ( but let's not get  into that discussion of funding!)



  • cerebus
    cerebus Posts: 512
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    The act is quite clear to me , it's only an offence if you install a receiver with the intention of watching live TV or knows someone else who intends to do so

    Reading it any other way means that anybody with a pc/laptop or phone without having a licence is breaking the law

    As usual though the act can be read several ways and therefore is open to interpretation , hence why crapita only real way of prosecuting someone is for then to admit to them that they are watching TV without a licence, say nothing to them and they are stuffed 
  • EssexExile
    EssexExile Posts: 6,089
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    I'd repost this on the Phones and TV part of the forum, they know all about this sort of thing and will set you straight.
    https://forums.moneysavingexpert.com/categories/phones-tv
    Tall, dark & handsome. Well two out of three ain't bad.
  • facade
    facade Posts: 6,898
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    If you don't connect the virgin tv box, so you are not using it, and you unplug your aerial then as long as you don't watch streamed live TV or iplayer you don't need a licence.

    If someone working for TV licencing turns up at your door, do NOT engage them in conversation, or try to explain anything. Just say "No thank you" and close the door (or don't open the door to strangers in the first place!).  They will try and get you to say something that could be taken as an admission that you need a licence, when you do not.


    BTW I fell into the Virgin trap where they offer a much cheaper deal if you go for TV + phone + broadband, rather than simply offer what you actually want at a lower price.
    They do this because come April, they can really sting you with a massive price rise that you are contracted to accept, it is (inflation + profit)% of the full un-discounted price of the really expensive package that you are on now, not that % of the price you pay.

    (you are getting a fixed £ discount every month to reduce the price from really expensive to just bearable, and that discount wont change when the price goes up in April.)
    I want to go back to The Olden Days, when every single thing that I can think of was better.....

    (except air quality and Medical Science ;))
  • Grumpy_chap
    Grumpy_chap Posts: 14,374
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    We only watch streaming services which are of pre-recorded programmes on our smart TV 


    _________________

    From Communications act (2003):

    Part 4Licensing of TV reception

    363Licence required for use of TV receiver

    (1)A television receiver must not be installed or used unless the installation and use of the receiver is authorised by a licence under this Part.


    I am not sure that the Virgin package or not is critical here as the simple fact of having the smart TV would seem to require a licence under the first item of the rules you extracted.

    The Smart TV is a television receiver and you have it installed and used.  That part does not continue from the extract to say "used to receive live TV".

    I am sure others will shout me down and say you do not need a licence just to have the telly.
  • km1500
    km1500 Posts: 2,120
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    under that thinking you need a tv licence when you connect a laptop to the internet or indeed switch on a mobile phone
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