Legislation and policy

TV Licensing and the law

Part 4 of the Communications Act 2003 makes it an offence to install or use a television receiver to watch or record any television programmes as they're being shown on television without a valid TV Licence. 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 television receiver in their possession or under their control who intends to install or use 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 television receiver in contravention of the main offence.

The Communications (Television Licensing) Regulations 2004 define what is a 'television set' and who is a 'television dealer'. 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 or 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.

The Wireless Telegraphy Act of 1967 (as amended) has been repealed meaning that from 25 June 2013 onwards, TV dealers are no longer required to notify TV Licensing when they sell or rent out TV equipment.

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Revoking and cancelling a TV Licence

We have a policy for determining the circumstances in which we will revoke or cancel a TV Licence. A TV Licence lasts for as long as specified on the licence unless it has previously been cancelled or revoked by or on behalf of the licensing authority (the BBC) in accordance with section 364(4) of the Communications Act. We will only revoke or cancel a licence in the following circumstances:

  1. Breach of licence terms
  2. Error or fraud
  3. Change of circumstances
  4. Administrative

1. Breach of licence terms

If there has been a breach of the terms and conditions of the TV Licence, including a failure to pay any money due, with respect to the licence, under the Communications Act and the Communications (Television Licensing) Regulations 2004 within the regulatory time scales, and provided the licence holder has been given a reasonable opportunity to pay and is reasonably aware of the consequences of non-payment.

2. Error or fraud

If an over 75 TV Licence has been issued to a person who is not aged 75 or over, and/or for an address which is not that person's sole or main residence.

3. Change of circumstances

If the licence holder informs us that the licence is not required (whether by way of a justified refund claim or otherwise) or will not be required as from a future date, and we are satisfied that the claim is justified.

N.B. We will not cancel an over 75 TV Licence when we are informed that the licensee has died. The licence will remain in force until it has expired.

4. Administrative

If the licence holder requests to be switched to a different payment scheme. Current systems do not allow licences to be transferred between payment schemes.

TV Licences will normally be revoked or cancelled by notice in writing and in accordance with the requirements of the Communications Act 2003, sections 364(5)(8) and (9), clearly stating the date of revocation or cancellation. We will send a letter of impending revocation, which will be followed by a letter of revocation unless the matter has been resolved. We may also revoke licences by publishing a general notice on the BBC's website and, if deemed appropriate by the BBC, in other national communications. We will only revoke a licence from a date which takes account of any money that has been paid in respect of the licence, rounding up to the nearest month of expiry if necessary (and, in the case of a licence for which a blind concession fee has been paid, rounding up pro rata).

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Refunds

Section 365(3) of the Communications Act 2003 gives the BBC a discretionary power to refund payments made in respect of a licence under the Communications (Television Licensing) Regulations 2004. When deciding whether or not to make a refund, we will take into consideration any earlier claim by the claimant in respect of which there is reason to suspect that the refund was obtained as a result of false information, including a signed declaration by the claimant which has proved to be false.

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When can I claim a refund?

We will only give refunds in the circumstances set out below and only when we are satisfied that the claim is justified. In most cases your application must be submitted within two years of the expiry date of the licence that you wish to be refunded (or if your claim relates to more than one licence, within two years of the expiry date of the most recently issued licence). The exceptions are for refunds where an over 75 or blind concession licence has been issued. Further details are below.
 

It is BBC policy that refunds will be considered in the following circumstances:

  1. TV receiving equipment is no longer in use
  2. TV receiving equipment is covered by another licence
  3. TV Licence is bought in error
  4. A replacement TV Licence has been bought
  5. Change of law
  6. Blind concession refunds
  7. Refunds in consequence of an over 75 TV Licence application
  8. Due to the death of the licence holder
  9. Due to loss of signal following digital switchover

Refunds will only be made in respect of full quarters i.e. three consecutive calendar months of a TV Licence. The exceptions to this, where refunds may be made based on the months remaining on the licence, are as follows:

  • A refund claimed as a result of buying a replacement licence (see point 4 below)
  • A refund claimed as a result of paying for a TV Licence when the licence holder was in fact entitled to a free over 75 TV Licence
  • A refund claimed by a hotel which has purchased a licence in error or is closing down and will not require a licence again in the licence period (find out more about refunds for hotel licences)
  • A refund claimed due to the death of the licence holder
  • A refund claimed due to loss of signal following digital switchover.

 1. TV receiving equipment is no longer in use

Refunds can be given where the licensee ceases to use television receiving equipment at their address. If the licence has not yet expired, it must not be needed again before its expiry date.

 2. TV receiving equipment is covered by another licence

Refunds can be given where the licensee moves from their address to another where they will be covered by someone else's licence (e.g. parents or partner).

 3. TV Licence is bought in error

Refunds can be given in respect of licences which are bought as a result of an error by the claimant, usually because the use of television receiving equipment does not require that type of licence, e.g. bought colour licence when only needed black and white. In these circumstances, the customer can claim up to two years' worth of refund. If the licence was bought in error as a result of advice given by the Licensing Authority or its agent, the customer can claim up to six years' worth of refund.

 4. A replacement TV Licence has been bought

Refunds can be given where the licence holder no longer requires a licence because it has been replaced by a different type of TV Licence, either because of a change in the type of TV receiving equipment being used or for other reasons. For example, the licence holder moves to an address which is covered by an ARC concessionary TV Licence for persons who meet the relevant criteria (see the 'Residential care' section in Chapter 9 'TV Licences for special circumstances').

A claim can be made if a licence holder:

  1. Trades in a black and white licence for a colour one, or
  2. Trades in a colour licence for a black and white one, or
  3. Moves to an address which is covered by an ARC concessionary TV Licence (after qualification has been provided), or
  4. Applies for a hotel and mobile units TV Licence to cover the address covered by his/her existing licence, or
  5. Is included on an application for a multiple form TV Licence

In this category, refunds can be given with respect to unexpired calendar months. If there is a delay in establishing eligibility for the replacement licence, the customer can claim up to two years' worth of refund. If the licence was bought in error as a result of advice given by the Licensing Authority or its agent, the customer can claim up to six years' worth of refund.

 5. Change of law

Refunds can be given when a TV Licence is no longer required as a direct result of a change in the law.

 6. Blind concession refunds

A refund of up to half the licence fee (depending on whether the licence is a full fee or instalment licence) can be given if a licence holder has a blind certificate issued by a local authority or ophthalmologist, but failed to claim the reduction for the blind concession when his/her current licence was bought.

To qualify for the blind concession, the customer must supply a photocopy of one of the following pieces of evidence:

  1. A certificate or other document issued by or on behalf of a local authority in Great Britain showing that the applicant is blind or severely sight impaired, or
  2. A certificate or other document issued by or on behalf of the DHSS in the Isle of Man showing that the applicant is blind or severely sight impaired, or
  3. A certificate issued by a Health and Social Services Trust in Northern Ireland showing that the applicant is blind or severely sight impaired, or
  4. A certificate issued and signed by an ophthalmologist (CVI or BD8) (1990) showing that the applicant is blind or severely sight impaired.

How to claim a blind concession refund

A person who has properly claimed a blind concession may also claim a refund on an expired TV Licence, backdated to 1 April 2000 or the first of the month in which he or she became blind or severely sight impaired, whichever is the later. The claimant must provide the licence and a photocopy of one piece of evidence (as detailed above). The usual rule that refunds must be paid to the licence holder only does not apply in this case. If the licence covers or covered the place where the blind or severely sight impaired person resides or resided throughout the relevant time, then a refund will be payable to the licence holder even if this is not the blind or severely sight impaired person (subject to satisfactory proof).

 7. Refunds in consequence of an over 75 TV Licence application

Refunds of months on a current licence will be payable automatically when an over 75 TV Licence is issued, backdated to the beginning of the licence or the first of the month of the 75th birthday, whichever is the later. However, no refund is payable on an over 75 TV Licence.

How to apply for a free over 75 TV Licence

 8. Refunds due to the death of the licence holder

If the refund claim is due to the death of the licence holder, a refund may be claimed for any unused quarters and may be paid to the estate of the licence holder.

 9. Refunds due to loss of signal following digital switchover

A refund up to a maximum of one licence fee (in unused months) can be given where a TV Licence holder cannot receive digital television broadcasts following the switching off of the analogue TV signal in their region.

A refund can be claimed for a maximum of 12 months from the date of digital switchover and is dependant on the expiry date of the licence for which the refund is claimed. For example, if digital switchover took place in your area on 31 December 2012 and your licence ended on 31 December 2013, you would be entitled to a refund of 12 months; but if your licence ended on 30 June 2013, you would be entitled to a refund of 6 months.

Refunds for the value of TV Licence savings stamps

TV Licence savings stamps have been removed from circulation and replaced with a TV Licensing savings card. TV Licence savings stamps will retain their cash value, which you can redeem if you still have any. Please request a refund by sending your savings stamps to:

TV Licensing
Darlington
DL98 1TL.

Please do this by Special Delivery and remember to include your name, address, phone number and TV Licence number (if you have one).

For more information about refunds on TV Licence savings stamps, please call 0300 790 6165.

For more information about our refund policy in general, please write to:

The Refund Group
PO Box 410
Darlington
DL98 1TL

Poor television reception

Your TV Licence does not guarantee the quality of picture you receive.

If you have problems with your TV reception or interference to your signal, please visit the Radio and Television Investigation Service website at www.radioandtvhelp.co.uk (opens in a new window) for advice. Alternatively you can write to or call them at:

RTIS
PO Box 1922
Darlington
DL3 0UR
Tel: 0370 901 6789

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Latest press releases

TV Licensing reveals new student research
Thu Oct 04 14:24:27 BST 2012

New research* commissioned by TV Licensing has found students may be unaware of the law for watching live TV online.
Free TV Licence for over-75s
Wed Sep 12 10:28:26 BST 2012

With more than 465,000 people in the UK due to turn 75 this year, TV Licensing and Independent Age are reminding older TV Licence holders they will be entitled to a free TV Licence on their 75th birthday.
TV Licensing launch ‘Talking Laptop’ to students
Fri Sep 07 10:40:49 BST 2012

Voiceovers by BBC Radio 1 and 1Xtra DJ’s Dev Griffin, Greg James and Sarah-Jane Crawford