As online TV takes off

As BBC One and Two become available to watch live via the internet, TV Licensing is issuing a reminder to electrical retailers about what equipment is licensable and for which equipment sales retailers need to notify TV Licensing.

People need a TV Licence to watch or record TV programmes as they are broadcast, no matter what equipment they are using or how they receive the programmes. This means that if a person is watching TV live on a computer or a mobile phone, they must be covered by a licence.

As 98 per cent of UK households have a TV set* and evasion is very low at around 5 per cent, most people will already be covered to watch online, by their existing home licence. Their licence will also cover them to watch TV on battery-powered devices outside the home. However those people without a current licence will need to purchase one to watch TV in any of these ways.

By law, dealers must notify TV Licensing of sales of TV sets, DVD, video and digital video recorders, digital set-top boxes, PCs and laptops with TV cards and TV cards sold separately. TV Licensing will then contact people, where appropriate, to confirm whether they need to purchase a licence. Laptops sold without a PC card and mobile phones are not notifiable.

Retailers should also check whether their own premises require a licence. TVs on display in showrooms are exempt from the licensing requirements, even if they are receiving programmes as they are broadcast. However, if staff are watching or recording live programmes in staffrooms or back offices using TVs, computers or any other equipment, the business must be covered by a licence.

Joanna Pearce, TV Licensing spokesperson, said:

“As more TV channels launch online services, it’s a great opportunity for retailers to brush up on the licensing requirements to ensure that they’re giving customers the right information.

It’s also a good idea to check whether their own premises are correctly licensed if staff are watching TV at work and to make sure their team is up to speed on which sales need to be notified to TV Licensing. TV Licensing wants to ensure that dealers understand their legal obligations, to avoid the risk of prosecution and a fine. Our dealer team can help with any questions or you can visit our website - - for more information.”

Bryan Lovewell, Chief Executive of retra, the electrical retailers' body, said:

“As new technology becomes available, electrical retailers have a key role to play in ensuring that the public understand how the law affects them. We’d also urge our members to take the opportunity to check that their teams know which products are notifiable, to ensure their business avoids the risk of prosecution.”

For further information, please contact the TV Licensing press office on 020 7544 3144.

Notes to editors

* BARB (Broadcaster's Audience Research Board)

The Wireless Telegraphy Act 1967 (as amended) states that dealers are required by law to tell TV Licensing when they sell or rent any television set as well as many other items of TV receiving equipment. This includes the sale or rental of any of the following items (whether new or second hand):

  • TV set
  • DVD or video recorder
  • Digital box
  • PC (including laptop) with TV card
  • TV card


Dealers must notify TV Licensing within 28 days of each transaction, providing full details of the buyer or hirer.

The Act also requires these records to be retained for 12 months and requires the person in charge of a place where the records are kept to produce the records for inspection if requested by an officer duly authorised by the BBC.

The Communications (Television Licensing) (Amendment) Regulations 2006 do not require dealers of mobile phones that are capable of receiving television programmes to notify TV Licensing when a purchase or rental has been made.

There are two simple options for notification of sales to TV Licensing: email and manual forms. Dealers can use whichever method best suits their business.

The difference dealers make


  • The information dealers provide is fed into TV Licensing’s national database of almost 30 million addresses. It enables us to identify individuals who have purchased television receiving equipment but are not listed as having purchased a TV Licence.
  • Our database is confidential and used for TV Licensing purposes only. None of the data is released to third parties for any sales or marketing activity. Naturally, we comply with the Data Protection Act.


Please contact us

We’d like you to get in touch with any questions or suggestions so please contact the TV Licensing Dealer team for more information on new and existing notification methods, including how to register, on 0844 800 5819, by fax on 01254 700 465 or by email at

Alternatively, visit the website at or write to us at: TV Licensing (Dealer Support), Customer Services Centre, PO Box 88, Darwen, BB3 1YX.

About retra

retra is the leading UK trade association for independent electrical retailers. They represent 1,400 members, trading from more than 2,300 retail outlets. For more information please visit (opens in a new window)

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