New TV Licensing flexible payment plan launched

Since 1 April 2018, the BBC is trialling a new simpler payment plan for the licence fee. The government changed the rules on 9 March 2018 allowing the BBC to introduce this pilot scheme to help people who are struggling to pay or to keep up with payments.

Customers on the new plan will still pay the same amount of licence fee (£150.50 per year) as everyone else.

The two main benefits of this scheme are:

  • The cost of the licence fee will be evenly spread over the course of the year. Under current legislation, weekly and monthly payment plans require higher initial payments over the first six months to protect against a risk of non-payment.
  • If the customer misses a payment, the arrears can be spread across the remainder of the plan. Currently, when a customer on a weekly or monthly payment plan misses a payment they have to pay double the amount when the next payment is due.

Customers eligible to be referred to the Simple Payment Plan will pay either fortnightly or monthly. Payments will work out at £12.541 a month or around £6 a fortnight.

The six month sign up period for the new plan, runs from 1 April 2018 to the end of September 2018. The trial plan will only be available to certain groups of customers:

  • People who have sought debt advice from certain charities2
  • Those who have previously held a licence which was recently cancelled because of missed payments
  • People who have been questioned under caution for TV licence fee evasion

Eligible customers will be invited to join the scheme through three different recruitment methods:

  • Referral through specified debt advice charities
  • Via a letter from TV Licensing
  • During a visit from a TV licensing enquiry officer

This more flexible payment plan will help manage the cost of living for those who might struggle to pay the licence fee, and was one of the key recommendations from the 2015 independent review on TV licence fee enforcement carried out by David Perry QC. He recommended that the government should make available simple and flexible payment plans for those facing difficulty in paying the licence fee, and the government is committed to delivering this.

 

DCMS Secretary of State, Matt Hancock said:

The licence fee enables the BBC to produce fantastic programmes that we want everyone to enjoy and be entertained and informed by. But we know that sometimes households may struggle to pay the licence fee, which is why we’ve worked with the BBC to develop a simpler and more flexible payment plan to help those on low incomes.
 

Pipa Doubtfire, Head of Revenue Management at the BBC said:

The BBC has worked with DCMS on the best way to implement David Perry Q.C.’s recommendation and we welcome government legislation enabling us to run the Simple Payment Plan trial, which has been designed to help those most in need.
 

Jane Tully, director of external affairs at the Money Advice Trust, the charity that runs National Debtline, said:

The increased flexibility to pay for a TV licence that the Simple Payment Plan provides is an important step forward in improving support for people in financial difficulty in this area.
 
Five percent of the people we help at National Debtline have a TV licence debt. We look forward to working with TV Licensing on this trial and to see how it helps those people we hear from who are struggling to pay the licence fee.
 

Dawn Stobart, Director of External Affairs for debt counselling charity Christians Against Poverty said:

For those on a very low income, the cost of a new TV licence can be very difficult to meet so this new arrangement looks set to be a great help.
 

Customers joining the scheme will be compared with other customer groups to see how well they keep up with the payments and if they renew their licence. This assessment period will conclude in September 2019 after which the BBC will evaluate whether the trial has been successful.

References

1 £12.56 the first month and £12.54 the following months

2 Advice NI, Christians Against Poverty, Citizens Advice (England), Citizens Advice Cymru, Citizens Advice Scotland, Citizens Advice Northern Ireland, Money Advice Trust / National Debtline, StepChange Debt Charity

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