... TV LicensingTM - bringing their big bag of fibs right to your door
4 million served
Someone at the door? Things are getting serious.
Up to now, we've been talking about TVL hoaxes that you can simply ignore. This one is a little bit more serious - more real as hoaxes go, too.
This time, they know where you live and they are coming to "investigate". Not your TV, though, but you. The good news is that you don't have to let them.
TVL like to promote the spectre of the "home visit", but at the same time, it's always described in a curiously vague way. They also use the word "investigation" a lot, but never link it with "home visits". Why would that be when it's the only real sense in which they do investigate?
BBC/TVL have a problem with the "home visits" - they want to make them sound as official and as scary as possible, but at the same time, there are some powerful pieces of legislation that prevent them from having things all their own way. So we end up with this curious compromise: all sorts of misinformation about the visits before they happen, but then some serious legal repercussions if the staff on the ground don't behave themselves. Add in to the mix weaknesses in some important areas of law that BBC/TVL like to exploit and you have a situation where it pays to know your rights.
What BBC/TVL says
When they say: We will make a quick visit to check
They mean this: Only if you let us, and no sensible person would.
When they say: We need to check whether you are watching TV illegally
They mean this: We don't "need" to check. We just want to.
When they say: You can resolve this now
They mean this: There is nothing to resolve. And this wouldn't resolve it, even if there was.
When they say: You must resolve this now
They mean this: Anything that can be done now can also more easily be done by the Call Centre, and there will be no risk of prosecution with them
When they say: Sign here - it's just to say I called
They mean this: I'm a liar and a perjurer, and I want your signature to accompany a made-up confession.
When they say: You do not have to say anything...
They mean this: You do not have to say anything, oh and if want you can now ask me to leave. I should have told you that, and I just broke the law by not doing so.
The TVL "home visit" is a thing of great contrasts. For the knowledgable householder, it's something that they know they hold all the power over. They know that TVL can be ignored or sent away with no real consequences - and that is the best thing to do. But for the ill-informed, they can be scary and if you allow the TVL staff to take control of the situation, that can just be the start of your problems.
What do TVL want to do?
- Fail to identify themselves appropriately to trick or surprise you into submission
- Sell you a Licence - in some cases whether you need one or not
- Gain access to your premises, without telling you it's completely optional
- Interview you under Caution, breaching PACE requirements on informed consent [PACE Code C 3.22]
- In many cases, exaggerate, mislead or argue with you about the need for a Licence
- Ignore many principles of PACE (Police & Criminal Evidence Act)
- Complete a prosecution statement - in some cases, making false or exaggerated accusations
They tend to be curiously uninterested in the TV in most cases, though. That's because only people give confessions, not TVs.
So, what should you do to keep the TVL staff firmly under your control, where they belong?
- Shut - Keep the door Shut, or shut it in their face once opened
- Show - Insist they Show ID before asking anything else. Optionally phone in to check it
- Sling - Tell them to "Sling their hook", which they must do, or risk having the Police called
- Say - Say nothing about you, your family, your home, your AV equipment or any TV-watching
- State - State that you decline to be interviewed under Caution and instruct them to leave
- Sign - Sign nothing. Nothing at all. If you realise you need a Licence, buy one on-line or by phone later
- Strike - Strike out the entire form "declined to be interviewed" when it is offered to you for signature
- Surreptitious - Do not allow the TVL person to Surreptitiously complete the interview form inaccurately or ambiguously. Insist on "No Comment" being entered if you refuse to answer any/all questions (as you should).
- Silence & Solicitor - You have the Right to Silence and the right to consult a Solicitor - use them
To further mess up their plans, you can film them, although this can tend to "raise the stakes". You can also refuse to give your name or confirm the name they have.
Do not listen to any special pleading by the TVL operative. They are salespeople on commission, and they lie. In particular, do not discuss your possible need for a Licence - if you feel the need to explain, simply state that you understand the rules and do not need one; and do not sign ANYTHING. The latter cannot be over-stated.
You can also print off this list and hand it to them, as an indication of how things are going to go. You can still be polite, and hopefully they will be, too.