The government has changed rules to allow the BBC to trial a new simpler payment plan for the licence fee with the pilot looking at ways to help lower income households who have struggled 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, however instead of paying the cost of the licence fee in full at the start customers will be able to pay-as-you-go each month with the cost split evenly over the course of the year.
Currently weekly and monthly payment plans require higher initial payments over the first six months to protect against a risk of non-payment.
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.
It is expected that simplifying the payment plans will have the added benefit of reducing the amount of prosecutions for licence fee evasion.There were 159,637 convictions for evasion in 2016 and currently the BBC estimate that 6-7% households evade the fee.
The six month sign up period for the new plan, will run 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 charities
- 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 via three different recruitment methods:
- Referral through specified debt reduction charities
- Via a letter from TV Licensing
- During a visit from a TV Licensing enquiry officer
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.