How you can legally watch TV without a licence

TV detector van

There are plenty of people who resent paying their TV Licence: they see it as a £145.50 annual tax that they shouldn't have to pay. Now, as the number of services offered online are expanding, they are seeing an opportunity to throw out the TV, switch to 'on-demand' services and save the cash.

But it's not quite as easy as that.
The TV Licensing people say that when people cancel their TV licence they may go round to check the property. They point out that during one in five of these visits they discover that a TV licence is actually required for the way the household is using TV services. So before you consider this approach it's worth understanding the rules properly.

When you don't need one

There's certainly no requirement to have a licence just because you own a TV, it all depends on how you use it.

You don't need a TV licence to watch catch-up TV. If you only ever watch through things like the iPlayer and 4OD, after the programme has already been broadcast, then you can save yourself the licence fee. The TV Licensing peple say that this appies to under 2% of people in the UK in a typical week.

If you take this approach you can watch movies and TV series through services like LoveFilm and Blinkbox, either paying a subscription or paying individually for the things you choose to stream. You don't need to have a licence in order to use these services.

You don't need one to watch DVDs and videos on a TV either.

The catches

However, you need to be careful. Even if you watch TV on a computer, laptop or your mobile phone, if you ever watch or record live TV on it then you'll need a licence. This includes any of the 'on demand' services that make the programme available online at the same time as it is broadcast, including the iPlayer. And it applies to all channels, not just the BBC.

If you don't pay for a licence it means you cannot record live TV either - because it counts as using the live services.

If you choose to take this approach you'll never be allowed to slip, because the Licensing Authority says it has ways of detecting whether you have been watching programmes live, and that it makes unannounced visits to check.


It's worth highlighting that it's never worth failing to pay and just hoping for the best. More than 155,000 people were convicted by a court and faced fines of up to £1,000 last year for trying to dodge paying for a licence: the courts have actually jailed a total of 107 people for failing to pay up.

Declare it

Even if you genuinely don't need a licence you will continue to receive reminders from the Licensing Authority once you stop paying for it, so you'll need to declare that you don't need one. You can fill out a form on the website. It will ask if the property is occupied, and if you tick that someone lives at the property then you will be on the list for a check up. You don't need to fill out this form, but if you don't you may continue to receive reminders.

For some people, the saving is worth the effort and the vigilance required to avoid watching live TV.

Over 75

Of course, when you hit the age of 75 you're free to go crazy, and watch as much live TV as you like without paying a penny, because at the moment people aged over 75 are exempt. All you have to do is apply for a free licence and you're home free. There's no telling how long this will last, given the noises that various political parties are making about cutting universal pensioner perks, but for now, you're free to watch for free without the fear that a detector van is lurking round the corner ready to spoil your fun.

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How you can legally watch TV without a licence

Using a mobile phone to make and receive calls, send texts and browse the web while abroad can be extremely costly – especially if you are travelling outside the European Union (EU), where calls can cost up to 10 times as much as at home.

To avoid high charges, Carphone Warehouse suggests tourists ensure a data cap is in place, use applications to check data usage, turn off 'data roaming', avoid data-intensive applications such as Google Maps and YouTube and use wi-fi spots to update social networking sites.

Payment Protection Insurance (PPI) is supposed to help people to continue meeting their loan, mortgage or credit card repayments if they fall ill or lose their jobs. However, policies are often over-priced, riddled with exclusions and sold to people who could not make a claim if they needed to.

At one point, sale of this cover - which was often included automatically in loan repayments - was estimated to boost the banks' profits by up to £5 billion a year.
Now, though, consumers who were mis-sold PPI can fight back by complaining to the bank or lender concerned and taking their case to the Financial Ombudsman Service (08000 234567) should the response prove unsatisfactory.

It could be you, but let's face it, it probably won't be. In fact, buying a ticket for the Lotto only gives you a 1 in 13.9 million chance of winning the jackpot.

With odds like that, you would almost certainly be better off hanging on to your cash and saving it in a high-interest account.

No-frills airlines such as EasyJet may promote rock-bottom prices on their websites. But the overall fare you pay can be surprisingly high once extras such as luggage and credit card payment fees have been added - a process known as drip pricing.

Taking one piece of hold baggage on a return EasyJet flight, for example, adds close to £20 to the cost of your flight, while paying by credit card increases the price by a further £10.
It may therefore be worth comparing the total cost with that of a flight with a standard airline such as British Airways.

Cash advances, which include cash withdrawals, are generally charged at a much higher rate of interest than standard purchases.

While the average credit card interest rate is around 17%, a typical cash withdrawal of £500, for example, is charged at more than 26%.
What's more, as the interest accrues from the date of the transaction, rather than the next payment date, costs will mount up even if you clear your balance in full with your next payment.

Supermarkets such as Tesco and Asda often run promotions under which you can, for example, get three products for the price of two.

However, it is only worth taking advantage of these deals if you will actually use the products. Otherwise, you are simply buying for the sake of it, which is a waste of your hard-earned cash.
To avoid paying over the odds, it is also worth checking the price per kilo to ensure that larger 'economy' packs really are cheaper than the smaller versions.

Buy a train ticket at the station on the day of travel and the price is likely to give you a shock - especially if you are travelling a long distance at a busy time of day.

However, you can cut the cost of train travel by 50% or more by going online and making the purchase beforehand - especially if you book 12 weeks in advance, which is when the cheapest tickets are on sale.
Other ways to reduce the price you pay include avoiding peak times and taking advantage of so-called carnet tickets, which allow you to buy, for example, 12 journeys for the price of 10.

Most High Street banks offer packaged accounts that come with monthly fees ranging from £6.50 up to as much as £40, with a typical account charging about £15 per month.

Various benefits, such as travel insurance and mobile phone insurance, are offered in return for this fee. But whether or not it is worth paying for them depends on your individual circumstances.
Before signing up, it is therefore essential to check that you will make use of enough of the benefits, and that you cannot get them for less elsewhere.

Overseas money transfers or travel money purchases attract the same high rate of interest as credit card cash withdrawals.

Worse still, most credit cards – and debit cards – also charge you a foreign loading fee if you use them to make purchases while abroad.
You can, however, avoid these charges by using a Saga Platinum or Nationwide Building Society credit card.

Numbers starting 0871 cost 10p or more from a landline, while those starting 09 can cost more than £1 a minute from a mobile phone.

And the operators of these high-cost phone lines, some of which are banks, often get a cut of the call charges.
Most 09 numbers are linked to scams and should therefore be avoided at all costs, while 0871 numbers can often be bypassed by searching for an alternative local rate numbers on the
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