While some pensioners are to lose out on free TV licences for over-75s from 1 June 2020, those eligible can still save money before the changes take place.
The decision to reduce the number of free TV licences for some people aged 75 or over has caused controversy. A petition from Age UK that urges the government to protect free TV for the elderly has received more than 230,000 signatures.
The changes still look to be going ahead, but if you’re currently aged 75 or over and are paying for your TV licence, you can still make a claim for the free deal now. And you can also get a refund for any TV licence payments you’ve made since turning 75.
These payments can be backdated as far as 1 November 2000, meaning some pensioners could be owed more than £2,000. In fact, TV Licensing paid out more than £13m in refunds in 2017-18 alone.
Here we explain what’s changing for over-75s’ TV licences, and who might be eligible for a refund.
How to apply for a free TV licence
While some over-75s will have to pay for TV licences from next June, if you’re currently eligible to get this for free you might as well apply while you can.
There is an option to begin the application process while you are 74 – which is recommended as it reportedly speeds up the process.
You’ll need to provide your:
- date of birth
- National Insurance number
- name and address
- current TV licence number.
You can apply online at TVLicensing.co.uk if you’re the current licence holder, if you want to transfer the licence into your name, or if you want to apply on behalf of a friend or relative.
You can receive a free TV licence after your 75th birthday, and it will cover your entire household.
The application takes 28 days to process. Once this has happened and you’ve turned 75, any direct debits will be cancelled and you should automatically receive a refund for anything you’ve paid in that time.
- Find out more: the perks and benefits of being retired.
Who can get a free TV licence after June 2020?
If someone in your house claims pension credit, the whole household will continue to receive a free TV licence.
You can find out if you’re eligible and how to make a claim in our guide to pension credit.
If you don’t receive this benefit, you may be entitled to a reduced fee.
Those who are certified as blind or severely sight impaired may be able to get a 50% discount, and if you’re a care home resident you may qualify for a reduced £7.50 TV licence fee.
Who can get a TV licence refund?
If you’re at least 75 years old you may be needlessly paying for your TV licence because, until next June, everyone over this age can get it for free.
However, the free TV licence isn’t automatic – you need to apply for it. TV Licensing stresses that you should not just cancel your direct debit. TV Licensing will do that for you once your application has gone through.
While some people might actively choose to continue paying for a TV licence after their 75th birthday, many simply forget to ask for their payment to be cancelled.
If you haven’t applied – or you have applied but have continued to pay while you’ve been waiting for the application process to complete – you’re entitled to a refund, which should be backdated to the first month after you turned 75, up to 1 November 2000.
So, if you turned 75 in November 2000 and have been paying for your TV licence ever since, you could be in for 19 years’ worth of refunds.
TV Licensing can also offer refunds to the estate of a deceased person who was paying for a TV licence when they were over 75 and would have been entitled to get it for free.
Refunds after June 2020
When we asked whether a decision had yet been made about whether over-75s who had been paying for a TV licence could still claim refunds after the rules change, TV Licensing could neither confirm nor deny the change.
A spokesperson told us: ‘The current scheme remains in place and allows refunds to be provided when a licence is unnecessarily purchased, and while details of the new scheme are still being worked through, it would be wrong to draw the conclusion that refunds for historic purchases made unnecessarily will end.’
Unused TV licence refunds
If you’re under the age of 75, or applying for a blind concession, you can apply for a refund on your TV licence in the following instances:
- TV-receiving equipment is no longer in use
- the address is covered by another licence
- TV licence was bought in error
- a replacement TV licence has been bought
- the licence holder has died.
Do you need a TV licence?
If you watch or record live TV (that is, you’re watching at the same time as a programme is being broadcast), either through your TV or via a website, you need to pay for a TV licence.
This is the case whether you receive Freesat, Freeview or a pay-TV service, and regardless of whether or not you watch BBC channels. You will also need one to watch or download on-demand or catch-up programmes on BBC iPlayer.
The rules apply to renters and homeowners alike.
The only instance where you don’t need to pay is if you only use your TV to watch DVDs, Blu-rays, videos and non-BBC channels (such as ITV Hub, Netflix and All 4) on catch-up or on-demand.
How much is the TV licence?
For 2019-20, a TV licence for colour TV costs £154.50; a licence for black and white TV costs £52. The prices change on 1 April each year.
You can either pay for the whole balance in one go or spread the cost by setting up a direct debit. However, paying quarterly will work out £5 more expensive over the course of a year.
It’s also possible to pay with a debit card, credit card and in cash. Shops and newsagents with PayPoint outlets accept weekly, fortnightly and monthly cash payments.
- Find out more: TV licence explained.