Set Up To Fail

The TV Licensing Agency rang me back.

Turns out, they had a process. The process crashed and burned. In January, this was brought to their attention and the process was changed.

Do you want to know what the process was?
It went like this:

  • Person calls to change address.
  • Person is forced into voice recognition service.
  • Person tells voice recognition new house number, street and postcode.
  • Person tells voice recognition new house number, street and postcode again.
  • Voice recognition system sends person confirmatory text.
  • Voice recognition has actually failed out.
  • Recording is sent to ‘overseas’ office.
  • Recording is listened to, but not understood.
  • Recording is deleted.
  • Address is not changed.
  • Person receives nasty letter six months later.
  • Person calls up TV Licensing Agency and flips out.

I am more than a little boggled by the fact that they left out a fairly major step when they created this process. Two, actually. Because it’s kind of a dick move to have a foreigner listening for change of address details from the UK. Have they seen the way we spell street names?

Anyhow, in January this was apparently brought to their attention. They changed the system. However, they decided not to bother checking the black hole of calls which had already failed. I found this perturbing. I asked why they thought this was an acceptable thing to do, given that they were in fact leaving me vulnerable to fairly serious legal consequences as a result of their actions? I asked how I was supposed to have found out about this?

I was told I hadn’t been listening to his explanation.


Man, I dislike being told I’m being unreasonable when I ask a perfectly legitimate question. I think if you promise to call back with an explanation of your cock-up, and part of that explanation involves admitting you knew there was a problem in January, the next part should involve why you didn’t do anything about it until I phoned you in June. Since you have a record of the failed calls.

So. There we stand. If you moved house before January 2014, and you used the phone system to change your TV Licence, I suggest checking that they actually did it. And telling them why.



System failure

Way back in October, when I moved house, I rang the TV Licensing Agency and changed my TV License to the new house. Or rather, I thought I had changed the address. They sent me a text telling me they had, I took their word for it.


Doing it was a bit of a performance, because they won’t let you use the time honoured method of saying to an actual person “I have moved house! This is my new address! Here, I will helpfully spell it out in NATO alphabet!” and them saying “Oh that’s nice, I have changed your details! Is this correct? You will get a letter during the week, let me know if you don’t”. No. They have a phone tree. A phone tree with voice recognition several generations older than Siri and my colleagues spent days entertaining themselves with how much Siri can’t cope with our various very common accents of English.

And in fact, it turns out, this system will fail to change your address, but merrily tell you it has, leading to you forgetting entirely about your TV Licence in the comfortable knowledge that when they need to reauthorise your direct debit details in 2015 they’ll send you a nasty letter. So it was a bit of a surprise to get the patented TV Licensing Nasty Letter saying we were filthy criminals who didn’t have a licence.


As I, like most people in the UK and a significant number of poor souls in the Republic who have had to sit through their nasty threatening advertisements over the years, have a fairly low tolerance for the TV Licensing Agency to begin with this did not make me happy. Operating on a base assumption that the entire population are criminals and without deployment of the word ‘please’ does not incline people to be charitable towards you when you’re in the right, never mind when you’re in the wrong.

So I got angry. I got the kind of angry where you phone up, insist on being escalated all the way up to the most senior person on duty, point out that “Saturday” is not an adequate reason for not being able to explain why my address was not changed when it was supposed to be, given that you told me it was, that is what is commonly known as lying, and generally be an unreasonable bitch because no, this is not my problem. This is the TV Licensing Agency’s problem and by god, they had better have a really good explanation because I held up my end of the deal and being accused of criminality is just not on, didn’t anyone find it odd that the old house had two licenses when it isn’t flats, and by the way I’ve given my address five times to three different people already, WORK IT OUT BY YOURSELF. At this point it emerged that the person who had allegedly fixed at the start had entered it wrong, helpfully. I did not scream. I feel I was very restrained.

I also explained in very very small words that apologies are not cutting it, handwritten apologies written IN BLOOD are not going to cut it, in fact the ritual sacrifice of whoever thought a phone tree was a good idea to the pagan gods might JUST BARELY scratch the surface. AND WOULD IT KILL YOU TO OCCASIONALLY SAY PLEASE? Oh, and if I get another letter that is not confirmation of change of address, I am taking it to the police with the confirmation of address change and the existing letter as evidence of harassment, do we understand each other?”

In fairness, he did seem to grasp that being threatened, lied to and then threatened again is reasonable grounds for losing your temper, that the general attitude of the Agency is not conducive to anyone keeping their temper, and that it’s not rocket science to change someone’s address. Now to see what happens on Monday, because that’s apparently when he’s going to phone back to tell me how, exactly, it is that I was sent confirmation of an address change when that did not in fact take place. And how it’s never going to happen again.