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.