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Problems with Utilities, Phones, TV & Internet

Know your rights when paying for a service.

Most of us are in at least one contract for a service, whether it’s for our mobile phone network, internet connection or any additional television channels. However, when things go wrong with these services, it can be hard to know what you should do. Fortunately, the law is on your side in these situations. Here’s a look at some common problems.

Trouble with your contract

Contracts set out the terms and conditions under which we pay for a service and are also designed to ensure that we are fully informed of what we are signing up for. However, if a contract is steeped in jargon or small print, it may be difficult to understand, or other problems may arise after you have signed the contract or if you decide to cancel.

Our section about contract issues has everything you need to know about handling contract issues with your service provider.

Changing service providers

If you do not feel that a service provider is meeting your needs, or you think that you could get a better deal elsewhere, you may wish to switch to a different company. However, there are many things to consider if you wish to do this.

Find out all about changing suppliers with our comprehensive guide.

Resolving problems with a bill

If you’ve been overcharged or some other part of your bill is incorrect, trying to resolve the issue can be a frustrating experience. Understanding your consumer rights can be extremely helpful in these situations.

Take a look at our section which describes common problems with a bill and how to get them resolved.

Installation delays for services

Sometimes when you sign up for a service, you will need to have equipment installed in order to use it, such as a phone line or a satellite dish. The provider will send out someone to do this for you, but sometimes this may take a while.

When you sign up to a service, your provider should tell you when they expect the installation to take place. Telephone providers will have a code of practice which sets out the maximum time you should have to wait.

Even if your provider did not state any deadline for installing the equipment, you are still entitled to have it done in a “reasonable time” by law. The definition of “reasonable” can differ; for example, if you live in a rural area it may take longer for the provider to arrange installation of the equipment. However, they should warn you if this will be the case.

If your service provider has missed a deadline, or you feel that you have been kept waiting for longer than is reasonable, you should call them to find out why. Get them to give you an estimated date for the installation. If they then miss this deadline, you could file a formal complaint.

You may be entitled to a quicker installation if you are vulnerable in some way (for example, if you are a disabled person or a pensioner) and the lack of service could lead to harm or isolation. This is likely to be particularly relevant in the case of telephone service if it leaves you unable to call for help if you need it. If you are in this situation, you should let the provider know.

Delays to the repair of a service

If a service is not working properly, then your provider may need to carry out repairs in order to restore it to functionality. They should have a repair policy available which will inform you of how long it will take and whether it will cost you anything.

You may be entitled to compensation for the interruption to your service, and if your provider fails to fix it in a timely manner, you may also be able to get some money back from them. Details of this should be set out in their policies; either in a repair policy or their Code of Practice, which they are obliged to make available to customers. Check their website or call them to find out more.

If you suffer from long-term illness or disability, your provider may have a policy which states that your repairs will be carried out faster. Again, you should check their website or phone them for more details.

TV licensing laws

In the UK, any household that wishes to watch or record live television transmissions must be in possession of a TV licence. A new licence must be purchased every year.

Money generated from selling TV licences is used to fund the UK’s public service broadcaster, the BBC, however the licence is required to view any of the available broadcast channels.

TV licences are administered by companies contracted by the BBC which are known collectively as TV Licensing.


The current cost of a TV licence is £145.00 for a colour TV and £49.00 a year for a black and white TV. Only one TV licence is required per home, no matter how many television sets it may contain, or how many people are living there and consuming broadcasts.

Discounts are available for certain groups — the blind or severely sight-impaired can get a licence for half price, whereas TV licences are free for over 75s.

TV licences for shared premises

If somebody lives in a shared house under a joint tenancy agreement then the house will be considered a single entity and thus will only require one licence. However, if different parts of the same house are rented to different people under separate tenancy agreements, each party holding a separate tenancy will require a TV licence.

Therefore, if having signed a separate tenancy agreement you receive television in room, you will need an individual licence. Only one licence will be required, however, for a TV situated in a communal area.

Infringement and penalties

If you are receiving live television broadcasts, whether it be through a television, a computer or a mobile phone, then it is a breach of law to be without a TV licence. The consequences of watching television without a licence are likely to be court action and a potential fine of £1,000.

Cases where a licence is not required

Watching non-live television using an on-demand service such as BBC iPlayer does not require a licence. Similarly if a television is used solely for other purposes than watching live television, no licence will be needed.

How TV licensing rules are enforced

A database is also used to keep track of addresses without TV licences. The database is known as LASSY. Those selling television receiving equipment are compelled to provide details to identify anyone purchasing said equipment, to allow them to hunt down those eschew paying for their licence.

Once TV Licensing have identified a target, i.e. a home which appears to have television receiving equipment but no licence, they will begin their offensive in the form of a warning letter. If the residence is not obliged to hold a TV licence, a written confirmation of this is requested, although not required by law.

If the letter does not successfully elicit the purchase of a licence, TV Licensing agents make unannounced visits to the address. It has been known for them to do this even if the dwellers have stated that they do not have to hold one. The BBC Trust says that in 27% of cases where residents had claimed to not need a licence, they were ultimately found to need one.

The law stipulates a maximum fine of £1,000 for receiving TV without a licence, however in reality this is rarely imposed, with the average penalty coming to around £150.