The TV licensing website was briefly down on Saturday as millions of over-75s became liable for the fee.
Viewers trying to pay online were told the service was “temporarily unavailable while we update it for changes to over-75 licences”, the Sunday Times reported. The site was running again on Sunday.
Following the controversial decision to make older viewers pay the the annual £157.50 figure, only over-75s who are entitled to pension credit will be exempt from paying. However, letters explaining the exemption were not sent out in advance of the change, leading to further confusion.
Meanwhile, the BBC came under fire after it was revealed that some pensioners who called the licencing hotline number were told to submit their bank statements to prove their exemption from the fee, leading campaigners to warn this could put elderly people at risk of fraud.
“It will be extremely frustrating for older people to hear how potentially risky the process of applying for a free licence seems to be,” Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, told the Times.
“Creating and sending copies of sensitive personal and financial information can expose older people to ID theft and fraud.”
The BBC said: “To make the 75+ Plan available for customers online, the TV Licensing website was temporarily offline on Saturday, as was always planned.
“TV Licensing are not actively seeking bank statements — this is simply an option and we don’t expect to make very much use of it. The TV Licensing team take extreme care with personal data and have a wide range of measures in place to protect it.”
The chairman of the BBC, Sir David Clementi, defended the broadcaster’s decision over free licences in a column in the same newspaper today, underlining that the responsibility lay with the government.
“It’s important to recognise that this change has come about because the government made a decision, in 2015, to stop funding free TV licences for over-75s,” Mr Clementi wrote.
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