Pensioners are being encouraged to send bank statements to show they are still entitled to a free TV licence, it was revealed today.
On Saturday the BBC introduced a controversial scheme which means millions of over-75s will now have to pay to watch TV.
The corporation’s new rules mean that only those who receive pension credit are still entitled to receive the free licence. The rest will have to pay £157.50 a year.
An investigation found that in some cases those ringing the helpline were told they could hand over bank statements to TV Licensing to show they got pension credit.
It revealed that another option suggested by an adviser answering calls was to post a pension credit award letter.
Some elderly people are likely to find it difficult to photocopy or scan their pension credit documentation, which is what thy were initially advised to do. The Sunday Times said an adviser suggested an alternative option was to send the pension credit award letter or a bank statement.
But the BBC last night said the call centre was making it a priority to allow people to make a ‘verbal declaration’ about their pension credit status. It added it was not actively seeking bank statements but that it was ‘simply an option’.
It stressed that over-75s did not need to do anything until they got a letter from TV Licensing.
Labour peer Lord Foulkes of Cumnock warned that those posting bank statements are ‘at an increased risk of identity theft’.
This comes as it emerged that some of the letters informing pensioners of the change will not be put in the post until September, a month after the new scheme was introduced. There are concerns that this delay will cause stress and anxiety for some over-75s who are unclear what they need to do.
A BBC spokesman said: ‘We’re writing directly to over-75s households and they do not need to do anything until they have received a letter from us.
‘This letter will clearly set out what the recipient needs to do next and offer accessible formats including for those who are deaf, hard of hearing or speech impaired, as well as access to a text service. If older people don’t wish to leave their home or can’t go online, call centre staff will prioritise a verbal declaration process to identify if customers are in recipient of Pension Credit.
They added: ‘We are also giving all over-75s plenty of time to either set up a payment plan or to claim a free licence if they are eligible.
‘In either case, no one needs to leave their home. 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.’