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Could An OFCOM Licence Put You In Prison?

If you don’t renew it, the answer is yes!

Don’t be tempted to think it’s no big deal to be an unlicenced two way radio user.
Not having a valid OFCOM licence can be hazardous to your pocket… And your freedom!

From OFCOM’s website…

“Some offences relating to unauthorised use of radio can attract fines of up to £5000 and/or two years’ imprisonment.”

OFCOM regularly visit premises where two way radios are in use.
So check whether your licence is up to date… HERE

Your OFCOM licence needs to be renewed.

Do you have a two way radio system?
Chances are that you need a licence.
If you already have a licence – it needs renewing.

According to OFCOM, the most common reason for licence revocation (cancellation) is…

“Non payment of licence fees at the renewal interval.”

And, forgetting to pay the fee is NO EXCUSE…

OFCOM Licence Revocation

Six weeks before a licence is due for renewal, Ofcom sends a letter stating the date the licence needs to be renewed by.

If payment isn’t made, an “intention to revoke” letter is sent the day after the fee should have been paid, stating that they have one month to make representations or pay the licence fee.

If payment isn’t received after that month, the licence is revoked.
From this point any use of the radio equipment in question is illegal, because it’s unlicenced.

Because of the above process, it’s absolutely essential that any changes to your contact information is kept up to date with OFCOM.

In our experience, the majority of licences which lapse due to non-payment are held by larger organisations.
It usually comes about because contact details change (employees moving on, company restructuring, etc).
When the renewal notice and subsequent revocation warning letter is sent, there is confusion who is responsible, resulting in no action being taken.
Another common scenario is companies who only pay invoices three months after receipt.
Nothing further happens until OFCOM visit to start the enforcement process.

Why do you need a licence?

From OFCOM’s website…

“To enable large numbers of users to operate on relatively few frequencies, the use of radio has to be carefully controlled.
Frequencies are allocated on a shared basis and licence conditions imposed so as to permit use by the maximum number of operators.”

In other words…

There are more radio users than radio channels.
This means channels must be shared.
So users are seperated by distance, and transmit power is limited so interference between users is kept to a minimum.

OFCOM regularly check for unlicenced radio systems.
It’s almost getting to be a regular phone call here at Radphone.

“OFCOM have just been. They told us that we don’t have a radio licence! What do we do now?”

A little explanation may be in order to explain why this is happening.

Quite a few years ago, it was unusual to hear from OFCOM. Normally the only time an end user got a visit was if an interference investigation was ongoing.

This has changed.

From OFCOM’s website…

“We systematically inspect PMR stations. Enforcement action is taken against those found operating without a licence or in contravention of their licence conditions.”

OFCOM staffing levels got a boost in 2012 to handle the large increase in applications and spectrum use for the London Olympics.

Since that time, OFCOM have taken a more pro-active approach to spectrum enforcement. This means regular visits to users of two way radio.

OFCOM Spectrum Scanning

  • Scan for active radio systems.
  • Check licence database.
  • If no licence, identify as potential non-conformity.
  • Send an investigation officer to site.

And here’s how they do it…


What can you do about an expired licence?

Ofcom have a very reasonable approach to dealing with radio users found to be operating without a licence.

From OFCOM’s website…

“Most people are reasonably law-abiding. Ofcom will often try to help people bring themselves within the law”

In our experience, this usually means that when OFCOM have attended and confirmed that either no licence is in force, or that the licence conditions are being broken, they issue a time limited notice to obtain a licence and have any remedial work done to make the radio system compliant with the new licence.

This can be another unexpected expense for the user, because there is no guarantee that the same frequency will be issued by OFCOM.

From OFCOM’s website…

“Licences usually expire automatically on non payment of fees and where there is a frequency assignment attached to a licence it may not be possible to reassign the same frequency if a new licence is subsequently taken out.”

This could mean re-programming, or even worse, totally replacing the existing radio equipment!
If this softly, softly approach by OFCOM doesn’t work things could get expensive and uncomfortable.

From OFCOM’s website…

“Where necessary or appropriate OFCOM will prosecute or take other enforcement action. We can seize apparatus found in unlawful use, and courts can order its forfeiture.”

And don’t forget from the start of this article…

“Some offences relating to unauthorised use of radio can attract fines of up to £5000 and/or two years’ imprisonment.”

So what’s the bottom Line?

Always pay your renewal notice promptly and keep your contact details up to date!
If your licence has lapsed and you need help with an OFCOM compliance notice, get in touch or give us a call on 01482 228725.

Posted in: Two Way Radio

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