Activists have urged over-60s to cancel their TV licence direct debits as a letter goes out to millions of older people who must now pay.
Campaign group Silver Voices has renewed calls for “direct action” which would see rebel pensioners only pay by time-consuming cheques and postal orders instead.
It is in solidarity with millions of people over 75, who begin receiving letters on how to pay their TV licence from today.
People over 75 had been entitled to a free TV licence since 2000 – but the blanket exemption ended on August 1.
An estimated 3.7million elderly people will now have to shell out £157.50 a year to watch television and listen to BBC radio.
The BBC has brought in 800 extra staff members to deal with calls from pensioners who were stripped of the benefit on August 1.
The BBC was forced to restrict free licences to people receiving Pension Credit after the Government handed the cash-strapped broadcaster the responsibility for footing the bill.
The Tories had previously promised to guarantee the benefit in the 2017 manifesto.
The Mirror has been fighting to save the free licence, with the decision to scrap it sparking a backlash from campaigners and pensioners.
We were the first to reveal in May how Silver Voices planned to use the direct debit cancellation campaign to “gum up” the system.
Silver Voices director Dennis Reed told us in May: “It is callous for the Government to leave this threat hanging over the heads of vulnerable and isolated senior citizens.”
The campaign has today unveiled fresh instructions for rebel pensioners over the age of 60 to “gum up” the system in solidarity.
They say over-60s should write to TV Licensing stopping the direct debit in protest, and future payments will only be settled by cheque or postal order, not online.
The instructions add: “When you eventually get a letter from TV Licensing, demand that you should be able to pay monthly by cheque (at the moment, you can only pay monthly by direct debit which is clearly age discriminatory).
“Appeal when they refuse.
“When you eventually come to pay your licence by cheque, use creative individual ways to complicate payments further.
“Some members have suggested writing cheques in their preferred language and not checking date or signature as carefully as normal.
“If you can’t afford to pay the full licence fee by cheque, then you could reinstate your direct debit, but cancel it again after one monthly payment and repeat the process!”
Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK, said the BBC had provided detailed information on the changes but warned that some older people, such as those with dementia, would “get lost in the detail”.
“The over-75 population is hugely diverse so while some will no doubt navigate the documentation with ease, others may find this impossibly hard,” she said.
“At Age UK we’ve always said it was a mistake for the Government to pass responsibility for the free licence scheme to the BBC and that a replacement scheme, like the Corporation’s, that requires every single person over 75 to take some action was bound to be a problem and would in all likelihood end in tears.”
A BBC spokesperson said: “Over 75s households will start to receive letters about how to set up their new TV Licence from today.
“No one needs to do anything until they have received the letter – whether that’s paying or applying for a free licence – and no one needs to leave their home.
“There are now 800 specially trained agents working to support customers and we are also working with hundreds of money advice and community organisations to reach older people directly, so they understand what the changes mean.”