BBC orders investigation into hiring practices of license fee enforcers Capita

The BBC has ordered an urgent investigation into hiring practices at its licence fee enforcers Capita after reports that staff were encouraged to aggressively chase non-payers including vulnerable people.

It comes after a Daily Mail investigation claimed that workers at the firm had pursued a war veteran with dementia and a mother living in a refuge so as to hit targets for collection of unpaid fees.

Bosses at the private firm reportedly offer staff bonuses of up to £15,000 a year for meeting targets of catching at least 28 evaders per week.

They are also reportedly pushing staff to gather evidence to take non-payers to court.

One Capita boss allegedly told an undercover reporter who interviewed for a job: "We will drive you as hard as we can to get as much as we can out of you because we're greedy."

Anyone who fails to buy a TV licence could face a criminal conviction and a penalty of up to £1,000.

However Capita staff are said to have been excessively aggressive while those who pay up immediately can still face being taken to court.

The BBC said it had told Capita to launch an investigation. Credit: PA

The BBC said it had demanded an urgent investigation from Capita into interviewing managers in the case highlighted by the reporter.

The firm reportedly gets £58 million a year to collect licence fees for the broadcaster - though the BBC said there are no incentives for obtaining prosecutions.

"We have asked Capita to investigate urgently and ensure swift and appropriate action is taken," she added.

"We expect inquiry officers to behave in a courteous, professional manner and abide by a published code of conduct.

Labour MP Chris Matheson, who sits on the Commons culture committee, said that the firm's bosses should be called to Parliament to answer questions over their conduct.

The company told the Mail that its incentive scheme applied only to sales of licence fees, not the number of people officers interview so they can be taken to court.

A spokesman said the comments caught on camera did not reflect the "culture, skills and attitude" of their TV licensing operation.

"Enquiry officers are expected to act in a professional manner, abide by strict rules of conduct and adhere to the PACE code of practice and we strongly refute any allegation that enquiry officers are instructed to act outside of these requirements," a spokesman said.

"We have a strong set of procedures in place and should we find employees have not acted as they should we act appropriately. We are investigating."