£40m in Music Licence Fee Refunds

Businesses that play recorded music to an audience on their premises are set to receive more than £40 million in refunds after winning a court battle over excessive licence fees.

Firms are due to receive the refunds following the High Court’s decision to reject an appeal by Phonographic Performance Ltd (PPL), which represents record companies, to maintain the high licence fees that it imposed in 2005. Many businesses had to pay four times as much for their licence following the increase.

Businesses in the retail, hospitality, office and manufacturing sectors will all be eligible for a refund. The British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) and British Hospitality Association (BHA) have predicted that pubs, hotels and restaurants will receive £20 million in refunds, while the British Retail Consortium (BRC) said that retailers are likely to be able to claim another £20 million.

“This judgement confirms the victory won last November, and is another milestone which brings a step closer the prospect of substantial and fully justified refunds for pubs,”

said BBPA chief executive, Brigid Simmonds.

“This could not come at a more important time for our sector as we struggle to come out of recession and will allow pubs to both claim a refund and pay less going forward.”

Licence-holders will also be able to claim refunds for the amount they have paid on top of current tariff levels since 2005, unless the amount is less than £50.

Lower licence fees have been now introduced for businesses renewing their licences to play recorded music from CDs, cassettes, radio and TV. Licence fees have been reduced in all sectors, but fees will vary according to whether the music is on CD, or just radio or TV, and the size of the area in which the music is audible.

According to the BBPA, the cost for a hotel, pub restaurant or bar playing recorded music that is audible in the surrounding 400 square metres is now around £110, reduced from £464.80.

The BRC calculated that retailers would make a total saving of £5 million per year.

“Being able to play music or have a radio on is important for customers and staff in many shops,”

said BRC director general, Stephen Robertson.

“Performers and record companies are entitled to be paid, but increases on the scale demanded were unjustifiable and out of reach for many retailers.”

Commenting on the ruling, a PPL spokesperson said:

“This leaves PPL with tariffs that it believes substantially undervalue the rights of its performer and record company members.”

PPL made its appeal after trade organisations, including the BBPA and the BHA, took the case to the Copyright Tribunal, which ruled in their favour in November 2009.

To find out more about the new tariffs and to claim refunds on charges paid since 2005, contact PPL on 0207 534 1000 or visit the PPL website.

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