Store owners who feel they are being overcharged to play music at work are being urged to contact the PRS for Music ombudsman.
The new watchdog was set up last year to deal with complaints about PRS for Music, which licenses the use of music in the UK. Any business which has been approached by PRS for Music and believes that it has been charged incorrectly for its licence can take the case to the Ombudsman.
Similarly, the body will intervene if a store owner believes PRS for Music has failed to follow its own guidlines, has been discourteous or unprofessional in its dealings, or has given wrong or misleading information.
Retailers have often found PRS for Music to be heavy-handed in its dealings with small stores. In October 2009, shop assistant Sandra Burt, who works at A&T Food store in Clackmannanshire, was told she could not sing while she stacked shelves without a performance licence. PRS for Music later reversed its position and apologised.
The same month Pam Dhesi of Pentra Stores in Mid Glamorgan was told she must have a separate licence for a television set in a private room above the store.
Despite the Ombudsman service being set up last July, the The Forum of Private Business (FPB) said that most members had no idea that it existed.
“We have received call after call from concerned members complaining about their treatment at the hands of the PRS and the first they have heard about this avenue to air their complaints is when we tell them about it,” said FPB policy representative Matt Goodman. “Without a well-understood model such as the TV licence, the frustrations of many small businesses are only compounded by the lack of clarity and information.”
According to the FPB, there are over 40 price tariffs listed on the website and that several members have complained that PRS staff themselves don’t fully understand the pricing structure.
Business owners have to pay the yearly tariff if their staff or customers are able to listen to music played in-store. The rates start at £136.70 per annum but can go as high as £1,399.
The PRS for Music Ombudsman can be contacted on 0330 440 1601 or via e-mail on firstname.lastname@example.org.