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Retailers in line for multi-million windfall over music in stores

Published:  22 October, 2009

Retail stores that play music in their stores are in line for a major windfall after a legal ruling that could see them claim back £20 million in excessive charges levied over the last four years.

The Copyright Tribunal ruled today that increases introduced in 2005 by Public Performance Limited, the company that collects fees for record companies and organises licences for stores to play music in their outlets, were excessive.

The ruling is a victory for the British Retail Consortium and other leading trade associations including the British Hospitality Association and British Beer and Pub Association who had lobbied hard to get the charges amended.

The Copyright Tribunal has ruled the charged should be capped at 10%.. PPL has said it will appeal but, if the decision is upheld, retailers stand to benefit to the tune of £5 million a year as well as receiving back £20 million they have been overcharged.

Andrew Opie, British Retail Consortium Food and Consumer director said: "We welcome the Tribunal's decision which establishes a level of tariffs that's fair for all parties. This is a great example of the BRC helping retailers large and small to pull together and fight an unfair cost that affects them all.

"Being able to play music or have a radio on is important for customers and staff in many shops. Artists and composers are entitled to a payment but increases on this scale cannot be justified and are out of reach for many retailers.

"We regret that PPL is not willing to accept the outcome and has decided to appeal."

Licensees will be able to claim refunds based on their own calculations of what they are owed, or they will be able to ask PPL to make the calculation for them.

The new Tribunal Tariffs will now be brought into effect as soon as possible and implemented upon renewal of PPL licences.

The Tribunal has allowed PPL only a 10 per cent all round increase plus RPI. For example, a hotel, pub, restaurant or bar playing CDs/tapes or radio/TV with an audible area of just under 400 square metres would be paying £464.80 for its licence this year under the new PPL tariff, but the Tribunal decision has reduced this to around £110. Premises with under 100 square metres audible area and which play only 'traditional' radios and TVs will pay about £ £55.

Brigid Simmonds, BBPA, chief executive, said:
"This is a major victory for the industry - not to mention the fully justified prospect of refunds for overpayments in recent years. I'd like to thank everyone right across the hospitality sector who has worked so hard to reverse these indefensible charges. It's been a long struggle, but worth it, given today's total victory. We will be doing everything we can to ensure that any appeal case is heard quickly, so that the matter of repayments can be settled as soon as possible."

Martin Couchman, Deputy Chief Executive, BHA, added:
"This successful result shows how much time and effort the industry needs to spend when it fights damaging decisions made by public monopolies. The fact that the Tribunal says we are the clear winners shows how justified we were to fight the case."