The AA was forced to apologise to female customer after leaving her alone at night

·4 min read
Photo credit: Igor Alecsander - Getty Images
Photo credit: Igor Alecsander - Getty Images

The Automobile Association (more commonly known as The AA) has issued an apology after a female customer broke down on the roadside at night and was told that the company doesn’t prioritise based on gender.

Dr Helen Mott, an activist and campaigner from Bristol, rang the AA after being stranded in the dark on Wednesday night. According to Dr Mott, the call-handler told her that the AA treats lone women and men as exactly the same priority in such circumstances because that’s "equality".

In a series of tweets, she wrote, "Hi @TheAA_UK, I am a lone woman whose car has broken down at night in the dark. Your call handler has told me you treat lone women and lone men as exactly the same priority in such circumstances because 'that’s equality'."

Mott added, "I am pretty sure that is _not_ equality. I will now wait alone in the dark for 90 minutes or more, something which as a lone woman nowhere near home is far more anxiety-provoking than it would be for a man, if you follow the news. I think your policies need a revamp. I also was treated to a standard message which instructed me to get out of the car. Er, no."

The AA’s official account replied, "Hi Helen, you've been advised correctly. We don't prioritise based on gender, we do consider the location so as an example we would prioritise someone on a motorway over someone in a supermarket car park."

Fellow Twitter users quickly added their thoughts into the mix, with one person writing, "That's not equality, that's ridiculous! There are more risks to lone females stranded at night. Simple. I'm with AA and am now considering changing my policy."

Another added: "Although I don’t think women per se should jump the queue I do think that a little common sense needs to be applied. That is assess those who might be more vulnerable whether because of being alone, their sex, and whether they are elderly, as well as children in car."

One more complained: "This is truly truly worrying. I pay for my student daughter's AA membership in the, obviously mistaken belief, that it would keep her safe in exactly the circumstances you find yourself in."

However (and careful not to strain your eyes whilst rolling them here...), in the interest of balance, others (mostly men) tweeted commending the AA on their stance and saying 'that's equality for you!'... not taking into account that a lone women is more at-risk than a lone man.

Eventually, Dr Mott received an apology from the motoring association’s president Edmund King OBE. He wrote: "We can and do prioritise women if they are vulnerable. Sitting at home is not vulnerable but alone on a dark night is. We deal with 10k breakdowns daily so do have experience but accept we got things wrong yesterday although we still prioritised and arrived in 26 mins. Forgive us."

The AA also later tweeted, "We accept that the wording of our initial response wasn’t great and apologise. We prioritise anyone at risk but more often than not, it'll be lone women. In breakdowns involving lone women where there is any concern raised, they receive the highest level of care and priority."

They later added, "Rest assured we haven’t changed vulnerable customer policies. We got wording of initial contact wrong & apologised. We prioritise anyone at risk. More often than not it will be lone women. In these breakdowns if any concern is raised they receive highest level of care & priority."

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