Dr Helen Mott, from Bristol, said on Twitter she suffered a breakdown while driving on Tuesday. After calling the AA with the belief the firm provides priority to lone female drivers, the company said it didn’t “prioritise based on gender” but would consider the location of where someone had broken down.
In a series of tweets on Tuesday night, Dr Mott said: “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’.
“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.”
In response, the AA said: “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 carpark.”
Dr Mott said in response to the message: “Wow.”
Speaking to The Sun, Dr Mott said she was told she had to wait close to two hours.
She said: “The operator gave me an estimated time which was knocking on for a couple of hours.
“I asked the call handler why they treated men and women the same and didn’t prioritise lone women.
“They said there’s no difference and they just said that’s equality. They’ve been trained to say it.”
Responding the outrage on Thursday, Dr Mott said: “I’m glad there has been some light shone e.g. on confusion around what ‘equality’ means & what ‘safety’ means.
“The situation looks to some like obfuscation and to others like a lack of understanding – What is required? – Clarity in policy, in comms and in training of all those who do public facing work and who take decisions about risk.
“Far better mainstreaming re what “safety” means to women.”
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After other members demanded clarification, AA president Edmund King said on Twitter: “Please rest assured we give priority to anyone at risk.”
Responding to a letter from Ms Duffield, Mr King said “the safety of women, and all vulnerable customers, is 100 percent at the top” of its priorities.
He said the AA had “reminded staff” of its “vulnerable customer processes and procedures”, and said if there was a breakdown involving a lone woman, “where there is any concern raised by the customer, they receive the highest level of care and priority.”
An AA spokeswoman commented: “We accept that the wording of our initial response wasn’t great and have apologised.
“In fact, we prioritise anyone at risk but more often than not it will be lone women.”