Personal Finance: AA suffers a breakdown in communications

Helplines have been deluged as 700,000 members feared a sale windfall would pass them by
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Indy Lifestyle Online
THE AA has been inundated with phone calls from members worried about missing out on their pounds 248 windfall, following the sale of the company. More than 700,000 calls were taken during and after the voting period.

There have been claims that as many as 100,000 people have been excluded, either because their eligibility to vote was in doubt or their membership had been terminated after a direct debit failed to go through. Nigel Currie, the AA's general manager of membership services, said: "We were up against it. We had a members' helpline, operated by British Telecom on our behalf, which took 370,000 calls. Their answers should have been scripted but some operators may have taken the initiative and given other answers, which is where the 100,000 figure may have come from. Internally, the AA call volume increased by 400,000 over that period."

Voting packs were sent out to the 4.6 million members entitled to vote but up to 30,000 of them were returned to the Bristol-based scrutineers because the Post Office was unable to deliver them. "It was done over a short time scale," said Mr Currie. "In retrospect, it would have been nicer to have had a longer period. We were working until midnight the night before the Special General Meeting on 16 September and when the deadline closed, we had 909 outstanding eligibility disputes. Reviewing those since then, we found 25 per cent should have been eligible which means about 250 members were wrongly excluded. We are now involved in negotiations on how we can best compensate them."

However, the AA's lawyers have advised the company that the burden of proof lies with the member, in cases where people claim their membership was closed in error. Where membership has been closed because of a failure of a direct debit to go through within the 28 days allowed, the AA is taking a softer line. If the AA didn't inform the member that there was a problem, he or she will be put back on the register. All eligible members should receive their cheques by the 15 October.

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