How an 0800 number can lead to a communication breakdown

Telecoms /

Driving home the other day, I came up behind an AA roadside recovery van. On the back of the van was the customer emergency number. To my surprise it was an 0800 number.

Now you may be thinking something along the lines of: “An 0800 freephone number? That’s pretty customer friendly.” In some respects, it is. After all, calling an 0800 number from a landline is, as we all know, free. They could be using something like an 0844 or 0871 number after all.

But what about all those unfortunate people who breakdown on the roadside?
That’s normally why you’d get breakdown cover. Those unlucky few are not going to be able to call from a landline, so suddenly an 0800 number isn’t very customer friendly.

Does it affect that many people?

I did a bit of digging around the AA's website to see if I could find any statistics for breakdowns. As you may or may not know, the AA provide both roadside and home cover. I couldn't find any figures for the number of roadside recoveries, but according to their home breakdown cover, around 2,000 a day call the AA from home. They also mention that around 1 in 4 breakdowns occur either on the driveway or within 1/4 of a mile of the home.

Based on these figures roughly 8,000 people are calling the AA each day, 6,000 of which are being recovered from the roadside. That's 6,000 people having to call from a mobile phone and paying up to 40p per minute. And to make matters worse, some mobile networks don't even allow you to call an 0800 number - so how are you supposed to get recovered?

But what about the other breakdown companies?

It's not just the AA who's guilty of this. I also checked the RAC, Green Flag and many of the smaller breakdown companies' websites and guess what? They also use 0800 numbers. Maybe it's just me, but if I'm paying a load of money each year for breakdown cover, I don't expect to then have to fork out even more just to use the service in an emergency.

This wouldn't be so bad if they at least provided an alternative number for mobile callers. The rise in mobile usage is one of the reasons why 03 numbers were added. If these recovery companies want to think about their customers more, then maybe it's time for a change.

Besides, a local or 03 number would actually be cheaper for these companies.

David Orrell