AA shouldn’t claim to be a 999 service

I refer to your recent Cover Story about the Automobile Association – “Emergency Operation” (MW May 28).

I wrote to the Advertising Standards Authority a little while ago to register my concern about the AA calling itself the “Fourth Emergency Service”, but alas was told that there was insufficient justification to look at a case for having the AA change its advertisement. It seems that as long as AA members consider the AA to be the “fourth emergency service”, the ad stands. It is unfortunate that in articles such as yours the “according to our members” tag always gets lost.

The AA says that it is not suggesting that it is a 999 service, but it offers an emergency roadside response. Why then, does the AA use 999 within its contact telephone numbers and constantly uses ambulances and fire appliances as background images in its ads?

My concern is simple, I would not wish anyone calling the AA – in a real life threatening emergency – to expect a direct 999 emergency service response, in other words police, fire, ambulance or coastguard.

In my view, any delay in response created by such an assumption would be unforgivable.

I appreciate that your article is not directly supporting the contention that the AA is an emergency service, but would be grateful if any future articles the “idea” is played down, given the nature of my concern.

In my view, and that of all coastguards, to our customers we are the first emergency service.

John Astbury

Chief Coastguard

Maritime & Coastguard Agency

Southampton

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