My colleague stormed in and sat down in somewhat animated fashion this morning, "Bastards are ripping me off," he shrieked. Now, it takes a lot to wind my usually sanguine chum up, but The AA managed it with some aplomb.
The basis of his elevated blood pressure was the AA's attempt to take some £209 out of his bank account for a recurring annual subscription by direct debit.
He telephoned and they immediately offered a reduction of 33% to £140 which in itself is extraordinary. More vexatious is a quick quote from The AA website offered a price of £134, (all quotes are for two drivers).
My colleague is now with the RAC at an annual cost of £108.
The problem here is not just that The AA ramped the direct debit cost of my friends subscription and hoped he wouldn't notice but that this way of conducting business has become the model of choice with most businesses that have recurring charges. They plead, or indeed insist, that the customer moves to direct debit and subsequently either doesn't notice price increases or continues to use services long after they are of no value to the customer.
Oh and by the way, The AA have just cut their notice period of renewal to 10 days.
Another example of what happens to businesses, and their customers, after once mutually beneficial groups are recycled through the financial joy-riders of private equity.
The question is, at what point does this pernicious activity cross the line from normal business practice to fraud? After all, an instant price cut of 33% ought to be telling us something.
The irritating thing is, all of this reflects poorly on their roadside mechanics who in my experience are a great bunch of helpful, knowledgeable and cheerful blokes........ and Kenny from Dornoch, thank you; couldn't have done it without you.