Bill discovers phone line has dial-ect problem
A TIVERTON man was left at a loss when he became a Lois after an automated telephone line failed to understand his Devonshire accent.
Bill Jones, 78, of Cosway Road, applied for a European Health Insurance Card – formerly known as an E111 – in August but ran into problems when he rang the automated phone line which was supposed to make the process of applying for the card simpler.
The system failed to understand Mr Jones accent and when the card arrived in the post a few days later it was made out to Mrs Jones – a Lois Mary Jones.
To compound the error, when Mr Jones rang up a second time, the system got his gender right but renamed him George Edward Jones.
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Mr Jones said: "I rang up and the machine asked for my name, and I said 'William" then the voice said they didn't understand and asked if I could repeat it, so I spoke again and this time I spelled it out.
"Then it asked my date of birth, and I said it was in 1935, but then it asked me if I had said 1937 and so I had to say 'no' and give my date of birth again. It was obvious at the time the system didn't understand regional accents."
He said: "When the letter arrived it was addressed to Lois Mary Jones and that's what it said on the card, too. There was nowhere on the letter which explained what to do if the details on the card were wrong, so I phoned up again and went through the whole thing again and this time when the card came back it was for a George Edward Jones."
Mr Jones said he had originally gone to the post office to get the free card but had been told the forms were no longer held there.
For anyone who does not have internet access, the only other way to get a card is to use the automated telephone system.
A card with the correct details arrived at the weekend, after Mr Jones' daughter applied online.
Helpline advisors admit the voice recognition system is known to struggle with Geordie and Scottish accents but it appears to have also been puzzled by the Devonshire accent, too.
Although Mr Jones saw the funny side of the blunder, he was concerned that obtaining a card could be the "first step" to committing a scam as there did not seem to be any safeguards to prevent people obtaining multiple copies of the cards in different names.
Mr Jones contacted the Gazette after reading of the expenses claimed by his local MP Neil Parish for the running of his office.
Mr Jones said despite contacting the MP's office twice to complain about the lack of service from the automated phone system, he had received no response.
"With the tens of thousands of pounds being spent on offices I would have thought they could afford to phone me just once," he said.
The health card allows those travelling within the European Union to get state healthcare treatment at a reduced cost or sometimes for free.