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Admiral insurance worker ‘told customer she wasn’t allowed to speak to him in Welsh’

04 Mar 2024 6 minute read
Photo via Google

Martin Shipton

The Admiral insurance group has been criticised by a customer who was told by one of its call centre employees that she wasn’t allowed to talk to him in Welsh.

Steffan ap Breian, a Welsh language teacher from Pontypool, said: “I called Admiral to buy car insurance. I spoke to a young woman on the phone who revealed that she was fluent in Welsh while she was preparing a quote for me.

“As I responded in Welsh she claimed that the company has a definite policy which prevents its staff from speaking Welsh to customers. I checked again that she was fluent in Welsh by speaking to her in Welsh and she responded quickly and correctly to my enquiries in English. On each occasion I asked three questions but she again claimed that her employer’s rules prevented her from speaking Welsh to a customer.

“I strongly emphasise that my complaint is not against the young member of staff but against Admiral. I think they are breaking the standards.

“I know and accept that some of the big companies in Wales see themselves as being ‘beyond our Welsh laws’ or the very weak standards currently in place. But Admiral has received a significant amount of financial assistance from the Welsh Government and should respect the language rights of Welsh speakers.”

Flexible

A spokeswoman for Admiral said: “We try to be as flexible as possible to our customers’ requests. If a customer calls and wishes to speak to someone in Welsh, if there is a Welsh speaking colleague available, they can conduct the call as usual in this language.

“Wherever there are scripts which need to be read out on a call, these need to be read in English and we would inform the customer of this when agreeing to conduct the rest of the call in Welsh.

“Any further interaction in Welsh would be dependent on a Welsh speaker being available. Unfortunately on this occasion it appears that our agent has made a mistake and not followed the correct procedure. We’re sorry about this and will also be contacting the customer directly to explain what has happened and to offer an apology. We’ll also be reminding our agents of the correct procedure.”

Mr ap Breian disputed the company’s response, saying: “[The Admiral employee] did not break their rules – she was too terrified of losing her job for speaking our language in our own country so she spoke English and sounded for the most part like she was repeating a training manual script.

“They are using colonial occupation speak to say sod off we don’t talk to the natives, blaming the member of staff and cloaking their intention to carry on with their anti Welsh language stance. They have been doing this since the Gwion Schiovane complaint in 2013 and got away with it.

“The Labour unionist government gave huge grant to Admiral so it’s doubtful any government source will rap their knuckles.

“This is the realpolitik for the Welsh speaker in British-occupied Cymru. We are disregarded and treated as foreigners in our own country.

“A senior manager already rang me and attempted to discuss a complaint in English. This is a typical British tactic – ignore, be the superior occupying power, the natives must do as they are told There shall be No Welsh here. Welsh Not.”

‘Individuals’ rights’

Welsh Language Commissioner Efa Gruffudd Jones said: “In our most recent Assurance Report we noted concerns that a number of Welsh speakers had experienced someone preventing them from speaking Welsh in their everyday lives.

“In our discussions with numerous companies we always remind them of individuals’ rights to use the Welsh language and that their policies should reflect this.

“Our understanding is that it is Admiral’s policy to conduct dialogue with customers in Welsh, if possible, but we will be liaising with the company to remind them of their responsibilities.

“I would, however, like to remind anyone that they can ask us to investigate if they believe an organisation has interfered with their freedom to communicate with another individual in Welsh.”

A grant of nearly £700,000 given to Admiral by the Welsh Government in 2017 was criticised at the time. The cash was given to Admiral to create 193 new jobs.

Professor Dylan Jones Evans of the University of South Wales said he found it hard to believe taxpayers’ money was given to a “firm that makes a substantial profit every year”.

Admiral had made £193m that year as Wales’ only FTSE-listed company.

The Cardiff-based company employed 6,000 people in Wales at the time, and hoped that 193 customer service and sales jobs would be created after the successful bid for a £668,500 government business plan grant.

Sensible

Plaid Cymru’s Adam Price said at the time: “You have to question whether it’s sensible use of public money to invest in a company which is hugely successful – a £1bn plus turnover, (it’s) very, very profitable.

“When resources are so scarce, should we be actually providing money to a company that does not really need it?”

An Admiral spokesman said: “Wales is one of the fastest growing financial services centres in the UK and Admiral is delighted to be able to launch its new venture into the lending market here in our home city of Cardiff.”

A Welsh Government spokesman said: “Admiral is an important success story and we make no apology for supporting the creation of nearly 200 jobs in Wales which help those entering and re-entering the employment market.”

Mr ap Breian pointed out that in 2013 there had been a similar complaint about Admiral and its attitude to the Welsh Language. The company apologised after Welsh speaker Gwion Schiavone said he had been told that every conversation had to be conducted in English to satisfy regulators.

At the time the then First Minister Carwyn Jones said: “It doesn’t make business sense for a company to be seen as one which fails to provide services in Welsh, especially a big company. I would think that Admiral would want to ensure that services in Welsh are available.”


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Evan Aled Bayton
Evan Aled Bayton
4 months ago

Mr ap Breian is mistaken – the occupiers are the English not the British. We are the original British and the Demonym Welsh is an AngloSaxon term for a Celtic or Latin type language speaker as in Walloon and Vlach.

Riki
Riki
4 months ago

Exactly, it really annoys me when people from Wales say they are “Welsh, not British”. Its fundamental shows a lack of historical knowledge of our country and our island. Britain (Britannia) is the latinised form of Prydain. Calling yourself Welsh is not only historically incorrect but also a self insult. We are not “FOREIGNERS” only our own island.

Marcel
Marcel
4 months ago

Awful company. Most complained about on financial ombudsman site. Look past their glossy adverts….they will take your money but dont expect a payout in case of a claim

William
William
4 months ago
Reply to  Marcel

Not sure about that, Churchill takes some beating. Staff are more concerned with getting bonuses for selling, rushing through claim contacts to get to the selling. UK insurance limited are investigating them selves about claims they treat new business customers better than existing customers when they try to renew. If it goes on the same way I will be voting with my feet before I have to travel by foot because they are treating existing customers like Ca$h Coows
Dont expect support from Customer service staff. They have titles not objectives

Rhddwen y Sais
4 months ago

Is that because insurance details have to be discussed in the same language as the written documentation?

Padi Phillips
Padi Phillips
4 months ago

Once again the lack of any meaningful protection of our linguistic rights has become apparent. I don’t share Steffan ap Breian’s interpretation of the reasons, as it completely ignores who is really responsible for a state of affairs where companies and organisations feel they can get away with ignoring the rights of Welsh speakers. However, his complaint itself is completely valid. Given that the Welsh language is a devolved issue, responsibility for its safeguarding and associated legislation lies with the Welsh Government and the Senedd. We know the Welsh Government’s stance over the language is pretty dismissive in that the… Read more »

Last edited 4 months ago by Padi Phillips
William
William
4 months ago
Reply to  Padi Phillips

VG is more concerned with fiscal matters , that matter to him.
After taking a £200,000 donation he should have been removed from the race, Why has he not been removed.
The SENNEDD should hold a vote on the Gwent levels and block all developments. They blocked the M4 relief road after spending lots of money on a survey.

Padi Phillips
Padi Phillips
4 months ago
Reply to  William

How is this relevant to my comment?

Christine Jones
Christine Jones
4 months ago

A couple of years ago a friend got a job at a major company in Cardiff. They were told at the induction session “please keep your Welsh language at home”. She confronted the speakers who responded that “people just want to hear English”. She left shortly afterwards.

William
William
4 months ago

Did she go or was she pushed?

Neilyn
Neilyn
4 months ago

Non violent direct action required.

NOT Grayham Jones
NOT Grayham Jones
4 months ago

Mr ap Breian appears to have a massive chip on his shoulder judging by some of his comments. This is a non story- the lady from Admiral made a mistake and Admiral have explained the situation. As for having a go at Admiral i do not know what they are like as an insurance company however they employ over 6000 people most i presume from Wales which to my mind is a great thing for us.

William
William
4 months ago

Try adding Canada

Welbru
Welbru
4 months ago

It’s unlikely the worker made a mistake. Admiral are trying to cover themselves.

Riki
Riki
4 months ago

Okay, if our government were serious about our language they would be bringing charges against these companies who’s aim it is to rid our land of its native language.

Padi Phillips
Padi Phillips
4 months ago
Reply to  Riki

I think the government passing legislation for creating a level playing field for the Welsh language (i.e. an act that encompasses both the private and public sectors placing equal obligations on both) and properly enforcing it would be a more positive move. As for Admiral’s aims regarding the language, I doubt they have any malice towards it, but rather don’t want to spend the small amount of money required to facilitate it.  Even if Admiral and other companies did come under the scope of current legislation, which they don’t, the worst they would face would be a £5000 fine, as… Read more »

Riki
Riki
4 months ago
Reply to  Padi Phillips

The idea that there’s no malice doesn’t stand up to scrutiny as it’s not only them who are doing this. These actions apply across many companies in different areas of the economy. Which suggests there is indeed an aim to, at best disrupt our language from regaining a foothold. I personally would suggest it goes further and they do indeed want it gone and do have malice towards it.

Jack
Jack
4 months ago

British is not a synonym for English. When the Anglo Saxons came to the island it was already called Britain and the people of the island were already called Britons. Don’t give away the name of our island and our ancestors

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