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Fraudulent food poisoning claims will push up holiday prices

Written by: Paloma Kubiak
There has been a 500% increase in the number of compensation claims for food poisoning since 2013, which will result in higher holiday prices, warns travel association ABTA.

Tens of thousands of claims have been made in the past year and the industry has experienced a 300% rise in claims during this period. Over 90% of all personal injury claims now relate to alleged sickness, up from 60% previously.

But since 2013, the number of sickness cases reported in resorts has either fallen or remained stable, meaning the epidemic is only associated with UK holidaymakers.

ABTA said there is evidence to suggest the majority of these claims may be ‘exaggerated or fraudulent’ with unscrupulous claims management companies encouraging holidaymakers to pursue compensation.

These companies take a cut of any reward and associated solicitors also add legal fees. This adds a substantial cost to tour operators, insurance companies and overseas hotels, says ABTA.

A hotel group in Mallorca revealed that the claims cost it £42 million last year and hoteliers in Spain and Turkey have said they may have to stop offering all-inclusive packages to British tourists because of the ‘devastating financial impact’ fake claims are having.

ABTA warns that if this problem isn’t stopped it will result in higher prices for everyone, as has been seen with false whiplash claims.

The consequences of making a false claim

The Association cautions Brits from submitting a fraudulent or exaggerated claim for holiday sickness: It is a criminal offence in the UK and may well be treated similarly overseas.

In addition to breaking the law, there can be severe financial consequences. A Greek hotel is currently pursuing a counter-claim for £170,000 against a British couple where they have evidence showing the couple have submitted a fraudulent claim.

Given the huge rise in claims, tour operators are increasingly taking steps to challenge and defend these claims, ABTA said.

Genuine holiday sickness claims

ABTA said cases of food poisoning caused by poor hygiene practice in hotels used by British tour operators are relatively rare.

However, if you do succumb to food poisoning, you should let your tour operator and the hotel management know immediately so you can receive the correct medical help. It will also help them identify the source of the problem so other holidaymakers are prevented from suffering too.

Once you’re back in the UK and you wish to take the case further, ABTA recommends contacting your tour operator directly. Anyone considering submitting a holiday sickness claim through a claims management group will receive much less compensation after fees are taken into consideration.

If you’re not satisfied with the response from your tour operator, contact ABTA to use its arbitration scheme. If your tour operator isn’t a member of ABTA, you can pursue the claim through the Small Claims court.

ABTA has this week sent a letter to the Secretary of State for Justice calling for action to be taken and it has launched a Stop Sickness Scams campaign to tackle the growing issue.

Martin Milliner, LV= director of claims, said: “If ever you needed more proof of a growing compensation culture in the UK, look no further than the boom in holiday sickness claims. Claims management firms are at the heart of the problem with their persistent hounding of the public and we hope that today’s measures in the Queen’s Speech will help alleviate this with stronger regulation. That said, potential fraudsters also need to understand that it is not a victimless crime and LV= will always push for the harshest possible sentences, so a ‘no-win, no-fee’ fake claim could result in a heavy loss or even a custodial sentence.”

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