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Government to clamp down on bogus holiday sickness epidemic

Written by: Paloma Kubiak
The government has announced it will close a loophole which has helped fuel the soaring trend of Brits making bogus holiday sickness claims, potentially raising travel costs for all.

Holiday sickness claim pay-outs will be “brought under control”, the Ministry of Justice has announced.

In the coming weeks, package holiday claims will come under the fixed recoverable costs regime. This means tour operators will pay prescribed costs depending on the value of the claim and length of proceedings, making defence costs predictable, and helping them to challenge bogus claims.

Currently, legal costs in overseas package travel claims haven’t been controlled which means costs for tour operators can spiral compared with the damages claim.

This claims epidemic has led many operators to settle out of court, rather than challenge them.

The uncontrolled costs has also empowered claims management companies to encourage tourists to pursue holiday sickness compensation, with touts reportedly operating in European resorts.

Last year it was revealed there was a 500% increase in the number of compensation claims for food poisoning since 2013. In 2013, the figure stood at around 5,000 claims, according to the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA), rising to around 35,000 claims in 2016, despite the fact that reported incidence of illness in resorts had actually declined in recent years.

The epidemic has also sparked concerns that the high number of claims raises the prospect of higher travel costs for British tourists, as well as damaging the nation’s reputation.

It is expected the curb on costs will be in place before the next summer holiday season.

Justice Minister, Rory Stewart, said: “Claiming compensation for being sick on holiday, when you haven’t been, is fraud.

“This damages the travel industry and risks driving up costs for holidaymakers.

“This behaviour also tarnishes the reputation of British people abroad. That is why we are introducing measures to crack down on those who engage in this dishonest practice.”

Since October 2017, four couples were either sentenced or ordered to pay significant legal costs by the court after making false package holiday sickness claims. These cases were private prosecutions brought by tour operators Thomas Cook, TUI and Red Sea Holidays.

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