ABTA has called for overseas holiday claims up to £25,000 to be brought under the same fixed recoverable legal costs regime that currently applies to other personal injury claims. The call is contained in the Association’s submission to the Lord Justice Jackson Review Panel, which is considering further reforms to the UK’s civil justice regime.
ABTA says the change is necessary to close an existing loophole that has enabled claims for overseas holiday sickness to fall outside of the existing fixed costs regime, even though consumers who have booked a package holiday have a clear line of legal redress against their UK based travel company.
Claims management companies have been conducting significant advertising and marketing campaigns online and using social media, specifically targeting all-inclusive package holidaymakers who have travelled within the past three years. The campaigns advise holidaymakers that they are able to make claims for gastric illness even when they have not sought medical help in resort or reported their illness to the UK tour operator during the course of the holiday.
ABTA has also recently responded to a separate Government consultation, welcoming proposals to increase the Small Claims Track limit for personal injury claims from the current level of £1,000 to £5,000. The Association has indicated that the combination of regulatory changes, as well as enhanced processes for monitoring sickness incidents in the industry, could lead to a reduction in claims levels. However, it is also careful to recognise that consumers with valid claims should have access to justice.
Alan Wardle ABTA Director of Public Affairs said: “ABTA recognises that people do occasionally get sick on their holiday. Where this is the result of a breakdown in the hygiene procedures of a hotel, consumers must retain the right to seek redress from their travel provider. However, the recent increase in claims for holiday sickness far exceeds recorded incidents of illness in resort, and it is apparent to us that the unscrupulous activities of some Claims Management Companies is playing a part in driving this increase. We are therefore asking the Government to close the existing loophole, which allows sky-high legal costs simply because an incident may have occurred overseas. Introducing limits for the amounts that these lawyers can recover, as is already the case for other sectors, will not restrict access to justice but could help to discourage illegitimate claims”
ABTA’s response was submitted on 23 January following feedback, including case studies, from its Members. The deadline for responses has been extended to the 30 January.