Thousands at risk of criminal record and hefty fines
ABTA is warning UK holidaymakers about the dangers of making false or exaggerated holiday sickness claims, as millions return home after the summer break. Unscrupulous claims firms are targeting people once they return from holiday - either by cold-calling or on social media - encouraging them to submit fake or exaggerated compensation claims for holiday sickness. These firms tell holidaymakers there is no risk involved but this is not true: the potential penalties for making a fraudulent claim are extremely serious and may include hefty fines, a criminal record and potential imprisonment either in the UK or in the destination where they took their holiday.
Members of the public have been bombarded with requests to submit false sickness claims through advertising, cold-calling and targeted messaging on social media. However, with holiday companies fighting back against the deluge of claims they have received, and with a number of UK holidaymakers facing prosecution claims or being ordered to pay costs, people are beginning to realise this is a crime which is likely to push up holiday prices for everyone in the long run.
Mrs Tracey Krieger from North West London recently returned from an all-inclusive holiday in Mexico and was cold-called several times by claims firms when she was back in the UK. She says: “My family really love our overseas holidays and generally we have a great time, but recently I’ve been cold-called by companies asking if I became sick while I was on holiday and telling me how easy it is to claim compensation. I even get messages and adverts on my Facebook page - it is getting to be just like whiplash and PPI. It really annoys me that these companies can get away with this, it is dishonest and we will all end up losing out as this will cause holiday prices to rise. It is unfair that honest British holidaymakers are being penalised by dishonest people making nonsensical claims for “sickness”. I don’t want to be tarred with the same brush just because I am a British holidaymaker. Most of us are very honest - these claims firms need to be taken to task and this unscrupulous practice has to stop.”
Some claims firms will suggest to holidaymakers that they are “entitled” to compensation and that the Government, or their travel company, has set a pot of money aside to pay out sickness claims. There is no such pot and it is illegal to make a fraudulent claim. Last year, in Spain alone, the cost to Majorcan hotels was £42 million. Since 2013, there has been more than a 500% increase in the number of compensation claims for holiday sickness by British holidaymakers, with tens of thousands of claims in the past year. Yet during the same period, reported sickness levels in resorts have remained stable and the problem is associated only with UK holidaymakers.
Mark Tanzer, ABTA Chief Executive, commented: “Holidaymakers need to understand that making a fraudulent claim will have consequences. People tempted to fabricate holiday sickness in order to make a claim, should be aware that this is a crime and that they risk ending up in jail either in the UK or abroad. People should be very wary of any company that approaches them and encourages them to make a dishonest or exaggerated claim. Whatever a claims firm might say, fake claims are fraud.”
ABTA launched its “Stop Sickness Scams” campaign in mid-June with the support of its Members and travel industry partners, and called on the Government to crackdown on fake holiday sickness claims. In early July, the Government committed to address urgently the loophole in the law which allows companies to profit unduly from false claims, and ABTA will continue to work closely with the Government and regulators to encourage further reforms.
Campaign partners are offering the following advice for holidaymakers:
If you are aware of a fake claim, report it to Action Fraud.
Report claims management touts in resorts to your hotel manager and/or tour operator.
Warn other holidaymakers if you see touts about and let your friends and family know about the problem.
If you believe you have experienced food poisoning as a result of eating in your hotel, contact your hotel or tour operator immediately in resort.
If you aren’t satisfied with the response you get from your travel company, you can pursue your case through ABTA’s independent Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) scheme or through the small claims court.If your claim is successful you will keep 100% of your award, whereas claims companies could take a hefty slice of any compensation awarded.
30 August 2017
Notes to editors: Tracey Krieger and ABTA spokespeople are available for live or pre-recorded interviews