Holiday operators have sought to table an urgent meeting with the government in an attempt to control the growing numbers of claims made after people have fallen ill while away. So what’s the problem and why are holiday operators so concerned?
Well, the problem seems to stem in large part from a rapid growth in all-inclusive holiday packages. In order to maintain profit margins in what is now a highly competitive sector, hotels appear to have been saving costs by reheating food and cutting back on safe hygiene practices. The upshot of such practices has meant a ‘significant increase’ in the number of gastric illness claims being made by holidaymakers on their return.
Some of the biggest consumer law firms in the country have created specialist departments which deal with these types of claims. However, holiday operators claim the major source of the problems in this area can be laid at the feet of claims management companies. ABTA claims these companies are targeting tourists while they are still on holiday to make claims and promising damages of up to £5,000. ABTA is now calling for greater regulation of the sector and is collating evidence to present to the Ministry of Justice in a lobbying mission.
A spokeswoman for ABTA said:
‘An increasing number of these claims are unsubstantiated, and we believe this is being driven by the aggressive sales practices of some claims management companies touting their services to holidaymakers either in destinations or in the UK.’
‘ABTA will be meeting with the MoJ, which regulates claims management activities, to highlight our concerns and to ensure it takes the necessary action to safeguard the system from fraudulent claims.’
‘[However] it is important that holidaymakers who have a genuine claim are protected, and people should be aware that it is illegal to pursue a fraudulent case,’ she added.
Conservative MP Craig Tracey, who chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Insurance and Financial Services, has said he believes there is a problem and that he intends to raise the ‘extremely worrying’ issue in Parliament. Speaking to the Mail on Sunday, he said:
‘We’ve got to protect those people who have genuine claims and perhaps we need to introduce a cap on solicitors’ fees similar to what happened with whiplash claims.’
So what is ABTA’s advice for holidaymakers who fall ill either on their holidays or shortly after their return? Well, ABTA is advising holidaymakers who return to the UK and want to pursue a claim to initially use its own dispute resolution service. If customers fail to gain satisfaction from this service, ABTA is advising holidaymakers to make a claim for up to £1,000 for health and safety-related problems through the Small-Claims Court:
‘We would advise customers to pursue their case through these routes, rather than via a claims management company, who will typically take a significant cut of any successful claim.