The Government has proposed new measures in response to the increase in the number of people making claims regarding holiday sickness.
According to some in the travel industry, the number of claims of this type has risen by 500% since 2013. The Government notes that a similar rise in claims has not been seen in other countries, and comments that the issue “is damaging Britain’s reputation overseas” and that it “could drive up holiday costs” for all consumers.
The Government is now proposing to limit the cash incentives for making a claim. Tour operators would also pay a prescribed sum, depending on the value of the claim, so that they could know in advance what the costs of defending a claim would be.
Holiday sickness claims have often been very hard for tour operators to defend, especially on ‘all inclusive’ holidays, where it would be expected that holidaymakers would eat all of their meals at the resort.
Justice Secretary David Lidington MP said:
“Our message to those who make false holiday sickness claims is clear – your actions are damaging and will not be tolerated.
“We are addressing this issue, and will continue to explore further steps we can take. This government is absolutely determined to tackle the compensation culture which has penalised the honest majority for too long.”
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson MP had previously said that “British digestive systems have become the most delicate in the world”.
Mark Tanzer, chief executive of the Association of British Travel Agents, said:
“These claims are tarnishing British holidaymakers’ reputation abroad, particularly in Spain where they are costing hoteliers millions of pounds.”
Thomas Cook UK’s managing director Chris Mottershead warned of the possible consequences of the rise in sickness claims by commenting:
“It has the potential of putting hoteliers out of business. They will stop British customers coming into their hotels.”
The Government press release highlights that anyone found guilty of making a fraudulent claim could receive a prison sentence of up to three years.
The Claims Management Regulator at the Ministry of Justice first highlighted the issue of holiday sickness claims in its November 2016 bulletin to claims management companies (CMCs). On that occasion, it highlighted that assisting with claims from people who have become ill whilst on holiday is an activity that requires authorisation. Once authorised, companies conducting this type of claims activity are subject to the same rules as all other CMCs. The regulator is particularly concerned that holiday sickness claims companies are approaching potential clients in person, or are failing to obtain consent before targeting individuals with direct marketing material. These practices constitute a breach of the MoJ’s rules. According to the bulletin, some companies are simply randomly contacting people who have recently been on holiday.
In July 2017, Thomas Cook successfully defended a £10,000 holiday sickness claim brought by Julie Lavelle and Michael McIntyre, who waited until almost three years after a holiday in Gran Canaria to make their claim. It was remarked on in court that the couple did not mention their alleged condition to hotel staff or to tour representatives at the resort at the time, that Mr McIntyre did not mention any illness on a holiday feedback questionnaire he completed on the flight home, and that Ms Lavelle did not bring up her illness during a GP visit a few days after returning. The judge described the claim that the entire family had suffered from gastroenteris throughout the trip as “wholly implausible”.
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