Updated 18 October: A British couple who falsely claimed €20,000 compensation for food poisoning they allegedly suffered while on a Thomas Cook holiday to Majorca in 2015 have been jailed by a Liverpool Court. The pair, 53-year-old Deborah Briton and 43-year-old Paul Roberts, were sentenced to nine and fifteen months respsectively in prison after admitting four fraud charges. Thomas Cook said that the case was serious, and a reflection of what is happeing in the British travel industry. Here in the Canaries, tourism authorities and the hostelry industry have expressed satisfaction at the outcome of the case, the first of its kind to involve a custodial term.
Updated 29 August: The Foreign Office has said today that false holiday sickness claims have a negative impact on those with a genuine claim and also on the reputation of British people abroad. As part of a crackdown on false claims, one firm responsible for pressuring people into making holiday sickness claims has recently been stripped of its licence by the Claims Management Regulator. The FCO says that intelligence gathered by the Claims Management Regulator (CMR) officers revealed that Lancashire based Allsure Ltd had encouraged holiday-goers to fabricate or embellish symptoms of gastric illness to get compensation. Further evidence showed the firm had used deceptive sales scripts – exaggerating expected pay-outs to entice consumers. This conduct has led to the firm’s licence being cancelled, which means that it can no longer offer regulated claims management services to new or existing clients.
Kevin Rousell, Head of the Claims Management Regulator said: We will take firm action against claims businesses which engage in serious misconduct. Seeking to encourage false claims will not be tolerated. CMR, based at the Ministry of Justice, regulates companies that offer to help people claim compensation for issues such as personal injury and mis-sold financial products. The action taken against Allsure Ltd is the latest in a series of moves by government to crackdown on fake sickness claims, following concerns from the travel industry of a surge in insurance claims for gastric illnesses like food poisoning being brought by British holidaymakers.
ABTA itself advises that anyone on holiday who is approached by a Claims Management Company tout should tell the tour operator and the hotel staff so that they can take appropriate action. Anyone who falls ill on holiday should again let the tour operator and hotel management know at the time. There is more advice from ABTA HERE. Anyone who has received an unsolicited call from a CMC trying to persuade them to make a fraudulent holiday sickness claim can report them to the Claims Management Regulator: you can find out more from the Government HERE.
Updated 15 June 2017: Six months on from the last post about so called British ambulance-chaser style lawyers and the Canarian Tourism Institute has announced that two British people have been arrested on suspicion of falsely claiming to have received food poisoning in their Majorca hotel. The Guardia Civil apprehended the pair last Friday, and say that this is the first case of its kind based on the instigation by British legal firms of claims of illness caused to British tourists by Spanish hotels. They also say that more prosecutions will come, throughout Spain.
Updated 15 December 2016: The Confederación Española de Hoteles y Alojamientos Turísticos says that fake claims by the so called British ambulance-chaser style lawyers are now in the region of €50 million. CEHAT says that the matter is now considered so serious that the Spanish Secretary of State for Tourism, Matilde Asián, is now taking charge of the matter.
The interest at a national level is due to the Government’s concern that such fake claims are damaging the impression of Spain among its main client base in the UK. The Spanish Government is already dealing with the UK’s Foreign Office in respect of potential measures to deal with the problem, and the FCO itself has now issued a statement that Spain is a secure destination and that to make fake claims is a crime that will result in prosecution.
Original post 15 September: Ashotel has denounced what ît says are British ambulance-chaser style lawyers inciting tourists in south Tenerife to make false claims against hotels. Association president Jorge Marichal met on Tuesday with representatives from the Canarian Government and National Police to convey the concern of hoteliers over the practice, which he says is carried out from “claims clinics”, which are no more than vans done up to look like ambulances. Marichal stressed that since the motive was purely financial the practice, which the association has watched develop throughout the summer, could be classed as “organized crime”.
The vans, with English text plastered over them to urge tourists to denounce hotels for a range of problems like food poisoning, have been circulating around south Tenerife, Ashotel says, stressing that the vans have even stopped at the doors of some hotels to capture “clients”. The practice is apparently already known in the Balearics and Andalusia, and Ashotel says that apart from being in contact with Government and police in Tenerife, it is also in contact with hotel associations in those areas to see what combined action may be possible. At the very least, Ashotel says, there is an issue with an unlicensed business being carried out by workers who, moreover, are not making social security contributions or complying with tax regulations.
Jorge Marichal said these were “pirate lawyers” who seemed to be associated with firms in the UK engaged in the same practices. Often, it seems, the claims are presented without even the most basic medical evidence, simply the allegation that the tourist became ill and had to buy medication, the unproven cost of which is claimed with threats of legal action if reimbursement were not to follow. The key, Ashotel says, is that the claims are then presented in the UK, causing hotels here either to face international legal action with elevated costs, or simply to pay up even though, Marichal says, the vast majority of the denuncias are false.