Bogus Holiday Claims: the Clampdown Begins
Now we all know that it's not uncommon to get an upset stomach on holiday. But did you know that TUI, operators of Thomson and First Choice, have seen a 1,400% rise in claims for compensation for falling ill while on holiday in the last few years? (Some of those claims being from three years ago, with no evidence to support them.) Are more people falling sick? Or simply forgetting they were sick and having an epiphany years later?
Or is it more likely that a call from a claims management company (CMC) or an online ad makes them think they can make a quick few grand, no questions asked?
Let’s face it, it’s the latter.
Now the banks have paid out on most of the PPI claims, and the government has clamped down on the amount of claims for whiplash following a car accident, the CMCs have had to find a new industry to leech off. And that, sadly, is the travel industry. Tactics usually involve cold-calling people who've recently returned from holiday or even hiring touts to hang around outside resorts encouraging holidaymakers to cover the cost of their all-inclusive deal by submitting a fake claim for illness when they get back.
The problem (and of course most people aren’t being told this) is that travel companies are seeking to reduce the number of fraudulent claims by investigating them. One couple were happily posting to Facebook what a wonderful time they were having, cocktails in hand, while submitting a claim stating they were shut up in their room sick. I spoke with Nick Longman, UK MD of TUI who said they would consider prosecuting false claims.
"One couple were happily posting to Facebook what a wonderful time they were having, cocktails in hand, while submitting a claim stating they were shut up in their room sick."
And the hotels, who always end up bearing the brunt of the costs, are fighting back. The Spanish Hotel Association, which announced claims had cost them €50 million last year are indicating they may stop working with British tour operators. Or at least not offer them all-inclusive packages. One Crete property, the Caldera Palace Hotel, is suing a UK couple who submitted a claim after a call encouraging them to do so from a CMC. They are seeking £170,000 in a counter claim that could cost the couple their house.
"A UK couple who submitted a claim are being counter-sued for £170,000 - it could cost them their house."
So this is not the victimless crime the CMCs might have you believe. If the growth in claims continues, we’ll see fewer properties abroad making themselves available to British holidaymakers. That will push up prices even more and could potentially mean all-inclusive options are removed from sale to the UK. But worse, it could lead to a criminal record and massive legal bill and fine if proved to be false.
I must stress, travel companies I have spoken to are keen to respect genuine cases so here’s the advice:
- Before you go, get the FREE EHIC card form the NHS. Don’t get suckered into paying for it with an intermediary advertising on search engines
- If you get ill while abroad, see a doctor; keep the receipts or a note from him. Speak to the rep in resort if there is one or contact the travel company back home to let them know. Also speak with the staff at the hotel
- Make your claim directly to the holiday company when you return. Again don’t use claim management companies who will add little help and just take a large cut
- If you see touts in resort again let the rep or hotel manager know
- If you are called about making a claim back home and encouraged to make one take the company details and notify the Claims Management Regulator. Click here for more info on this subject