British holidaymakers who make bogus sickness claims have been warned they could face up to three years in jail.
The caution comes from travel trade body Abta, which highlighted there has been a 500 per cent increase in the number of compensation claims for holiday sickness since 2013. This is despite reported sickness levels at resorts stagnating.
Abta said caps on personal injury payouts in the UK have led to no-win-no-fee lawyers setting their sights on filing travel insurance claims. There have been reports of some lawyers posting agents at larger European resorts to sign up would be claimants.
Mark Tanzer, Abta’s chief executive, today wrote to the new justice minister David Lidington urging the government to close a “legal loophole that is allowing firms to unduly profit from these claims”.
Holidaymakers need to know that whatever a claims firm might say, fake claims are fraud. Holidaymakers pursuing fake or exaggerated claims risk ending up in jail either in the UK or abroad.
He continued: “The public need to know the truth behind the highly misleading marketing tactics used by unscrupulous claims management companies whose activities are causing so much damage.”
Soaring claim numbers are hitting the travel sector harder than insurers. This is because many claims are below travel firms’ insurance excess, meaning it is them, rather than their insurers, that settle claims.
Abta said fake claims are costing the wider travel industry tens of millions of pounds and are threatening to increase holiday prices.
Representatives from popular overseas destinations rallied in support of Abta’s “Stop Sickness Scams” campaign launched today.
Professor Jaime Campaner Munoz, a solicitor acting on behalf of the Federation of Majorcan Hotels, said: “We will be seeking convictions against anyone who is involved in these fraudulent claims.
In addition the Spanish Criminal Code has recently included a new offence, 'belonging to a criminal group', for which there are very severe penalties and we will be seeking convictions under this law as well.
Emy Anagnostopoulou, a director at the Greek National Tourism Organisation UK and Ireland Office said: “We are proud to offer our encouragement towards their efforts to raise and maintain the industry’s standards with regards to fake holiday sickness claims.”