Ministers crack down on bogus holiday sickness claims
Travel industry chiefs are being urged to supply evidence to a drive by ministers against bogus holiday sickness claims that is expected to lead to curbs on legal costs.
It is the latest stage of the government’s crackdown on a problem that is damaging Britain’s reputation overseas and that could drive up holiday costs for families.
The upsurge in holiday sickness claims in the UK – partly fuelled by claims management touts operating in European resorts – could be as high as 500 per cent since 2013 to 35,000 claims in 2016, according to travel industry estimates. This has not been seen in other European countries and has raised questions over the scale of bogus claims.
The industry has also found that while the average value of a gastric illness claim is about £2,100, the average cost of defending a claim is almost £3,800. That means a total cost of claims to the industry, including damages paid, of more than £240 million.
Ministers are asking the industry and others to submit a wide range of information from the volumes of claims to the amount of damages awarded. This will be used to help ministers identify next steps to tackle false claims.
Dominic Raab, the justice minister, said: “Bogus claims against tour operators risk driving up the price of summer holidays abroad for hard-working families who have earned a break. We’re taking action to deter these claims, and protect holidaymakers from being ripped off.”
The call for evidence, which will remain open for four weeks, comes after government action over the summer intended to reduce cash incentives to bring spurious claims against package holiday tour operators.
Responding to the MoJ’s move, Christina Blacklaws, the vice-president of the Law Society, the body that represents solicitors in England and Wales, said “cold calling should be banned and claims companies which seek to profit from bogus or exaggerated claims must be brought to task”.
Blacklaws called on insurers to play a more active role. “They should not pay out on claims which are either fraudulent or which lack legal merit,” she said. “If tour operators or hotels have a concern a claim is fraudulent or exaggerated, it is essential the claim is investigated.”
The Law Society argued that claims were sometimes settled when they were fraudulent and defendable. “We are concerned that this may actually encourage more fraudulent claims and will increase the cost of holidays,” said Blacklaws. “If a claim lacks merit it should be defended.”