BRITS are facing a Spanish holiday ban on all-inclusive hotel deals after reports of fake food-poisoning claims.
Touts have moved in to popular resorts, promising tourists pay-outs running into thousands of pounds and coaching them about the ‘evidence’ they need to support a claim.
Fake food-poisoning claims are said to have soared by 700% in the past year and hotel owners say they have been fleeced out of €48 million in the past 18 months.
The Costa del Sol, Costa Blanca, Costa Dorada and Benidorm have reportedly seen the highest number of scams.
The Hotel Business Association of Majorca wants a blanket ban on all-inclusive visitors to the island unless the problem is tackled.
Hotel owners in Benidorm are said to have asked chemists not to sell stomach upset medicines to Brits unless they have a prescription.
And some hotels on the Canary Islands are reportedly planning to ask guests to sign disclaimer forms at the end of their stay confirming they did not get food poisoning.
Some claims are being put in as long as two years after the holiday took place – ‘victims’ only need a pharmacist’s receipt for food poisoning medication to put in a claim.
A statement on the ABTA website said: ‘ABTA members are reporting significantly increased volumes of gastric illness claims.’
‘They are seeing consumers bringing claims where they have not reported illness in resort, or sought medical treatment locally (beyond possibly visiting a pharmacy), or visited their GP on return to the UK.’
‘The first notification a tour operator may receive of a claim is when they receive a letter from a firm of solicitors in the UK, sometimes a couple of years after the holiday took place.’
Since claims-management companies became involved in holiday sickness, there has been a 50-fold increase in the number of cases — many of which are regarded by the travel industry as fraudulent.
‘It is out of control,’ said Maria Pittordis, Head of Marine, Trade and Energy for the Hill Dickinson law firm in a presentation at the ABTA Travel Law Seminar in London. ‘It doesn’t seem to be subsiding.’
UK-based companies are cold-calling individuals and telling them, falsely, that ‘a fund has been set up to compensate for deficiencies in hotel hygiene’.
ABTA continued in its statement: ‘ABTA is aware of aggressive marketing by claims-management companies, including targeting of holidaymakers in local resorts, which is likely to be contributing to the rise in numbers.’
Ms Pittordis said social media, depending on how smart the user is, can go for or against a fake food-poisoning claim. She said: ‘It’s become worse with social media. They post that there is a problem at a particular hotel, even though there isn’t.’
But she said that Facebook can prove an effective way of debunking false claims: ‘Some users don’t know about personal/ private settings. When you see all their holiday snaps that can be very helpful, if they say they have been in bed all day.’
The Foreign Office has warned British holidaymakers they face legal action if they are found to have made a false claim: ‘You should only consider pursuing a complaint or claim if you have genuinely suffered from injury or illness. If you make a false or fraudulent claim, you may face legal proceedings in the UK or Spain.’