Abta is calling for a change to the law in an effort to clampdown on fraudulent holiday illness claims triggered by claims management firms.
The association first raised the issue with the Ministry of Justice in November after Spanish hoteliers reported a surge in the number of compensation claims for alleged gastric ailments from British holidaymakers but not by travellers from other countries.
Evidence compiled by Abta points towards an increase in the travel-related activities of claims management companies, following civil justice reforms in 2012.
Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer said: We have already taken steps to address this issue, raising it with the Ministry of Justice and speaking to the Spanish authorities.
“We are now asking the government to change the law that allows these firms to profit disproportionately from such claims.”
Abta will use the evidence it has collected to call for overseas accidents to be processed under the same fixed costs regime that already applies to other personal injury claims with a value up to £25,000, according to Tanzer.
“Additionally, we are developing an ADR (alternative dispute resolution) scheme for personal injury to allow customers to process their complaints through Abta in a way which is cost effective for both the customer and the Abta member – more details to follow very shortly,” he revealed.
“The meetings we have had so far with the Ministry of Justice have been positive and they recognise this as an issue for the industry and the public.
“We will continue to work proactively with the policymakers and regulators, sharing intelligence and data to support the industry’s case for change.”
Tanzer explained: “Last year members informed Abta that they were seeing dramatic increases in the number of gastric illness claims. The level of claims far exceeded the reported sickness levels in resort.
“Spanish hoteliers have also reported significant increases in sickness claims made by British holidaymakers but not by their German or French counterparts, leading them to suspect that some claims are fraudulent, particularly where the customers involved have not reported any illness or sought medical attention whilst in destination.
“This trend is a serious concern for our members, for the industry as a whole and for consumers with genuine claims.
“The increases appear to have coincided with changes in the law in 2012, which have limited legal costs in other sectors, such as motor insurance (whiplash claims), and led claims firms to identify holiday sickness claims as an alternative potentially profitable area of business.”
Abta is staging a seminar on handling illness claims on February 9 to provide practical guidance to help travel industry professionals gain a wider understanding of how to manage customer illness in destination, as well as how to plan, prepare for and respond to the increase in claims, according to Tanzer.
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