Special Report: Thomas Cook puts stop to 3,000 fake illness claims

Special Report: Thomas Cook puts stop to 3,000 fake illness claims

The fight against fake holiday sickness claims is building momentum ahead of a government call for evidence. Amie Keeley and Ben Ireland report

Thomas Cook has stopped 3,000 fake holiday sickness claims by writing to law firms warning them about fraud.

The operator asked law firms handling sickness claims to review files following the rapid rise in the number of fake cases and says the number of claims this year has dropped compared with last.

It follows the launch of Travel Weekly’s Fight Fake Claims and Abta’s Stop Sickness Scams campaigns, urging the government to clamp down on unscrupulous claims management companies (CMCs) encouraging false and exaggerated claims.

One CMC – Lancashire-based Allsure – has had its licence revoked by the Ministry of Justice.

Thomas Cook Group chief executive Peter Fankhauser visited Majorca to meet Spanish hotel partners about the problem.

The company has doubled its legal team and has successfully defended two cases in court.

Fankhauser said: “The number of claims we are receiving is starting to go down. They may only be down slightly so far, but it’s encouraging. It shows the work we are doing is having an impact.”

Jet2holidays said “some” law firms had dropped claims after it asked them to review cases. It is urging others to follow suit. The operator wants the government’s planned call for evidence to begin as soon as possible.

“Sadly, we continue to see evidence that many claims are fraudulent,” a spokesman said.

Monarch Holidays has seen a “steady decrease” in gastric illness claims each month with a larger reduction in July and August.

A spokesman said heightened press coverage and an increased awareness among consumers of the potential consequences of making false claims “has had a significant impact”.

A Tui spokeswoman said: “While we’ve made a good start, there’s much more work to be done.”

Brit pair arrested for ‘organising scam’ in Majorca

A heavily pregnant British woman and her mother were arrested last week in Majorca on suspicion of running a holiday sickness scam.

Laura Joyce, reported to be aged 37, appeared before a judge in a private hearing alongside four other suspects and spent at least two nights in custody. She was accused of leading a scam using touts at hotels to entice British tourists to fake symptoms of gastric illness to claim compensation.

Joyce was not charged but investigations are ongoing.

Her mother Debbie Cameron, 59, a grandmother of four, was arrested with her at their villa in Bendinat, Majorca, but was released without charge.

Their arrests come amid a clampdown on sickness scams on the island, visited by more than 2.5 million Brits a year.

Spanish Civil Guard officers in Majorca seized documents during court-authorised searches of properties before the arrests last week. The investigation was sparked by a complaint from Mac Hotels, which is challenging 273 claims involving 797 holidaymakers.

Solicitors’ body investigates 12 law firms

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) is investigating 12 law firms it suspects of having “potentially improper links” with claims management companies over holiday sickness claims.

Allegations against the unnamed legal firms include them taking payments for holiday sickness referrals from claims companies.

The SRA said it had evidence of firms pursuing claims without the proper instructions of claimants; of failures to ensure all documentary evidence was collated; and of “highly improper advice” issued to clients. A statement issued by the SRA last week said: “Lawyers should not bring cases, or continue with them, where there is a serious concern about the honesty or reliability of the evidence.”



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