Trade urged not to ease up in fight against fake sickness claims

Trade urged not to ease up in fight against fake sickness claims

Leading operator bosses and travel lawyers have urged the industry to keep up the fight against fake holiday sickness claims after the first pair of fraudsters were jailed.

The sentencing of Deborah Briton and her partner Paul Roberts, who submitted a claim for nearly £20,000 in compensation from Thomas Cook, came as the government launched a call for evidence asking travel companies to help them tackle the issue.

The couple, from the Wirral, claimed that they and their two children had fallen ill on two trips to Majorca in 2015 and 2016.

Briton, 53, and Roberts, 43, were jailed at Liverpool Crown Court for nine and 15 months respectively.

A Thomas Cook spokesman said: “We had to take a stand to protect our holidays and customers from the minority who cheat the system.”

Tui UK managing director Nick Longman said: “While this is a move in the right direction, there’s still a lot of work to do.”

Following the sentencing, travel industry lawyers turned their attention back to unscrupulous claims management companies accused of encouraging holidaymakers to make false or exaggerated claims.

Joanna Kolatsis, partner at Hill Dickinson, told Travel Weekly: “The fight must continue. I hope the industry unites to respond to the call for evidence.

“It will ensure the government is armed with as much information as possible to remove the opportunity for more fraudulent claims management companies to slip through the net.

“Briton and Roberts are also, in some ways, victims of the unscrupulous claims management companies that encouraged customers to bring these claims.”

Stephen Mason, senior partner at Travlaw, said he had little sympathy for Roberts and Briton but that he wished “some claims management companies were in the dock” instead.

He said the campaign would be an “ongoing process”, adding that “the industry is pleased the courts have taken this strong approach”.

“What this publicity will do is show there are consequences to your actions and it is a crime to make a fraudulent claim,” Mason added.

The total cost of claims is now believed to have topped £240 million, according to Abta. A spokesman said: “This landmark case demonstrates the seriousness of the issue to the travel industry.”

Tui said it had seen a “slowdown” in the number of claims being made since recent court decisions against fraudulent claimants. It blacklisted a further 500 customers believed to be making false claims this week.

A Jet2holidays spokesman said the campaign to fight fake claims would only be successful once the problem was stamped out.

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