Britain’s biggest holiday companies and travel industry body ABTA have launched a campaign to fight crippling fake food poisoning claims.
Bosses from package firms including Thomas Cook, Tui, Jet2holidays, Monarch and Saga are calling on the Government to crackdown on the latest scam which is fleecing the Spanish hotel industry of more than £50 million a year.
The Stop Sickness Scams bid comes ahead of the great summer getaway to Spain, Portugal, Turkey and Greece.
Sunshine package giants Thomson, First Choice and Jet2holidays have already warned Brits they will be blacklisted if found guilty of bogus sickness claims.
Yesterday Nick Longman, managing director of Tui – the parent company of Thomson and First Choice – said the flood of dodgy compensation claims from the UK had become ‘totally embarrassing’.
Mr Longman, who was the first to impose a ban on travel for fake tummy bug claimants, said: “A hotel will have customers from four or five markets of Tui and it will only be the British Tui customers who are complaining.”
Thomas Cook’s UK managing director, Chris Mottershead also warned that Britain’s compensation culture could sound the death knell for popular all-inclusive holidays which are at the heart of the bogus claims.
He said: “It’s a very serious situation because it has the effect of stopping all-inclusive holidays for the UK market.
“It has the potential of putting hoteliers out of business. They will stop British customers coming into their hotels.”
Both bosses have signed an open letter to Justice Secretary David Lidington calling for the Government to close a legal loophole that allows cowboy claims firms to charge sky-high fees for taking on holiday sickness claims.
Along with the heads of nine other leading tour operators, they are demanding a cap on fees which would stop rogue firms cashing in on bogus gastroenteritis claims dubbed the ‘new PPI’.
ABTA – the Association of British Travel Agents – is also urging Brits travelling to bogus holiday sickness hotspots like the Costas, Benidorm and Majorca to shop touts trawling beaches and resorts to drum up trade from gullible tourists.
Mark Tanzer, ABTA chief executive, said: “Holidaymakers need to know that whatever a claims firm might say, fake claims are fraud.
“Holidaymakers pursuing fake or exaggerated claims risk ending up in jail either in the UK or abroad.”
On its website the Foreign Office also warns British holidaymakers of legal action if they are found to have made false claims.
And the Spanish have vowed to crackdown on the fake claims culture with a zero tolerance policy that imposes a three-year jail sentence for those caught red handed.
Professor Jaime Campaner Munoz, the solicitor acting on behalf of the Federation of Majorcan Hotels, said: “We will be seeking convictions against anyone who is involved in these fraudulent claims.”
Spain has been the biggest target for out of control compensation chasers who have given Britain the ‘fake sick man of Europe’ tag.
The Costa del Sol, Costa Blanca, Costa Dorada and Benidorm have seen the highest number of scams as unscrupulous ‘no win – no fee’ firms cash in on the lucrative sickness claims industry.
As the law stands, holidaymakers just need a receipt for a tummy bug product to file a claim once they are back home.
In Benidorm hotel owners have asked chemists not to sell stomach upset cures to Brits unless they have a prescription amid fears receipts will be used for over-inflated illness claims.