Foreign Office Warning on False Sickness Claims

Sadly, in the ‘blame and claim’ culture we live in, it’s to be expected (although this certainly doesn’t make it right), but the number of travel insurance claims being made for fictitious ‘sickness-bugs’ is on the increase.

Holidaymakers, thinking that there’s no proof over whether they were or weren’t ill, are claiming that they were the victims of sickness and diarrhoea bugs.  

However, with so many claims being made, governing bodies, such as ABTA, do investigate cases against hotels and tour operators; what’s more, they are duty bound to investigate health & safety issues and to prevent any genuine epidemics. Due to the rise in claims, in particular from those travelling to Spain, ABTA has now raised the issue with the Ministry of Justice.

As a result, the Foreign Office (FCO) is warning British holidaymakers against making any fraudulent claims.

FACT – making a false travel insurance claim is against the law.  

It is believed that one of the reasons for this sudden increase is that claim compensation companies are persuading holidaymakers to make a false claim so both the company and holidaymaker receive a payout from the insurance.

TravelMole recently reported that it is costing Spanish hoteliers a staggering €60 million a year in false claims!

FACT – those prosecuted for illegal claims can face prison and/or costly fines.

In a stark warning to British holidaymakers, the FCO issued the following statement, saying:

"ABTA members have reported a dramatic increase in the number of gastric illness claims being made by holidaymakers abroad.  Many of these claims are supported by very little evidence and do not match up with recorded sickness levels in holiday resorts. We believe this is being driven by the aggressive marketing practices of some claims management companies, touting their services to UK holidaymakers either in destinations or when they are back in the UK.”

ABTA has also commented on this current trend, warning against the involvement of claim companies. Instead, they strongly advise to use their own coherent policy for reporting any sickness experienced whilst overseas.    

Should holiday makers fall ill then they should...

  • In the first instance seek medical attention. Holiday Reps or Reception staff can always help you find a Doctor locally, or arrange for an on-site visit. 
  • Even if you source a Doctor independently, you must let your Holiday Rep and/or Hotel know.
  • Whilst poorly, contact your travel insurance company for details on any proof they may need to make a proper claim.
  • If your booking is through an ABTA member, you can raise a complaint via its Dispute Resolution Process if you are not satisfied your claim has been handled properly.
  • Alternatively, you may choose to resolve this through the Small Claims Court, where compensation of up to £1,000 can be claimed if successful.

ABTA commented: "We would strongly advise customers to pursue their case through these routes, rather than via a claims management company, who will typically take a significant cut of any successful claim.”

The FCO backed this up, by adding: "In addition, handing over personal data to the kinds of individuals or companies who are prepared to indulge in fraud has its own clear dangers. ABTA would also warn customers about the potentially very serious consequences of pursuing a bogus claim in the country where the holiday has taken place, where the penalties for breaking the law can be much harsher than in the UK.  This growing problem also runs the risk of seriously damaging the reputation of all UK holidaymakers."