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Dodgy food poisoning claims put squeeze on resorts

June 26, 2017 Headline News No Comments Email Email

An epidemic of phoney food poisoning is raging, with unscrupulous holidaymakers claiming to have suffered gastric attacks after eating food at hotels and resorts – in a bid to claim compensation, refunds or free holidays.

Tales of the various tricks involved have surfaced in the British media. Scams of this sort tend to travel internationally, so local and regional hoteliers are advised to beware.

Last month, a tour operator released undercover footage filmed by private investigators which showed a rogue operator in a Spanish holiday resort coaching tourists to make bogus compensation claims for up to AUD 5000, London’s Daily Mail reported.

AFTA’s sister organisation in Britain, ABTA, reported an astounding 434% increase in the number of gastric illness claims made by Britons since 2013, despite the sickness levels reported in resorts remaining stable.

Diarrhoea warning

In a recent case, British tourists who tried to claim compensation for food poisoning after staying in a resort in the Canary Islands came unstuck when their hotel bar bill was revealed.

A couple said buffet food at the resort had left them bed-ridden, stricken with vomiting and diarrhoea.

They attempted to sue Jet2holidays and the resort concerned, claiming “stomach cramps and severe diarrhoea” has set in after eating the Spanish resort’s buffet.

Private investigators, however, later found the couple had been gorging themselves on alcoholic drinks throughout the period they were meant to be suffering. Their hotel bill revealed they ordered 109 drinks over the course of nine days, everything from cocktails and beers to whisky shots.

According to MailOnline Travel, the couple travelled on a 12-day all-inclusive holiday in July 2015 and Jet2holidays received a letter from a firm of  lawyers over 15 months later, claiming damages in connection with food poisoning.

This was odd, because neither Jet2holidays nor the hotel had received any complaint from the customer at the time of the holiday or subsequently, the report said.

Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) updated its travel advice for Spain earlier this month.

There have been reports of an increase in holidaymakers being encouraged to submit a claim for personal injury if they have experienced gastric illness during their stay… You should only consider pursuing a complaint or claim if you have genuinely suffered from injury or illness. If you make a false or fraudulent claim, you may face legal proceedings in the UK or Spain.

Jet2holidays chief executive Steve Heapy said the company took genuine claims very seriously “but the food bug fraudsters are fooling customers into thinking they can make a claim even when they weren’t ill without any consequences, which is not true. I’m calling on the Government to crack down on the food bug fraudsters.”

The situation has become so bad that Britons face being denied access to certain resorts or hotels in countries such as Spain and Portugal over the surge of fraudulent compensation claims for food poisoning.

ABTA has launched a Stop Sickness Scams campaign and has cautioned holidaymakers that false claims could see them prosecuted in the UK or abroad.

ABTA has written to British regulators: “Because of the increase in claims witnessed across the UK travel industry, which is not evident across European competitor markets, UK tour operators are now beginning to experience serious problems with overseas suppliers and their insurance providers.”

Written by Peter Needham

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