The number of bogus food-poisoning and gastric illness claims filed by Britons traveling abroad is reported to have reached epidemic proportions in the UK in recent years – igniting a fierce fight back from the travel industry and the government.
Between 2013 and 2016, the number of allegations skyrocketed 500 percent – coming in at a rate of more than 100 per day – spurring some hoteliers in Spain and Turkey to threaten that they would suspend vacation deals from the UK market entirely.
“Fake claims have been costly to the travel industries in the UK and popular overseas destinations and damaged the reputation of British holidaymakers abroad, Mark Tanzer, chief executive of Abta, the industry’s trade association, told the Guardian.
Previously, a simple receipt photo of the over-the-counter anti-diarrhea drug Imodium was enough to file a claim. Even in cases with an award of around $7,000 in damages, travel companies reported to have faced costs upward of $33,000 due to the heavy cost of defending feeble claims, and often turned to settling rather than dragging cases through the court system.
However, travel industry leaders assert that the falsified sickness accusations don’t always come from the vacationers themselves, but that the overwhelming majority are filed by unscrupulous claims-management companies – with many tourists unaware that claims had even been made on their behalf.
Over a dozen law firms are said to be under investigation over the issue.
And after heightened lobbying from the travel industry, the British government’s Ministry of Justice in April introduced a law capping the amount of money firms can acquire for holiday sickness in the quest to crackdown on the deceitful claims.
“This behavior also tarnishes the reputation of the British people abroad,” the justice minister, Rory Stewart, stated. “This is why we are introducing measures to crack down on those who engage in this dishonest practice.”
Courts and private prosecutions too have joined the clampdown in recent times, with private investigators employed to seek out fraudsters.
In October 2017, Merseyside locals Deborah Briton and Paul Roberts were jailed at Liverpool Crown Court for making fictitious illness claims against travel company Thomas Cook, while a southern Derbyside magistrate court gave suspended jail sentences in March to couple Leon Roberts and Jade Muzoka after being found guilty of faking sickness after a jaunt in Turkey. They reportedly were “exposed” by their happy-go-lucky vacation photos posted on social media.