In wake of the alarming statistics that show a 500% rise since 2013 in holiday sickness claims, a UK government crackdown is beginning to take place, with some cases of jail time being handed out to fraudsters. In 2016, over 35,000 claims were made against tour operators by holidaymakers. ABTA has warned that the cost of these claims amounted to over £240 million and, if true, due to the financial strains on insurance companies and holiday businesses, this would put the price of holidays at risk of rising exponentially in the coming years.
Leading Spanish hotel companies have been vocal in their dismay about this growing trend, along with prominent Spanish newspapers making light of it in front page features, furthering the negative reputation of Brits abroad. British holidaymakers are, in fact, the number one culprits when it comes to these kinds of claims. Revealing figures released last year show that the UK made 4,000 sickness claims based on 750,000 holidaymakers, compared to 114 based on 800,000 German nationals. You would not be mistaken in believing that if there was questionable food being served in a holiday resort, it would surely affect Germans as well. Have the Germans’ biology developed resistant antibodies to deal with under-cooked chicken burgers that the Brits haven’t evolved to deal with yet? No. The more plausible explanation to this problem could actually just be the UK laws and culture.
For those who are just purely trying to scam holiday businesses , despite the void of any moral decency it would take to make a bogus sickness claim, the current British consumer laws in place and the overabundance of ‘claims management firms’ in existence seem to be almost encouraging this abuse by its holidaymakers. Due to the difficulty of actually proving someone wasn’t sick, the absence of required doctors’ notes and the allowance of three years after the holiday to make the claim, receiving a refund on a holiday is seemingly straightforward. The UK tour operator will accept the claim and will then pass the legal fee charges on to the hotel that has been claimed against, where they can be legally required to cough up the money, leaving the hotel company unjustly out of pocket. The intermediary claims firms will take as much as a 25% cut of the payout along the way, using loopholes to get around payout caps, because the incidents in subject were overseas.
It is not beyond the realms of possibility that some Brits are actually becoming sick on holiday. It is likely, however, that the sickness would be the result of one’s own wrongdoing. There is a strong tendency for some to drink excessive amounts of booze in the heat, encouraged by a binge drinking culture, which could quite inevitably lead to heat exhaustion and illness. Does that mean you are entitled to sickness compensation? Almost categorically no, but it probably does mean you should have a bit more respect for your surroundings, however.
As well as the growing financial costs that could potentially affect innocent holidaymakers and holiday businesses, we will begin to see a ‘boy who cried wolf’ scenario emerging, where those with genuine sickness bugs will not be treated fairly. It is therefore crucial that the effort to discourage more from making fake claims is ramped up, or we may all be priced out of a holiday, or even banned from going on them.
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