Plans to clamp down on bogus holiday sickness claims have been announced by the UK government. Ministers have acted on travel industry warnings of an increase in claims by British holidaymakers, partly fuelled by touts operating in European resorts.
The government wants to reduce cash incentives to bring to an end spurious claims against package holiday tour operators. Under these proposals tour operators would pay a prescribed sum depending on the value of the claim, making the cost of defending a claim predictable.
Justice secretary David Lidington says: "Our message to those who make false holiday sickness claims is clear - your actions are damaging and will not be tolerated. We are addressing this issue and will continue to explore further steps we can take. This government is absolutely determined to tackle the compensation culture which has penalised the honest majority for too long."
A system to control costs already exists for most personal injury claims in England and Wales, but a loophole is being exploited in foreign holiday claims. To prevent this ministers have asked the Civil Procedure Rule Committee, which is responsible for setting rules on legal costs, to urgently look at the rules governing the costs of holiday claims.
As a result of these proposed changes, fixed recoverable costs can be extended to cover claims arising abroad, closing the loophole and meaning that pay-outs for tour operators will be subject to stricter controls. Ministers will also ask the Civil Justice Council in the coming weeks to look in more general terms at the rules for low-value personal injury claims. This will be with the intention of reducing the incentives to bring claims lacking merit.
Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer says: "Abta strongly welcomes the steps announced by the government, in particular the commitment to urgently address the loophole in the law which is allowing companies to unduly profit from false claims.
"The Stop Sickness Scams campaign, led by Abta with the support of industry, has been calling for a government clampdown on these fake claims to prevent higher prices or less choice for honest holidaymakers. Abta and its members have presented the government with a body of evidence over the past months showing how these claims have risen whilst sickness levels have remained stable. These claims are also tarnishing British holidaymakers’ reputation abroad, particularly in Spain where they are costing hoteliers millions of pounds."
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