As many as 9.5 million British adults have been approached about making a compensation claim for being sick while on holiday, ABTA has revealed.
The British travel agent association revealed the new figures from a YouGov survey of British adults that found that almost one in five people (19%) have been contacted about making a compensation claim for holiday sickness.
The most common way survey respondents were approached was over the phone (14%), followed by text (7%) and email (7%). Some also reported being contacted on social media (3%), while others were approached in person (2%), including at airports or while on holiday.
ABTA has released the survey results as part of its ‘Stop Sickness Scams’ campaign against false claims that the association argues are costing the travel industry tens of millions of pounds.
A loophole in the law enables claims management companies and legal firms to make more money in fees from sickness claims abroad, than they’re able to from personal injuries in the UK, according to ABTA.
Evidence from the travel industry and customers highlights that some claims management companies are contacting consumers out of the blue, encouraging them to make a false claim and often misleadingly saying there is a pot of money waiting to be claimed—but aren’t telling them the risks involved.
Making a false compensation claim for holiday sickness is an act of fraud and if prosecuted could result in a large fine, criminal record or jail term of up to three years, but many are unaware of the seriousness of the penalty.
The YouGov survey found that seven in 10 (70%) respondents didn’t know that making a false claim for holiday sickness could result in a prison sentence in the UK or abroad. Just two in five (38%) think they could receive a fine.
In October 2017, a couple from Merseyside received a prison sentence after being found guilty of making a fraudulent sickness claim. Deborah Briton was sentenced to nine months and her partner Paul Roberts was jailed for 15 months.
ABTA wants the UK government to clampdown on false sickness claims—as it promised to do six months ago—in time for the main 2018 holiday period.
The association also wants the Financial Guidance and Claims Bill, which will go to the House of Commons early this year, to include a ban on cold calling for personal injury claims by claims management companies.
ABTA chief executive Mark Tanzer said: “Unscrupulous claims management companies are encouraging people to make a false sickness claim which could land them with a large fine or even a prison sentence.”
“False claims don’t just make UK holidaymakers vulnerable to serious penalties—they’re also costing travel companies and hotel owners tens millions of pounds and tarnishing the reputation of the British abroad.”
“Closing the loophole in the law in time for the 2018 holiday season will make a big difference in tackling fraudulent sickness claims.”