Spanish hoteliers fight holiday sickness claims fraud
Spanish hoteliers have joined forced to take action against the increasing number of fraudulent holiday claims being brought by British holidaymakers.
Hoteliers from Benidorm, the Costa Blanca and Valencia (HOSBEC) saw a huge increase in the number of compensation claims for alleged ailments during holidays from British customers over the summer, for which there is often no evidence. As a result, the association of hoteliers has decided to take a stand against any suspected fraudulent claims – which they feel are the majority – to avoid losses which are estimated to cost more than €60 million.
The rise in claims has potentially been prompted by the burgeoning compensation claims industry in the UK, where there is an abundance of specialist claims management companies. The firms have traditionally focused on vehicle accident injury and PPI claims, but are now increasingly targeting holidaymakers with aggressive marketing campaigns to encourage the filing of thousands of unfounded complaints.
According to HOSBEC the aggressive targeting methods include social media, cold calling, resort-based salespeople and even people dressed as tour operators at hotels. It estimates the financial consequences could cost the Spanish hotel industry in excess of €60 million for summer 2016 alone – a cost it cannot afford.
Nuria Montes, HOSBEC’s general secretary, said: “We feel the British complaints procedure which allows claims to be processed when there is no evidence of truth creates a grossly unfair and disproportionate system.
“It unreasonably inflates the cost for the hotelier by adding fat profits for lawyer firms who bill for 90% of the total amount of the claim, while only 10% of the amount is allocated to offsetting the alleged damages to the tourist. This system is completely contrary to the Spanish one, whereby the claimant must prove the accuracy of what they are claiming.
“This growing compensation claim culture is changing the tourism industry radically and business relations between hoteliers and tour operators cannot remain immune to this change.”
To protect holidaymakers from the huge costs of this suspected fraud and ensure that genuine complaints can be addressed effectively, HOSBEC is implementing a number of short-term measures including:
- Traceability systems for guests so they can continuously track their meals and drinks consumption and use of dining areas and restaurants. These systems will allow hotels to check whether consumption patterns are compatible with the causes alleged in the complaint form, which mostly have to do with gastrointestinal illnesses. This will all be bolstered by an increase in the HACCP* control systems already in use at hotels.
- More information will be given to guests, advising that it is illegal to pursue a fraudulent claim and it is feasible that under certain circumstances could result in a prison sentence.
- In addition, HOSBEC is urging ABTA and leading UK tour operators to lobby Government to trigger a radical overhaul of this claims system.
This issue also only affects bookings made via tour operator partners under the EU Travel Package Directive 2015 and is yet another example of how the legal and regulated accommodation sector is the victim of such practices, whereas online booking platforms are operating ‘soundly’ without being subject to any similar mass complaint campaigns.
It is also important to note that these problems are unique to the UK market, with guests from other popular inbound countries such as Belgium, Holland and Portugal, and even the British direct sale market, having no grounds for complaint.
*HAACP is a tool to assess hazards and establish control systems that focus on prevention. It can be applied throughout the food chain from the primary producer to the final consumer.