The battle to curtail the burgeoning industry in holiday sickness claims heads to Westminster this week with travel operators pleading for urgent action.
The Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) this week directed people to lobby their MP directly to ask for costs reform to stem the flow of cases. ABTA claims there has been a 500% increase in compensation claims for holiday sickness since 2013, with hoteliers in Spain and Turkey now threatening to ban British holiday-makers altogether. The body says the situation has reached a 'critical point' where inaction will lead to rising costs and restricted choice of holiday packages.
The issue of holiday sickness claims has come to prominence in recent months, with the UK’s biggest consumer firms joining the sector and the travel industry expressing alarm at the surge in the number cases.
ABTA has appealed directly to justice secretary David Lidington to change the law and place a legal limit on the fees which can be charged by law firms pursuing the cases.
Mark Tanzer, ABTA chief executive, said: 'The government must urgently address this issue. The legal loophole that is allowing firms to unduly profit from these claims must be closed. This would allow people with genuine claims access to justice but make this area less attractive to claims firms.'
ABTA this week created a new website which allows users to enter their postcode and lobby their MP for an extension of the fixed costs regime to claims from overseas.
Meanwhile, lawyers in Spain have warned British tourists they are being misled if claims farmers tell them there are no legal consequences to making an exaggerated claim.
Professor Jaime Campaner Muñoz, the solicitor acting on behalf of the Federation of Majorcan Hotels, said: 'We will be seeking convictions against anyone who is involved in these fraudulent claims. In addition the Spanish Criminal Code has recently included a new offence "belonging to a criminal group" for which there are very severe penalties and we will be seeking convictions under this law as well.'
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice said there are already tough sanctions for firms that break the rules and necessary action is taken where fraud can be proven.
She confirmed that the MoJ is in discussions with ABTA and other industry representatives to 'understand the underlying problems and identify the most appropriate and effective response'.
The Foreign Office already issues guidance to people holidaying in Spain to avoid touts trying to get them to make a claim.
The Solicitors Regulation Authority is investigating more than a dozen law firms over potential links with claims management companies and referral fees paid for work.