Hotels fight back on false tourist claims
Meanwhile, UK regulator strips licence from holiday sickness firm
By Dave Jamieson A COMPLAINT by a hotel group on Mallorca has sparked a specialist police investigation into allegedly fake insurance claims totalling almost €4.3 million made by British tourists last year.
Meanwhile, the UK's Claims Management Regulator last week announced it has stripped the licence of a firm that it says pressured people to make holiday sickness claims.
In the Mallorca complaint, Triauno SL, owner of Club Mac Alcúdia, which operates the Marte, Saturno and Júpiter hotels at the resort in the north of the island, says seven times more claims were made than during 2015.
A total of 273 complaints involving 797 people were made about food served in these three hotels during 2016. But according to police investigations, only 32 of these reported that they had sought advice from a doctor.
However, the hotel chain says it has passed all health inspections as well as quality checks made by the British tour operators who send holidaymakers to the resort. It also hired private investigators to collect evidence of the specialised UK insurance companies who send representatives to Spanish resorts where they sign up clients outside their hotels in preparation for making a false claim after they return home.
The move is evidence of growing retaliation by angry Spanish hoteliers who have had to pay out thousands in fake compensation claims. They say the British legal system allows tourists to claim against their tour operators in the UK, who then deduct the settlement figure from the amount they pay the hotelier. They are demanding an end to the practice which allows a receipt for an anti-diarrhoea medicine, such as Imodium, which has been purchased in the resort to be regarded as evidence of food-poisoning.
In the report which it has submitted to the magistrates court in Palma, the Economic Crimes Group of the National Police notes that the practise has been common for years on the Canary Islands and Balearic Islands and along the Levante coast. It adds that it is inconceivable that almost 800 people fell ill in three Alcúdia hotels, and notes that such an event would constitute an epidemic, alerting the attention of the regional health authorities. The report concludes that there is clear evidence of criminal activity. making holiday-sickness claims has had its licence stripped by the Claims Management Regulator, reported the Ministry of Jusice last Friday.
It said intelligence gathered by the Claims Management Regulator ( CMR) officers revealed that Lancashire based Allsure Ltd had encouraged holiday-goers to fabricate or embellish symptoms of gastric illness to get compensation. Further evidence showed the firm had used deceptive sales scripts – exaggerating expected pay-outs to entice consumers.
This conduct has led to the firm’s licence being cancelled, which means that it can no longer offer regulated claims management services to new or existing clients.
Kevin Rousell, Head of the Claims Management Regulator said: "We will take firm action against claims businesses which engage in seri- ous misconduct.
"Seeking to encourage false claims will not be tolerated."
CMR, based at the Ministry of Justice, regulates companies that offer to help people claim compensation for issues such as personal injury and mis-sold financial products.
The ministry said the action taken against Allsure Ltd is the latest in a series of moves by the government to crack down on fake sickness claims, following concerns from the travel industry of a surge in insurance claims for gastric illnesses like food poisoning being brought by British holidaymakers.
In July ministers stepped in to reduce cash incentives in bringing 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.
Many claims involve alleged sickness from food poisoning