Thomas Cook CEO, Peter Fankhauser, said yesterday that “Europe is laughing at the Brits, but this is not a good situation.” He added, “It is starting to backfire on British holidaymakers and on the industry.”
The comments were made by Fankhauser at the Abta Travel Conference in London. Some hotel chains are banning Brits from their all-inclusive resorts, according to Fankhauser, while others are raising their prices. This is in response to a growing number of apparently fraudulent claims by Brits after returning from their holidays.
Spain Buddy spoke to Jen Murphy, an NHS Blood and Transplant worker in Newcastle upon Tyne. Back in September 2016 Jen booked an All-Inclusive dream holiday at the HL Club Playa Blanca in Playa Blanca, Lanzarote – for the following summer. Jen, her husband and their 11-year-old daughter were extremely excited about the upcoming holiday. It was to be their first visit to the Canary Islands and they couldn’t be happier. However, when friends returned from a holiday at the hotel… they raised a couple of red flags. Jen approached Thomas Cook who were able to answer most questions, and who then also contacted the hotel to fill in the blanks. When the hotel did not reply, Jen emailed the hotel herself. Her concerns were answered and the hotel even said they would put a bottle of cava in her room when she arrived because it was their wedding anniversary.
Jen was reassured and the family got on with looking forward to their upcoming dream holiday. However, just 7 weeks and 6 days before they were due to fly, Jen was contacted by Thomas Cook, out of the blue, who advised that the manager of HL Club Playa Blanca had contacted them and decided not to accept the family’s booking after all. Since that date, neither Jen nor Thomas Cook have been able to get a full explanation for the booking cancellation. The only statement given was that the manager felt that the hotel would not live up to Jen’s expectations.
To say that the family was shocked is an understatement. Since then the couple have had to take unpaid time off work to visit the Thomas Cook office and try to fix the situation… and the daughter has been left very upset. Unfortunately a Playa Blanca holiday was now an impossibility. The only way they could still visit Lanzarote for their dates was to pay an extra £1k. The family are now booked into San Antonio Bay in Ibiza.
Jen could not speak highly enough about the staff at the Newcastle branch of Thomas Cook and stressed that the team went above and beyond to try to resolve things for her. Jen is not receiving replies to her requests for an explanation from the hotel and has been unable to speak to anyone at Hotel Lopez Head Office. The hotel has also ceased responding to Jen’s local Thomas Cook branch on this matter.
Is this cancellation connected to recent fraudulent claims? Nobody knows… but this is not an isolated incident and goes some way to support Fankhauser’s statements.
Claims increased by 500% since 2013
Claims made through “no win no fee” lawyers have increased by 500 per cent since 2013 and the Association of British Travel Agents (Abta) has called for tougher laws.
Fankauser continued, “Germans don’t have this problem with their stomachs,” before warning that fake sickness claims are increasing holiday prices and making Britain a laughing stock. He said that there had no been no matching rise from German guests staying at the same hotels and called it, “an embarrassing issue for the industry and the United Kingdom.”
Europe is laughing at the Brits
“We are seeing this with some of our big hotel partners,” added Fankhauser. “And the Germans are laughing again because they will get the rooms.”
“At Thomas Cook, we are doing everything we can to improve processes in our hotels, discourage fraudulent activities by claims management companies, and raise awareness among our customers about what they risk if they put in false claims.”
He concluded, “Making a fraudulent claim is a criminal offence and there need to be consequences.”
The British press, including The Independent, claims that “management firms are cold-calling people in the UK and urging them to launch retrospective claims, and employing representatives in resorts to recruit claimants.”
Spain Buddy has been made aware of a 74-year-old man who was ill at a hotel in Lanzarote in January 2017, whose son was inundated with phone calls offering to help him claim once he had returned home. Mark Armstrong from Manchester said, “I must have had 40 phone calls wanting me to sue the hotels. Someone is giving them the information about who has been AI!!!.” Mark suspects that the information was sold to these companies via the app that he used to book the hotel. Mark says that they obviously did not sue, although of course he claimed for the medical assistance via their Insurance company because a doctor needed to fly back with his Dad and required a hospital stay.
Companies chasing personal injury claims within the UK face restrictions but this does not apply to overseas claims.These firms have explouted the opportunity because currently there are no caps on the legal costs for injuries sustained while abroad.
Chief executive of Abta, Mark Tanzer, described the practice as a “new cottage industry”. He added, “This unprecedented and very steep rise in illness claims is driven by very aggressive marketing by claims management companies. A lot of these claims are bogus.”
He went on to demand that the British government “bring overseas sickness claims into the fixed-costs regime”.
He told The Independent: “It’s a relative small change in the protocol. It’s not a major legal change. We will keep the pressure up.”
The new transport minister, Lord Callanan, said “Genuine claimants must be protected.” and indicated that the Government plans “to cap fees, reducing the incentives for claims firms to fuel fictitious claims”. The Government announced in the Queen’s Speech this month that it plans to regulate claims management companies, bringing them within the oversight of the FCA for the first time.
Foreign Office statement
The Foreign Office has issued a statement for visitors to Spain, “There have been reports of an increase in holidaymakers being encouraged to submit a claim for personal injury if they have experienced gastric illness during their stay. You can find more information about the action you can take if you have suffered a personal injury on the Citizens Advice website. You should only consider pursuing a complaint or claim if you have genuinely suffered from injury or illness. If you make a false or fraudulent claim, you may face legal proceedings in the UK or Spain.”