Group Head of Customer Welfare Carol MacKenzie gives her views on sickness claims:
Tourists have long been a target for people trying to make some easy money. From dubious designer watches sold on the beach to bookings for timeshare villas which do not exist, we all know we often need to keep our wits about us when it comes to holidays.
However, there is a new scam targeted at British holidaymakers which is a lot more serious. The offer is attractive: just say that you’ve been ill on holiday and you’ll get thousands of pounds in compensation, no questions asked.
In reality, falsely claiming an illness abroad is fraud – a crime which carries penalties of up to 10 years in jail or an unlimited fine. A hotel in Greece has already sued two British holidaymakers for a claim they believe to be fraudulent, and more will follow suit as the industry tries to protect itself from a problem which has grown more than fivefold since early 2016.
At the heart of the issue are claims management agents who are preying on customers at popular resorts across Europe, motivated by the fees that they make for every sickness claim submitted.
We know that people are sometimes unlucky enough to fall ill on holiday. Part of my role as Head of Customer Welfare is to help prevent that happening, and to make sure we do everything we can to help those who are sick. There are some helpful tips on our website here to read before you go.
However, we also know that the sharp increase in illness claims is not matched by an increase in reported illness in resort. In fact, standards of hygiene have never been higher.
This issue is starting to have an impact on innocent customers too. We’ve already seen hotels take all-inclusive off-sale for British customers and it’s only a matter of time before prices go up as the industry is forced to make up for the millions of pounds it is paying out.
This situation cannot go on. As Thomas Cook, it is our responsibility to protect our customers from the actions of a criminal minority. That means making sure our customers understand the risks involved in submitting false claims – no matter what the claims management companies say.
My advice is simple. If you do get sick, make sure you inform our reps in resort or the hotel staff immediately. They can put you in touch with local doctors so you receive the care you need to get well – and enjoy as much of your holiday as possible. That will also mean you’re in the best position to get compensation if your illness was caused by something you ate at the hotel.
And don’t be fooled into lying about your experience abroad. If, after reporting an illness to us, you want to claim, make sure what you have said is honest and accurate. Fraud is a serious crime and there could be serious consequences – much worse than a fake 'designer' watch falling apart once you get home.
For more information, please see tourism group ABTA's website here.