Spanish hotels warned about bogus claims as food poisoning scam diversifies
Tourism chiefs are warning hoteliers about an escalation in false compensation cases following the food poisoning scam which has cost the industry millions this season.
Hotels are being told to “watch out for everything” as the so-called “Claim Farmers” widen their net to encourage complaints about swimming pool accidents which never happened, ear infections and falls.
“In fact, anything and everything that could be subject to a claim which doesn’t have medical test or a positive test,” said a legal expert.
Last summer, bogus claims against Spanish hotels for food poisoning which never ha-ppened hit epidemic proportions, with “law firm” reps approaching holiday-makers in the street to get them to sign up for a claim.
In the Canary Islands alone, visited by millions of Brits, the false complaints cost the industry between four and five million euros last year, an increase of 700 per cent on 2015.
The average claim used to be between 2,000 and 3,000 euros per person but this has now shot up to around 12,000 euros on average.
The loophole in the law means that tourists persuaded to put in a claim don’t have to prove other than minimally that they really did have food poisoning. Many had no symptoms whatsoever, others use a small tummy upset as the starting point.
The onus is on the hotel to prove it never happened, something which takes time and money so many just settle.
Now, the unscrupulous law firms are set to cash in further by widening their scope to encourage other false claims.
Hoteliers have been told the situation is going to get worse before it gets better, especially this Easter and in the busy summer.
In the Canaries, hotels are being encouraged to look at everything within their complexes to try and ensure claims are headed off.
The hotel industry association on popular Fuerte-ventura, Asofeur has already held a training day under the title of “Better to prevent than litigate”.
Hoteliers were warned about “the lack of scruples of these specialists who know very well how to complain and what is the limit of the law.”
The situation being faced this year was likened to “opening Pandora’s box”.
Tourism employers, public bodies and specialist bona fida law firms are currently plann-ing joint action in the UK to make sure claims go through the proper channels but it is expected to be a long process.
The campaign is being backed by the likes of the Spanish Confederation of Hotels and Tourist Accommodation (Cehat), Secretary of State for Tourism, the Spanish Tourist Office in London, the Embassy of the United Kingdom in Spain, consulates and the British Association of Travel Agencies, ABTA
Hoteliers are being urged to “increase internal control of everything that tourists do, mainly in the all-inclusive packages and to improve management processes.”