British Tourists Have Scammed Spanish Hotels Out of $74 Million Claiming Food Poisoning
British tourists have given new meaning to the phrase, “pulling a fast one.” Fraudulent claims of tourists contracting food poisoning while on all-inclusive holidays in Spain cost tour operators and hotels more than $74 million in 2016 — and the UK is finally cracking down on the scammers.
The scam happened in classic fashion. After returning from their holiday, British citizens would open a complaint case with legal representation. Their proof? The receipt showing purchase of anti-diarrhea medicine. Then their hotel or tour operator would receive notice of a pending case in small claims court. Conveniently, the offenders were each unable to see a doctor while in Spain, presumably due to being bedridden with food-borne illness. In order to avoid hefty court fines and additional costs, the tour operators would generally elect to settle out of court — making a bit of racketeering a lot easier for those receiving the money.
Of course, food poisoning does happen now and then, especially when eating foreign cuisines that one’s digestive system isn’t used to. Over the past five years, however, the number of Brits claiming to have gotten sick while under the guidance of Spanish hotels and tour operators increased by an astonishing 700 percent.
This rapid increase in these claims caught the attention of the British government in addition to the service providers themselves. Officials are now working to close the loophole which allowed these claims to be filed in the first place.
“The rules will fix the legal costs that can be claimed in package holiday sickness claims, closing a loophole which the travel industry believes has helped fuel a rising number of claims,” said the UK Ministry of Justice in a statement. “This claims epidemic, the industry fears, is raising the prospect of higher travel costs for British tourists.”
It wasn’t only the tourists’ bright idea. Professional scammers known as “claim farmers” would contact British citizens booking or planning to book a holiday to Spain and guide them through the process of filing the claim. As a result, the British Civil Procedure Rule Committee plans to enact rules making it easier to fight fraudulent claims like these in court.
H/T The Guardian