Time for a sea change?

By | Category: Travel rumblings
cartoon of angry suitcase

Shouldn’t those bodies represeting claims agents and solicitors do more to flag up fraudulent claims? © Dan Sperrin

I hope this is the last comment that I will make about fraudulent travel sickness claims. But I doubt it.

Today I want to consider not the people making the claims but those who take up their cases. Most claims management companies and firms of solicitors do it in the firm belief that their clients have genuine grievances and, as I have said frequently, those claims should be pursued.

But there are people touting for business on behalf of some claims agents and probably solicitors in popular destinations like Spain and their islands, Greece, Portugal, Turkey and Italy. They would seem to be encouraging people to make claims and I have no doubt  that some are suggesting it is an easy win for those claiming because travel companies won’t fight back if the amount they have to pay is less than the costs the companies would face in fighting.

The Claims Management Regulator (authorised by the government to be the watchdog) did release a statement on the 9th of July condemning those who fraudulently claimed and pointing out that false claimants could spend three years in gaol. But why condemn it as late as July when the travel industry has consistently raised the issue for months? Better late than ever might be a glib answer but when there was so much evidence that had appeared in the press, surely it should have reacted faster.

But what are the bodies representing the claims companies and solicitors doing to polish up their image? Given the amount of publicity that these fraudulent stories are getting you would expect them to condemn the fraudulent claims yet I can find little to suggest that they are.

There are a number of claims associations representing the 3,000 plus claims companies in the UK.   The Alliance of Claims Companies representing 52 members which was founded in 2015 says that is there “To promote best practice in the claims management industry, for the benefit of consumers across the United Kingdom” has had no press releases that I can find on its website condemning those inciting holidaymakers to claim. The Association of Regulated Claims Management Companies also has nothing on its website to suggest that it is concerned by the rise in fraudulent claims.

The Association of Claim Professionals which says that its members process 3.5 million new claims each year worth an estimated $45 Billion has no press releases after February this year so they have made no comment on the claims. The same applies to the Association of Professional Claims Managers but they seem to concentrate on financial claims rather than travel ones.

On the legal side, the Solicitors Regulation Authority seems to have said nothing despite the fact that one wonders why a small practice in South West Wales with just three solicitors is involved in a case in Liverpool that a judge has found is a case of fraudulent claiming. I cannot find that the Law Society has said anything either.

It behoves all these bodies whose role is to represent consumers to stand up and condemn fraudulent travel sickness claims and uphold the fact that they aim for “best practice” in their industries. Something seems amiss. There don’t seem to be claims by French, Spanish or German holidaymakers. What is there about our legal and claims “system” that allows claims to get as far as courts? Should it be mandatory that all claims be made via a cheaper alternative such as Alternative Dispute Resolution? Should legislation be introduced so that a claim cannot exceed the cost of the holiday plus medical bills? Should claimants be forced to produce signed forms showing they had attended hospitals or doctors whilst on holiday before a case could proceed?

You might be forgiven for thinking that claims agents and solicitors would insist on more evidence before taking a claim further. They might be but whatever is happening at present isn’t working fairly and the industry and government needs to do something to deter fraudulent behaviour without clogging our courts with fanciful cases.

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