Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The "Sport" Of Holiday Compensation Claims

How many of you reading this are either at an all-inclusive hotel or have been to one? And by all-inclusive, I'm tending towards excluding those which display four or even five stars. Why would I do this? Principally, and do please excuse the generalisation, the three-star all-inclusive might typically house a clientele that is most interested in the pursuit of compensation.

If you are and have been at an all-inclusive, and it does seem to apply mostly to all-inclusives, you may have been aware of some of the individuals who seem to hang around. They can be found inside hotel grounds and on hotel property as well as outside. Security in many a hotel is lax to the point of non-existent.

These individuals can include, inter alia, illegal street sellers. They move in from the streets and inhabit poolside and other areas. How on earth is this allowed to happen? Reasons, one in particular, have been offered to me. I'm not, it has to be said, convinced by allegations that "incentives" are offered to turn a blind eye. The street sellers just don't have that kind of wherewithal, albeit their masters may have. Even then, I frankly doubt it.

There are sellers of a different sort. They don't come armed with fake products (or drugs). They don't want any money as such. They are armed instead with claims' forms, either actual ones or available from websites. They are representatives of one of the most miserable, ethically reprehensible and morally bankrupt lines of business that exists in the holiday market. They come from law firms lining up to press compensation claims. The legal profession ethical? Most of it is, but there are also elements of it who - as the old gag would have it - would fail to distinguish between ethics and a county in eastern England.

The claiming of compensation, often for minor matters or perhaps even trumped up, is nothing new of course, but as a "business" it has more tools at its disposal - social networks - than were generally the case over five years ago when I previously looked into it. The circumstances as they were then have not altered, save for the seemingly greater determination to seek to extract compensation. They are principally of British making, involve British law firms and tour operators and British tourists from a culture that has been consumed by the pernicious influence of what was once mainly promoted at appropriate times on UK television and radio but which has now spread to social media.

The hotels are almost invariably the victims. Hard though it may be for some to feel sorry for them - and there are examples of their being their own worst enemies - the hotels are caught by contractual arrangements with tour operators and by the massive costs of challenging claims, which themselves will typically be greatly in excess of what a Spanish court might permit: there are caps under Spanish law but aren't under UK law. And it is UK law and UK courts which decide. It simply isn't worth hotels making challenges. Instead, they find that arrangements with tour operators are such that claims levelled against tour operators are deducted from the invoices the hotels send to the tour operators.

Hotels complain that tour operators are far too compliant in accepting claims. They are, after all, in a better position to fight claims in court, but generally tend not to, challenging only the obviously fraudulent attempts, such as trying to claim for something at a hotel that the holidaymaker had not been staying at.

This is an issue which doesn't affect only Mallorca. It is one that is evident in all the sun-and-beach regions where there is a mass of British tourism - Benidorm, Tenerife and elsewhere. Hosteltur magazine online reports that Ashotel, which is the association for hoteliers in Tenerife as well as in La Palma, La Gomera and El Hierro, has sent out a communication to its members in which it identifies one particular firm in north-west England as allegedly encouraging British tourists to press claims for the likes of food poisoning. Hosteltur also reports that Tui and Jet2 are making hotels aware of individuals who are knocking around hotels looking for likely claimants, with law firms operating on a no win, no fee basis.

There are, of course, genuine cases and very serious ones, such as claims against Thomson by holidaymakers who contracted cryptosporidium at a hotel in Can Picafort in June 2003 and which took until January 2011 to be settled. But many are anything but reasonable; they are what the tourism industry in Mallorca refers to as the "sport" of the holiday compensation claim, and one played principally by the British.

Coming back to those loitering around hotels, perhaps some holidaymakers will claim for the annoyance caused by illegal sellers. As I say, some hotels are their own worst enemies.

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