British tour operators warn of jail terms for hotel fraud

(EFE) .- The CEO of the UK Travel Agents Association (ABTA), Mark Tanzer, has warned that British tourists presenting false accusations against hotels, for financial compensation, can face major fines and even prison sentences.

In an interview with Spanish news agency Efe, Tanzer said that the tourism industry faces losses of tens of millions of pounds in the wake of “dishonest” claims for alleged food poisoning in Spain and other southern countries in Europe such as Portugal and Greece.

“We are talking about a crime that can be pursued both here in the UK, on ​​your return from vacation, or in the destination country,” he said. The head of the association admitted that this is a problem primarily associated with British tourists.

“In the UK we have a deep-seated culture of asking for compensation that I do not think exists in other countries,” said Tanzer, who stressed that in the British Isles there are numerous law firms that are dedicated exclusively to managing compensation claims, some of these firms are specialised in handling traffic injury claims, but they have recently expanded their business to holiday compensation claims, because the UK Government has limited the fees that can be charged by lawyers for managing traffic injury claims.

These companies are now “very aggressively” engaged in persuading British holiday makers that they can claim a reward if they report having been ill during their holiday.

Spanish hoteliers have criticized the British tour operators, who in most cases are the party being sued by the tourist, but then pay the claim and simply pass the cost on to the affected hotel establishments, but Tanzer says that “this is not the case” on all occasions.

The cost “can be assumed by the tour operator, depending on their contractual relationship with the hotel, or you can transfer the cost back to the Spanish hotel., and this is why they are very angry, ” said the ABTA CEO.

“In the end, it is not the tour operator or the hotel, it is the tourist industry that is losing, and that can be seen  in the increase in prices,” he said.

Given the economic impact of the” tens of thousands ” who have so far made food poisoning claims, UK operators have started a campaign to try and put a stop to it.

One of the two pillars of the plan is to pressure the Government to take legal measures in order to make the business of tourist claims less appealing for law firms, as was done with road traffic injuries.

“I think they understand the urgency of this great problem.” Said Tanzer.

On the other hand, ABTA is leading the campaign to deter British tourists, in which they emphasise that the penalties for committing fraud can result in up to three years in prison in some countries.

The president of the British association also warned that holiday makers who file false reports may face large fines.

“It’s not just about the money they’ve claimed. The hotel can argue that their reputation has been damaged and claim a significant amount for the damage,” Tanzer referred to the British couple, Sean and Caroline Bondarenko, who according to the UK media are facing a demand from £170,000 (€192,000) from a hotel in Greece after they tried to claim for compensation of £10,000 (€11,300) for alleged food poisoning.

Tourists “have the impression that they can get money simply by filling out a form, but it is not that simple.”

“What you are doing is taking legal action against a hotel or a tour operator, and that is something very serious, which could mean you having to pay a huge fine and costs, and even being registered as criminals, because it is a crime,” said Tanzer.

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