British tourist scams, encouraged by unscrupulous lawyers, making false claims of food poisoning in Canary Islands hotels, in the hope of compensation, have reportedly caused alarm at the sub tropical island holiday destination. More than €12 million worth of claims are said to have been received in just the last year, with hoteliers having announced last week that they are not willing to pay for fake claims.
More and more frequent reports of British “law firms” approaching tourists and explaining to them that if they present a food poisoning claim against the hotel where they are staying, even if it is false, they could receive significant compensation. They only need to buy a prescription drug at the nearest pharmacy and keep the bill as proof. They can file their complaint long after the holiday, even months later, from the UK.
The problem, say local commentators, is that British legislation more readily leans toward protecting the consumer, with the burden falling on the establishment accused to prove their innocence. This means that the tour operator can often be required to refund up to the full amount of the vacation plus damages allegedly caused, with necessarily having sufficient proof of an incident ever having occurred.
It is usually cheaper for the tour operator to pay up rather than to go to trial, and then deduct the amount directly from any settlement of the bill that must be paid to the establishment, so that the latter, the hotelier, is the one who must assume the costs, which they often only find out about when their due payment arrives.
The result has been that in Spain, in 2016, some 10,000 claims were registered (said to be a 700% increase), with an estimated cost to the hotels of €60 million, according to HOSBEC (Hoteliers Business Association of Benidorm, Costa Blanca and Comunidad Valenciana).
The tourism employers from FEHT (Federación de Hostelería y Turismo) de Las Palmas have warned that in less than a year claims for compensation total some €4.6 million on Gran Canaria alone, to which can be added more than €7 million worth on Tenerife.
Entrepreneurs have expressed their concern about the proliferation of false claims that they fear will increase this summer along with the pickup in demand from the British for all-inclusive hotels. One hotel chain on Gran Canaria say they are facing “60 claims adding up to compensation of £700,000, or about £12,000 per customer.”
The amounts involved are substantial, leading some commentators to suggest the need for much better record keeping.