Are Holiday Companies Telling You All That You Need To Know?
The Law of… Jet2, TUI and Thomas Cook
In light of news that Jet2 Holidays and TUI (the parent company of Thomson and First Choice) have had an advert banned that offered inaccurate discounts to their customers, and that Jet2 have been sending customers a questionnaire about holiday claims; we explore whether holiday companies are telling you all that you need to know about making a holiday claim.
Fake Illness Claims in the Spotlight
Alongside ABTA, of which some of the members arguably have a vested interest in the British tour operators that they regulate, the big holiday companies have bemoaned the rise in holiday sickness claims, saying that this increase is in part due to more people making fake illness claims.
There are those who have argued that the rise of fraudulent claims is increasing the cost of holidays, but it could be said that a lack of standards could be to blame for an overall increase in claims.
We often receive reports from Jet2, TUI and Thomas Cook customers who say that they have suffered the debilitating symptoms of a pathogen such as Campylobacter and Salmonella, and it's hard to argue that these customers are trying to scam the system, when they have been assessed by medical professionals who have confirmed that they contracted a food poisoning pathogen.
It could be argued that since the Federation of Tour Operators became part of ABTA, the standards that were once in place to circumvent the rise of food poisoning on holiday have not been adhered to as diligently as they once were.
While we fully support the efforts being taken to prevent fake holiday illness claims, we feel that the steps being taken shouldn't limit the rights of those with genuine holiday illness claims who have been let down by their tour operator.
Jet2 Holiday Illness Questionnaire
It has come to our attention that Jet2 Holidays have recently been contacting customers who they believe are in the process of claiming compensation for holiday illness. In it, they mention the issues of fake holiday illness claims and advise their customers to contact them before receiving legal advice.
In a covering letter that accompanies the questionnaire, they explain that while the welfare of their customers is very important to them, they will pursue those who make fraudulent claims for any costs that they incur defending the claim. It's arguable that the wording of this covering letter implies that all claims are fraudulent, focussing entirely on the type of work that has been reported in the press of nefarious sickness claims touts operating at holiday resorts.
The covering letter also suggests that claimants are unaware that they are making a claim, something which we find hard to believe, as certain details would need to be provided by a sick holidaymaker before a claim could even begin.
Most concerningly, the covering letter gives the impression that you if you haven't received legal advice, you shouldn't, instead they advise that you should complete the enclosed questionnaire and send any medical evidence that you have to Jet2 if you wish to make a claim.
If you've received such a questionnaire, be aware that you're not obligated to complete it, and by sending these out, Jet2 could be breaking the solicitor's code of conduct by contacting a client directly. We would recommend against responding to Jet2 directly and to contact a travel lawyer who will be able to address any concerns you might have.
The Importance of Seeing a Medical Practitioner
It's advisable to see a resort doctor if you suffer the symptoms of a holiday illness, but it's not a requirement to see the medical practitioner that your tour operator recommends. If you become unwell and wish to see an independent medical professional, such as your own GP or an alternative foreign medical practitioner, you are within your rights to do so.
Resort doctors have been known to charge excessive fees for their services, and it's arguable that if they're employed by the hotel, there's a conflict of interest.
In the event that you choose to make a compensation claim, it's likely that an independent medical practitioner will need to assess your case, meaning that while seeing a resort doctor may be a beneficial first step towards your recovery, but doing so is not a requirement for making a claim, and you are under no obligation to provide your medical records directly to your tour operator.
Why Jet2 and TUI Had Their Advert Banned
Industry website Travel Weekly recently reported that Jet2 Holidays and TUI had their holiday discount adverts banned after it was discovered that they had emailed their customers promising them £100 off per person on all holidays and city breaks booked between the 14th and 17th of January.
In the article, Jet2 argued that the ""dynamic nature" of holiday pricing meant it was not possible to compare periods on a direct like-for-like basis", but it was revealed that they could only show that 63% of the holidays they offered were cheaper.
Although the Advertising Standards Authority has already commented on this issue, essentially stating that the adverts could be seen as misleading, if you were affected by this issue, it's advisable to contact your local trading standards body.
What You Can Do?
If you believe that you have been mis-sold a holiday, whether due to a misleading price or certain features that were advertised to you being absent, we recommend speaking to your local trading standards office. If you're unsure of how to find the relevant organisation that can help you, contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau, who should be able to advise you of the appropriate organisation to contact.
If, however, you have suffered a holiday illness and are unsure of how your rights will be affected by making a compensation claim; we highly recommend speaking to a member of our travel law team.
By booking a package holiday in the UK you are covered by The Package Travel Regulations 1992. By speaking to a travel law specialist, you might find that you are entitled to far more compensation than your tour operator is willing to offer you directly.
We offer a complimentary no-obligation consultation during which we can assess your case and advise you of the best method to pursue your complaint. There's no pressure to instruct us, so you retain the option to speak directly with your tour operator. If we represent you, we can do so on a 'no win no fee' basis.