Why ABTA's Alternative Dispute Resolution Scheme Might Not Be Ideal for Some Holidaymakers


The Law Of… Using a Solicitor or Arbitration

In the UK, ABTA is the largest organisation that represents travel agents and tour operators. Not only do they represent the organisers of package holidays, but they also offer dispute resolution services for consumers that travel with tour operators who are members of ABTA.

With ABTA's recent introduction of a dedicated holiday sickness and injury conciliation scheme, we have explored the ways in which the law of this type of arbitration could be beneficial to holidaymakers, as well as why it might not be.

Who are ABTA and what do they do?

ABTA was founded by travel companies, with the intention of raising the overall standards of the holidays available to British tourists by imposing a set of rules and policies, that all of the member companies are expected to adhere to.

If they don't, they could face repercussions, including the possibility of being fined.

By being a member of ABTA, holiday companies are able to proudly display their membership, something which many consumers have become savvy to, as marketing campaigns encourage them to only buy from holiday companies that are ABTA members.

As they grew, so did the roster of companies under their banner, and with them, similar organisations merged with them. As part of their growth, the number of services that they are able to offer increased, expanding to include a variety of dedicated dispute resolution services.

What is the ADR scheme and how could it benefit me?

ABTA have been running an arbitration service that aims to help customers who have been unable to resolve their disputes for non-personal injury matters with an ABTA member for some time. It seems, potentially in response to the perceived increase in the number of holiday illness claims being made by British holidaymakers, the recently reported Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) scheme has been implemented

The ADR scheme provides holidaymakers with a framework within which they can resolve their complaint with an independent conciliator, with the ideal goal being to find a resolution to a holiday illness complaint, without having to instruct a solicitor to take legal action or take the complaint to court.

This scheme appears to be ideal for holidaymakers who have suffered less severe bouts of illness, for example, those who may have been sick for 24 hours or so, but for those who suffered a more severe illness, for instance, one that lasted for five days or more or had a financial impact on their life, using ABTA's ADR may mean they don't receive the appropriate entitlement to compensation.

Why could the ADR scheme be a bad thing?

The big risk to users of the ADR scheme is that claims that might have been worth a substantial sum of compensation may be settled for a much lower amount.

Unfortunately, once compensation has been paid to a claimant, it's highly unlikely that they'll be able to claim again. Although there is a brief cooling off period for consumers to take legal advice first, the problem with this is that those seeking to take legal advice having used the scheme may have to start the whole process again.

It's important to recognise that ABTA's ADR could still be highly beneficial if, for instance, you found yourself in a situation wherein a single meal caused you to have an upset stomach for an evening. In these instances, it's unlikely that pursuing compensation on a legal basis would be beneficial, and ABTA may well be able to provide you with a far swifter resolution to your complaint.

If, however, you have experienced more severe symptoms, such as acute food poisoning that induces diarrhoea, vomiting, nausea and other such holiday ruining symptoms, it's generally advisable to speak to a travel law specialist first.

Receive Legal Advice before Choosing the Most Appropriate Method

By speaking to a travel law specialist at Simpson Millar about your holiday illness first, the advice you will receive will be impartial and if we really think that you are better off using the ABTA conciliation service we will let you know straight away. However, if we think that your interests are better served by making a formal claim, we will let you know.

What we advise you to do will depend on the value and prospects of your claim, but as part of a free no-obligation consultation, we can give you an indication as to what the possibilities may be if you choose to use the ABTA conciliation service.

If we represent you we can offer 'no win no fee' representation, meaning that as with taking your complaint to ABTA and utilising the ADR scheme, it won't cost you anything to start the process of claiming compensation with us.

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