Why Thomas Cook's Booking Conditions May Affect You If You Make a Holiday Illness Claim
The Law of… Package Holiday Terms and Conditions
There has been a lot of press coverage around holiday illness claims recently, with some holiday companies saying that they have seen a notable increase in the number of claims being brought to their attention.
In light of this, it appears that tour operators are changing how they approach holiday claims, with Thomas Cook, in particular, advising their customers what to do if they need to make a claim within their booking conditions.
How Thomas Cook's Booking Conditions Could Affect You
Thomas Cook is one of the largest providers of all-inclusive package holidays in the UK, but how holiday illness claims are addressed in their current booking conditions might be of concern to anyone who is sick abroad.
Under section (viii) of their booking conditions, it currently states that "Should you become ill while on Holiday, you must consult a local doctor and, in addition, report your illness to our representative (if we provide a rep service) or via our contact details as shown on our travel documentation."
While it's advisable to seek the opinion of a medical expert at the earliest opportunity if you're sick abroad, it is not a requirement to do so if you wish to make a claim. We would also question whether the hotel doctor or the doctor recommended by the hotel is the most suitable person to seek independent medical advice from.
Why Independent Medical Advice Is So Important
We often receive reports of hotel doctors and medical practitioners that have been recommended by hotels, advising hotel guests that their symptoms are due to environmental changes or overindulgence, without actually carrying out any tests to see whether the illness has been caused by a bacterial or parasitic pathogen.
We have also been made aware that some doctors will prescribe antibiotic medication, which may not always be licenced in the UK, without carrying out any tests. This will be completely ineffective against gastroenteritis, could cause significant harm and may prevent stool sample tests carried out in the UK from revealing the true source of infection.
Foreign doctors have also been known to charge excessive fees for their services. It's arguable that if they're employed by the hotel or have commercial links with the hotel that they could conceivably have a vested interest in prescribing antibiotics and might refrain from carrying out a thorough stool sample analysis.
If you become unwell and wish to see an independent medical professional, you are within your rights to do so, regardless of whether you intend to make a claim or not. Taking your GP's contact number abroad with you may also be prudent, as it'll mean that you can discuss any tests that are carried out overseas and the risks of taking any recommended medication.
Providing Evidence and Receiving Advice
Thomas Cook's booking conditions comment on the potential causes of an illness abroad, before stating that "If you think your illness was caused by something you ate at your hotel, and should you wish to make a claim against us as a result of that illness, you'll need evidence to support this from the doctor you see in resort."
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, and it's arguable that seeing a resort doctor is not a requirement for making an illness claim.
Their booking conditions also say that "You must provide us with full details of both the local doctor you saw and your GP, together with written authority for us to obtain medical records and all tests/sample analysis from both those doctors."
They continue to state that "Failure to provide us with access to the records prepared at the time you were ill in resort and immediately on your return to the UK, and/or failure to follow our complaints procedure as set out in the paragraph titled "If you have a complaint", may reduce or extinguish any rights you have to claim compensation from us, or from any relevant supplier."
This is arguably misleading. Although it is advisable to contact your tour operator if you are sick while still at your resort after you have done so, we would recommend talking to a holiday claims solicitor.
Keep in mind that you are under no obligation to provide your medical records directly to your tour operator, and if you decide to make a holiday illness compensation claim, these would be handled by a travel lawyer.
Your Rights When Not Sticking to the Booking Conditions
Generally speaking, you should always aim to stick to the booking conditions set out by your tour operator. In the event that you don't exactly follow some of these conditions, your rights should not be affected as you are protected by The Package Travel Regulations 1992.
By speaking to a travel law specialist, you might find that you are entitled to more compensation than your tour operator is willing to offer you directly.
Why Thomas Cook May Have Mentioned Holiday Illness in Their Booking Conditions
It's arguable that a contributing factor to the increase in holiday claims, aside from the press coverage that they have received, is due to the recent standards of all-inclusive package holidays made available to British holidaymakers.
Traditionally, tour operators purchase a number of hotel rooms in bulk at a cost that allows them to make a profit when advertising an all-inclusive package holiday at a competitive price.
It's arguable that in recent times, tour operators have been pushing down the price that they pay to foreign hoteliers, meaning that while holidaymakers from countries such as Germany, where they are generally willing to pay more, might be receiving better standards, British holidaymakers might be getting a bad deal.
It could be said that it's this business model that has resulted in an increase in the number of claims and that by trying to save on costs, problems with food supply and preparation may be occurring. It's possible that this is the reason that there has been a perceived increase in the number of British tourists who are reporting that they have been sick abroad.
What You Can Do If You've Been Sick on Holiday
If your all-inclusive package holiday was ruined by food poisoning or another illness, then you might be entitled to claim compensation from your tour operator. We can provide you with a complimentary no-obligation consultation, during which we can assess your case and advise you of the best way to proceed with a claim.
If you choose to instruct us, we can represent you on a 'no win no fee' basis.