British holidaymakers visiting Portugal have been warned they face prosecution if they lodge bogus food poisoning claims against hotels.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office updated its travel advice on Friday, urging visitors to only pursue genuine complaints. The move follows a similar change to guidance for tourists in Spain, after cases were recorded in Benidorm and Valenica.
Today’s warning also coincides with the release of undercover footage filmed by private investigators for Jet2Holiday, which saw a rogue tout in Benidorm coaching tourists last year into making bogus compensation requests for a potential profit of £3,000.
New target: Portugal has been identified as the latest focus for ruthless compensation touts, who aggressively encourage tourists to make bogus claims against hotels for a cash sum
Travel trade organisation Abta said there has been a dramatic rise in the number of gastric illness claims made since 2013 despite sickness levels reported in resorts remaining stable.
It blames unscrupulous claims management touts for encouraging holidaymakers on all-inclusive packages to submit dishonest or exaggerated claims worth thousands of pounds.
In addition to Portugal and Spain, destinations affected include Bulgaria, Cyprus, Turkey and the Dominican Republic.
Hoteliers in Mallorca said £42 million in fake claims were made in the first nine months of last year, according to Spanish media reports.
Abta spokeswoman Gillian Edwards said claims management companies are using ‘aggressive tactics’ to persuade travellers to make fake demands for payouts, and are ‘coaching people on what to say’.
She warned that hotels are considering not working with British tour operators in future because ‘they’re not having this problem with other nationalities’.
Trending: The alert coincides with the release of undercover footage (pictured) filmed by private investigators for Jet2Holidays last year in Spain, which saw a rogue tout coaching tourists
Ms Edwards went on: ‘It could have a really serious impact on holidaymakers. It could result in higher prices and us having less choice.’
Touts have been spotted in vehicles parked outside some hotels, but the most common form of attracting claimants is through social media and cold calling, she added.
Abta is calling on the Government to introduce a cap on the legal fees that UK lawyers can charge for overseas personal injury claims for up to £25,000.
It says this would give legitimate claimants ‘access to justice’ while making the sector “considerably less attractive” to firms encouraging fake claims.
Spike: Hoteliers in Mallorca said £42 million in fake claims were made in the first nine months of last year, according to Spanish media reports
The FCO travel advice for Portugal states: ‘You should only consider pursuing a complaint or claim if you have genuinely suffered from injury or illness.
‘If you make a false or fraudulent claim, you may face legal proceedings in the UK or Portugal.’
In fact, some hoteliers in the region claim bogus claims are now costing them £50 million per year. Venues in Majorca note a similar trend, with a 700 per cent increase.
There, guests are approached by people working for local claim management companies, who urged them to file a food poisoning complaint.
In the Jet2Holidays video, released Friday but filmed in 2016 in Spain, shows what tourists should be on the lookout for.
It shows an unscrupulous rep coaching healthy holiday-makers into breaking the law, saying: ‘All it needs to be is, like, you get some Immodium and take a photo of it.’
The covert investigator, who is fitted with a hidden camera, replies: ‘We haven’t been ill, so we just go to the chemist and get it?’
The tout continues: ‘You’re asking the question – there’s medical evidence there, done. That’s it, I swear to you. That’s where I’ll be getting my three grand from. I’ll be doing it. You won’t regret it, I promise you’.