Recent media coverage has highlighted the increase in claims arising from holidaymakers who have become ill as a result of food poisoning or other ailments on holiday.
Headlines such as “COUPLE FACE £3,700 LEGAL BILL AFTER FAILED COMPENSATION CLAIM FOR HOLIDAY SICKNESS” and “BRITISH TOURISTS WHO MADE FALSE SICKNESS CLAIMS FACE PRISON” seem to have been published on an almost daily basis in advance, and during the height, of holiday season. Whether this is a coincidence, or travel firms are attempting to make their successes public as a deterrent for holidaymakers is perhaps a discussion for another day.
However, spare a thought for the consumers who have been saving since the previous summer for their one big holiday of the year, and have their holiday ruined because of the failures of their 5-star hotel to properly store food, prepare food or to maintain basic hygiene standards.
Restaurants, hotels and other establishments in Scotland are required to adhere to regulations when it comes to the cleanliness of their kitchens, their food storage and cooking procedures. If we wouldn’t accept illness resulting from ill prepared food in Scotland, why should the standard be any different for a hotel in a foreign holiday resort?
The recent coverage may put the average holidaymaker off making a claim for their illness. However, what about those holidaymakers hospitalised due to illness whilst on holiday, or those who have a holiday of a lifetime ruined because they are unable to leave their room and enjoy the sun and sea? Holidaymakers will at times experience genuine illness as a result of poorly prepared food, or hotels that do not meet the most basic hygiene levels.
The Consumer Rights Act requires the restaurants in Scotland to provide food that is of “satisfactory quality” for example properly stored, free from harmful bacteria and properly cooked. If a customer took ill as a result of their failure, they would have a remedy against the restaurant. A Scottish court would not normally be able to hear a case against a hotel in Spain, Italy, or elsewhere in the world. However, when you book a holiday with a UK travel agent, and that holiday falls within the Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tours Regulations 1992, there may be a remedy against the travel agent for the failure (or failures) of the hotel. The holiday must be a “package holiday” in line with the Regulations, meaning that the travel agent must have arranged two of the following three components of the holiday: (i) transport; (ii) accommodation; or (iii) other tourist services not ancillary to transport or accommodation and accounting for a significant proportion of the package. If two of those three criteria are satisfied, then the travel agent can be held liable.
The press coverage has highlighted the “successes” of the tour operators, however it is worth bearing in mind that there are genuine claimants, whose holidays have been ruined by illness, and have successfully pursued compensation. In fact, what the media coverage often overlooks is that the vast majority of claims are genuine. Those cases may not generate the same headlines as those that may put fear into those genuine claimants, but show that those who are honestly wronged are entitled to damages for their illness.
If you have suffered an illness on holiday and wish to discuss matters with us further please contact us online by clicking here or speak to a member of our specialist team on 0333 222 1855.