It’s been over a year since I left HolidayTravelWatch, which was once the centre of commentary with regards to all travel problems.
As I broaden my Consumer credentials, I cannot help but wonder about the broader legal community and where their voice has gone to protect the interests of ordinary Consumers? As I have said previously, whilst the Nation is gripped by brexit, Love Island, the rantings of Donald Trump and the adventures of Stormy Daniels, the UK government has quietly changed the conditions on how Travel Consumers can gain Access to Justice; the legal profession and my old stomping ground appear to have barely offered a whisper against their plans.
So I thought I would take a trip down memory lane, prompted by someone contacting me, worried about going to a hotel in the Bahamas, with an alleged serious outbreak of illness.
A run through the various social networks reveals that at this point of the summer, UK holidaymakers have been suffering sickness in many hotels. Destinations include the Costa del Sol, Costa Brava, Majorca, Greece, Grand Canaria and I suspect many more!
Complaints range from:
- Violent Diahorrea;
- The ‘Noro-bug’;
- Staff practising poor hygiene regimes;
- Food not properly cooked;
- People vomiting by swimming pools;
- Poor staff responses to many complaints in resort.
I have a sense of deja-vu!
So the problem as I see it is this; the government’s and the travel industry’s agenda has been to crack down on the evils of a rampant ‘compensation culture’ and fraudulent claims. In the government’s quest to do so, they carried out, in my opinion, a less than satisfactory Consultation. A more open and independent Consultation would have determined that the problem of a so-called ‘compensation culture’ did not exist (other than through the problems government has created since 2010) and secondly, the issue of fraudulent claims only existed within less than 1% of all holidays or travel journeys booked.
As a result of this Consultation, the government quietly introduced fixed legal fees on holiday claims and a new pre-action protocol for holiday claims. In my view, coming next to a Court near you - increased qualifying financial levels, meaning that most of these cases will be heard only in the Small Claims Court; no chance of legal representation there due to cost recovery limitations; you will be on your own! The consequences of this bad decision by government is that Law Firms will clearly decide that running these cases (including illness cases) are uneconomic; that will mean that Consumers will then be either driven into the arms of those who have no clue how to run these cases, or, into the embrace of the super-legal factory which will arise as a result of this clueless decision from government.
So what should Consumers do? Before any holidaymaker makes a rash decision about entering into Mediation or Arbitration or going into Court, they should carefully reflect on the following:
- In the first instance, always make sure that you have made written complaints in resort AND when you return home - always give the travel company the chance to put right what has gone wrong;
- If they have failed to put right those problems, always ensure that you keep all receipts, take photographs - use your camera-phone!
- Talk to other holidaymakers - they are your witnesses and you are their witness to events;
- Stop being so English and swop contact details with other holidaymakers!
- Read the pre-action protocol for holiday claims - follow what you should do before you decide to escalate anything before taking any formal action;
- On the issue of medical records, I am concerned, as has been the case in the past, that a too early release of medical records could lead to a holidaymaker being under-compensated - these illnesses are rarely resolved within 24 hours - that is one of the main reasons why an independent legal advice is essential!
- I would stress again that you should not take any action without seeking formal legal advices and that is now where the problem lies!
- Taking action on your own might produce some element of success, whether you resolve your complaint by correspondence or by taking the case into Mediation or Court;
- However, my view is that holidaymakers, like the one’s I have been reading about should gather together and form a Group Action (yes; that means hunting for your fellow holidaymakers in the social networks if you did not speak to them in resort - a good use of your time!);
- By forming a Group Action, you will probably raise the interest of a suitably qualified lawyer, who should then progress your case with the Group’s other cases - I can assure you, the cases of yesteryear were made up of many remarkable people who did not take no for an answer!
Taking this resolute action will put an end to an Industry’s and government’s divide and rule strategy and expose fully what the majority of complaining holidaymakers experience!
On the question of the holidaymaker worried about travelling to a ‘sick hotel’; some good news! Along with others, I campaigned to ensure that the new Package Travel Directive and the UK Package Travel Regulations, would introduce some extra rights where there are evident issues arising in a hotel or resort.
Preamble 31 of the Package Travel Directive defines the circumstances when a Consumer may cancel without paying a termination fee if unavoidable or extraordinary circumstances arise, which may cover for example, ‘warfare, other serious security problems such as terrorism, significant risks to human health such as the outbreak of a serious disease at the travel destination, or natural disasters such as floods, earthquakes or weather conditions which make it impossible to travel safely to the destination as agreed in the package travel contract’.
Then there is Regulation 12 (7) of the implemented Package Travel Directive in the UK (The Package Travel and Linked Travel Arrangements Regulations 2018), which brings into force that right, it states:
“(7) Notwithstanding paragraphs (2) to (6), in the event of unavoidable and extraordinary circumstances occurring at the place of destination or its immediate vicinity and which significantly affect—(a) the performance of the package, or (b) the carriage of passengers to the destination, the traveller may terminate the package travel contract before the start of the package without paying any termination fee”.
Travel Consumers need to think carefully as to their next steps when dealing with holiday sickness claims and I will say this; move away from some of the childish commentary I have seen on the various social network outlets about what has happened to them. Holiday sickness is no joke and can affect someone’s social life and in the worst case scenario, their employability. The holidaymaker of 2018 needs to rise up to the standards set by past holidaymakers who courageously and as determined Group Actions, stood up to the failures of Travel Companies!
Go on; I dare you to succeed!