Holidaymakers heading to Portugal warned over making bogus food poisoning claims

The coast of Portugal.
The coast of Portugal.
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UK holidaymakers visiting Portugal have been warned they face prosecution if they lodge bogus food poisoning claims against hotels.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) updated its travel advice to urge visitors to only pursue genuine complaints and states that fake cases could lead to legal action in the UK or Portugal.

This follows a similar change to guidance last month for travellers going to Spain.

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”.

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.

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.”