“People die of food poisoning” – misleading holiday claims advert pulled after watchdog ruling

Holiday claims: ABTA complaint

A claims management company (CMC) has withdrawn a YouTube advert designed to generate holiday sickness claims after the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ruled that it was misleading.

It is the latest front in the battle against sickness claims being waged by the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA), which lodged the complaint.

ABTA and other major players in the holiday sickness market will be debating it at PI Futures, being held on 19 September in Liverpool. Tickets are still available.

The advert was in the form of a “breaking news” video which warned viewers that “alarmingly, people do die from food poisoning”.

Claims Legal Ltd, which owns the website holidaysicknessclaims.co.uk, agreed to withdraw the video in advance of the ASA adjudication, despite saying it had not received any complaints.

The ASA ordered the CMC not to mislead people about the number of deaths relating to holiday sickness, the level of protection for consumers and the likelihood of their claim succeeding.

Ruling that the advert must not appear again in its current form, the ASA told Claims Legal Ltd “to ensure they held adequate evidence to substantiate objective claims in future”.

In the video, which appeared on the TheAccidentGuys YouTube channel, a man described as a “correspondent live from Spain” told viewers: “Last week we reported on the increase in the number of holidaymakers who come down with some form of general holiday sickness, generally attributed to foodborne illness.”

The man said the World Health Organisation (WHO) had revealed that “a staggering 351,000 deaths up to 2010 are related to food-borne illness, with 52,000 deaths caused by bacteria salmonella, and 37,000 deaths caused by the bacteria e-coli”.

The newsreader then quoted a director of Holiday Sickness Claims, Alan Hoey, saying that people who had been on an all-inclusive package holiday in the last three years, “and suffered with sickness – even mild sickness – should speak to our client team and report the sickness”.

He went on: “As well as being formally recorded for the purpose of statistical analysis, you may be entitled to claim compensation for your sickness on a ‘no win no fee’ basis.”

“European regulations covering all-inclusive packaged holidays now offer greater protection for holidaymakers, and under European regulations, the burden of proof lies ultimately with the tour operator.”

ABTA complained about the advert, in particular the claims about “food-borne illness”, the idea that people should contact the advertiser for statistical reasons and whether the burden of proof was with the tour operator under European regulations.

The ASA fond that aid consumers were likely to understand from the video that the WHO figures related to holiday sickness, while in fact they had a “heavy focus on developing countries” and the 52,000 food-related deaths related to “the bacterium which caused typhoid fever”.

The watchdog said consumers “might feel an obligation to contact the advertiser” because of the reference to “being formally recorded for the purpose of statistical analysis”.

Despite the reference to “greater protection” for travellers under the European regulations, the ASA said the “legislation underpinning the law relating to holiday sickness claims had not changed in the period preceding February 2017, when the ad was seen”.

The watchdog also disagreed with Claims Legal that the case law on holiday claims supported the statement that the burden of proof lay with the tour operator or the law made it more likely a claim would be successful.

Claims Legal replied that it had received no complaints about the advert.

The ASA recorded: “They did not agree with the points raised by the complainant, but saw the possibility that the message in the ad might on some occasions have been misconstrued.”

The ASA ruled that the rules on misleading advertising and substantiation had been breached.

    Readers Comments

  • Claims Legal says:

    WE ARE SORRY – We have removed our Holiday Sickness related videos and are extremely sorry for any misunderstanding our video may have portrayed.

    We wonder why ABTA could not contact us directly with their complaint and give us the opportunity to deal with any complaint directly and efficiently?

    ‘Claims Farmer’? Claims Legal Ltd are not any such a thing (as defined by the Oxford dictionary: someone who takes care of a farm); nor are we a ‘call centre’ set up, calling and fishing for claims or talking people in to making claims.

    Claims Legal Ltd are regulated by the Claims Management Regulation unit is respect of regulated claims management activities, and we take our professional services and responsibilities extremely seriously.

    While we have seen the detrimental effects a few unscrupulous CMC’s have had on the industry over the years, many of the firms carrying out the fake claims ‘farming’ are NOT regulated because they are not licensed. They operate illegally from unlicensed call centres. While they may portray to be licensed – they are not. My question here is how can these claims progress to a solicitor firm without proper tracking and recording?

    Claims Legal do NOT have an outbound call centre. Claims Legal do NOT cold call or fish for claims. Consumers see our website and contact us.

    Over the 2 year period we have been involved in holiday sickness claims, we helped on average 4 consumers a week, hardly a ‘farm’. These numbers can relate to one party of 4 who were sick, we would class this as 4 claims, or this week a party of 19 contacted us while they are still on holiday and all the children and many of the adults have been sick for the last 4 days, as have been other unrelated parties staying at the same hotel. They felt left in the dark, were not sure what to do, had visited and paid for a doctor who diagnosed gastritis due to the food or pool, but didn’t take a sample because ‘the kids looked hydrated and ok’.

    Peter Fankhauser, boss of tour giant Thomas Cook, Britain’s oldest tour operator, as reported in national press last Sunday said

    “Only around one, maybe two, per cent of the claims we receive are not false or exaggerated.”

    A very bold statement to make without providing statistics to back this claim up! Thomas Cook are calling 98% of claimants to be fraudsters!

    In the link below ABTA make unsubstantiated and damaging remarks in their ‘stop sickness scams’ directly accusing claims management firms of being involved in fake whiplash claims and now moving into the overseas holiday claims.


    Claims Legal have 2 weeks ago made a complaint to the ASA regarding this aggressive, unsubstantiated and defamatory type of advertising that casts a shadow on the whole claims management industry and is extremely unfair. We still await a decision after the complaint was initially rejected in error, the complaint now rests with a senior complaints executive to see if the complaint will be accepted and investigated.

    There are today over 1200 regulated CMC’s and the regulator is very strict in its regulation and taking action against those who flaunt it. Peter Frankhauser’s remarks are unfounded and an unfair attack on the whole industry and its regulator as far as we can see.

    Peter Franhauser should be more concerned with getting better control and reporting procedures in these resorts and hotels for when things do go wrong, by providing proper and professional help there and then by reps and medical practitioners where required. It is inevitable that things do sometimes go wrong. What’s important is there should be procedures in place to act and you react responsibly at the earliest opportunity to put things right for those directly affected, and to limit further issues for others within the same environment.


    Claims Legal are in the process of gathering qualified statistics with a view to launching a new set of marketing and awareness videos for those travelling abroad and those affected by holiday sickness.

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