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“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A claims management company (CMC) has withdrawn a YouTube advert designed to generate holiday sickness claims after the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ruled that it was misleading.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, [1] 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.