Abta predicts the government ban on cold calls will reduce the number of fraudulent holiday sickness claims made against tour operators.

The new measures prohibiting nuisance calls came into force over the weekend.

People will now be given the choice to opt in to receiving calls offering to settle personal injury claims. Previously, people had to opt out by registering with the Telephone Preference Service or withdraw their consent while on the phone.

Now, companies making such calls have to ensure they have the recipient’s permission before the conversation. Fines for breaching the rules could be as high as £500,000.

An Abta spokesman said : “Abta is delighted that the government has banned claims management companies (CMCs) from making unsolicited phone calls through the Financial Guidance and Claims Act. Most of us will have received annoying, unwelcome calls from companies encouraging us to make a claim for PPI, car accidents or holiday sickness.

“This ban should significantly reduce the number of these nuisance calls, but if members of the public now receive an unwelcome and unauthorised call from a CMC, they can and should report it to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).”

The number of holiday sickness claims shot up by 500% between 2013 and 2016, with Abta and tour operators putting the rise down to claims management companies pushing false and exaggerated claims. It led to the launch of Travel Weekly’s Fight Fake Claims and Abta’s Stop Sickness Scams campaigns.

The Abta spokesman added: “In recent years, the travel industry has seen a significant rise in fake holiday sickness claims – many of which will have originated from members of the public being cold called by a CMC and talked into submitting a claim.”

Abta research found that 9.5 million British adults, around one in five, have been approached about making a compensation claim for being sick while on holiday.

“If members of the public do fall ill on holiday they should make their hotel management and tour operator aware and access relevant medical care,” the spokesman said.

Abta also called for improved links between the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) and Solicitors Regulatory Authority (SRA) as part of its bid to tackle claims fraud, and suggested that legal firms pursuing claims should have to name the source of their claims.

It is currently illegal for solicitors to pay a ‘referral fees’ to companies who steer claimants their way, but Abta said it suspects that such fees still occur but that enhanced transparency will make the practice much easier to spot and prevent.

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