Inma de Benito, president of the Majorca Hoteliers Federation. | Pere Bota

The British Consulate is to become involved in the issue of fraudulent holiday compensation claims. The Consul-General for the Balearics, Catalonia, Aragon and Andorra, Lloyd Milen, and the Vice-Consul in the Balearics, Lucy Gorman, will meet the president of the Majorca Hoteliers Federation, Inma Benito, on Wednesday next week and discuss the matter.

The scale of the fraud, driven by so-called claims' farmers in the UK, has been reported as having cost Majorcan hoteliers fifty million euros last year. The same figure has, though, been quoted for Spain as a whole. Nevertheless, it has grown enormously in the past couple of years, the target hotels typically being large all-inclusives. The hotels end up settling the claims (in UK courts) because of contractual agreements with tour operators; the latter tend not to contest the claims because of the costs of doing so.

On 4 April there will be a conference which will offer federation members advice on how to manage these claims. UK and Spanish legal experts will be offering their recommendations and views.

The UK ministry of justice has confirmed that there will be legal reform under the Prisons and Courts Bill. This is due to establish fixed rates for compensation and the need for proper medical evidence; if there is none, then the claims will not be valid. Currently, if a holidaymaker, who supposedly suffered food poisoning or contracted gastroenteritis, can present a chemist's receipt for the purchase of a drug like imodium, this is taken as evidence. The legal reform is not, however, due to take effect until the autumn of next year.

Despite the apparent ease with which claims can be made in UK courts, fraudulent claims are punishable under UK law, as they are under Spanish law. Hotels and tour operators are increasingly making it clear to any potential claimants in Majorca that they run the risk of police action if their claims are false.

In addition to the British Embassy, the hoteliers federation has taken the matter up with the police authorities in the Balearics and the national government. Madrid has, in turn, spoken with the British government.