Renewed warnings that sharing holiday plans on social media could invalidate home insurance are not expected to suppress holidaymakers’ eagerness to post and tweet about their trips.
As the summer school holidays getaway started users of social media sites were this week sharing advice not to ‘advertise’ they were going on holiday.
However, social media experts said many travel firms’ marketing strategies would be seriously undermined if people became more cautious about sharing details of their travels on sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
However, they doubt insurance firms can rely on terms and conditions that require policyholders to take ‘reasonable care’ to refuse payouts in the event of a burglary.
Bruce Martin, founder of digital agency Ginger Juice, said: “People are driven to share their happy moments, and if you make that public other people could work out when you are away.
“There have been some stories about that happening, but I don’t know how prevalent it is. I think the amount of people who would think twice about posting would be quite small.
“The attraction of posting your holiday snaps is too much these days. Tourist boards and travel firms all want you to send out user generated content while you’re away. It’s what everyone strives for.”
Darren Hepburn, director of social agency Chilli Twist, said at this time of year a significant proportion of all posts on social media will be related to some form of travel and holidays.
He suggested insurers that clamped down on holiday posts would have to do so whenever a homeowner left their house.
“It’s not written into insurance T&Cs that you have to be in your house at all times,” he said. “No one has an agreement when they take out insurance that they will never leave home
“It sounds to me like this is a good Daily Mail scare story but this won’t fly. There’s no insurance company in the land that’s not going to pay out a claim because toy have told people you’re goig on holiday.”
Hepburn agreed that the essence of social media is to make posts as shareable and discoverable as possible by using hashtags to give content the best chance to reach the widest audience and ideally “go viral”.
“Without that it’s a dead entity,” he said. “From a business point of view it becomes pointless, certainly in the travel industry.”
Nathan Midgley, editor of marketing agency Melt Content, added: “If you post online, it’s common sense to assume it’s going to be seen by someone outside your social circle. But I suspect people will keep posting.”
A spokeswoman for UK’s financial ombudsman said they were aware that some claims have been turned down partly due to the insurance firm investigating social media posts.
But she said although they have had some general inquiries from members of the public she was not aware that a formal complaint has been lodged.
A statement from the ombudsman said: “Insurance contracts vary and at present, it’s unlikely that you’ll see specific provisions in contracts about what you can (and can’t) put on social media.
“However, insurers may rely on whether you have taken ‘reasonable care’ when considering whether to pay a claim.
“To give an example, if your insurance policy includes a term about not being away from your property for more than 28 consecutive days and you post on Facebook that you’re off on a two month cruise, the insurer may well factor that in when deciding if you’ve breached your contract with them.
“On the other hand, turning down a travel insurance claim solely on the basis of a photo on Instagram featuring you with a cocktail may not be in the spirit of the contract.
At present we haven’t really seen cases that turn solely on what someone might have put on a social media profile – but it makes sense to take reasonable precautions.
“This can include things like locking your profile, limiting your friend list to people you actually know and not giving away too many personal details. After all, regardless of whether you have insurance, you don’t want to get burgled off the back of something you’ve put online.
“However, this doesn’t mean that we’ll agree that the insurance company is playing fair by using evidence gathered online.
“An insurance company may investigate the facts surrounding a claim for a car accident, for example, or a house burglary – and what you’ve put on social media might be a factor.
“However, as a general rule, if we feel that the insurer is looking for reasons to avoid paying a claim then we may disagree if they turn you down.
“Most insurance companies are reasonable when it comes to sorting out claims. But the fact remains that some may search online to see what you’ve said, when investigating a claim.
“So the best way to protect yourself is to think carefully about what you put in to the public domain.”
Tips from the Financial Ombudsman Service on holiday social media posts
• Lock your profile. Sites like Twitter and Facebook sometimes change their privacy settings, so regularly check to make sure you’re settings and friend lists are up-to-date.
• ‘Cull’ your friend list. Most of us have a small number of friends we trust and confide in. Yet for some reason, we’re happy to reveal our innermost thoughts to a bunch of strangers we might have met once in a pub. Take time to go through your ‘friend list’ and if you don’t know the person, don’t trust them with your details.
• Location, location, location. If you use a smartphone, you’ll undoubtedly be prompted repeatedly to update your location. Even messaging services might reveal where you are if you click ‘ok’. Remember that location services don’t only show where you are, they show where you aren’t.
• Search yourself. Anyone can run a quick search to see what is visible online. Just type a few details in to any search drive and have a look at the results.
• Delete the details. Getting birthday wishes from your friends through social media can be great – but do you need to put your full birthday online? The more you reveal, the more you could be compromising security of things like bank accounts and credit cards. So take off anything that’s too personal from your profile.