HOOVER has failed in its latest attempt to fight a multi-million pound compensation claim from customers who say they were "duped" by the company in its free flights promotion.
The appeal by Hoover to the St Helens County Court was dismissed by Judge Peter Urquhart who found in favour of claimants.
Urquhart supported a decision made earlier in the summer that the company should face claims for damages as well as the replacement of air tickets. He also refused to transfer the cases to Merthyr Tydfil, the site of Hoover's headquarters.
Hoover had hoped to defeat thousands of potential claims from customers who say they suffered frustration, loss of enjoyment, stress and other symptoms as a result of the company's inability to provide flights despite business deals agreed in 1992.
J Keith Park & Co partner Denis Whalley, who is spearheading the action, says Judge Urquhart's decision means claimants are "a step closer to their rightful compensation".
He says Hoover, which is thought to have originally agreed to provide tickets for 600,000 people to European and US destinations, has "duped" its customers, flying only 225,000 so far.
The remaining customers are yet to agree a settlement and 5,000 are being handled by Whalley, who predicts a successful action could cost Hoover up to £250 million.
"If everybody comes forward I think it's going to cost them £100 million just for tickets alone," he says. "If you add damages you can at least double that - it could end up at £250 million."
Hoover has declined to comment on the case.
J Keith Park is planning to develop a holiday claims unit following its success in attracting Hoover cases.
Whalley says attempts by the firm to raise its profile among dissatisfied holiday-makers locally was already drawing in new clients.
"There appears to be a large scale of malpractice in the field with no public agency prepared to pick up the problem," says Whalley.
He is calling on other lawyers with an interest in holiday-related claims to contact him.
Solicitors should pool case law knowledge and encourage referral of clients to specialists, he says.