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Clampdown on ‘cowboy behaviour’ of Covid testing firms

Written by: Emma Lunn
The government has admitted that the pricing and service standards of Covid testing firms on its ‘approved’ list are not up to scratch.

Ministers have removed 57 firms from the list as they ‘no longer exist or do not provide a relevant testing service’. A further 82 testing providers will be issued warnings over misleading prices.

Following a review of the pricing and service standards of day two and day eight testing providers listed on Gov.UK, the 82 companies, about 18% of the firms listed, have been identified as displaying lower prices on Gov.UK than are available on their website at the point of checkout.

The government website will be updated to reflect the true cost of the tests and the offending companies have been warned that they will be removed if they advertise misleading prices again.

As part of an ongoing review, regular spot checks will be introduced from this week to make sure companies are complying with the rules to ensure prices displayed are accurate, providers are legitimate, and companies have not changed their name to get back on the list.

Sajid Javid, health and social care secretary, said: “It is absolutely unacceptable for any private testing company to be taking advantage of holidaymakers and today’s action clamps down on this cowboy behaviour. 57 firms will be removed from the Gov.UK list and a further 82 will be given a two-strike warning – if they advertise misleading prices ever again, they’re off.

“We are also introducing regular spot checks this week to make sure all private providers follow the rules and meet our high standards of transparency.”

Companies will be removed from the Gov.UK list if they fail to take action within three days of strike one as part of the new two-strike policy.

The findings of the government’s review will be shared with the Competition and Markets Authority to support its own review of the market and align recommendations and actions.

The action will help ensure consumers can trust the testing providers listed on GOV.UK and only the most reliable companies are available.

Tests booked for travel with companies not listed can still be used for travel, providing those companies meet legal requirements.

The government says that since the review began, it has analysed and improved processes for managing the private provider list on Gov.UK, including introducing more stringent checks on pricing.

Guidelines will be published in due course to the market addressing pricing and service standards.

Earlier this month the all-party Future of Aviation group called for Covid travel tests to be capped at £40, while other research found that the cost of Covid tests was pricing millions of people out of travel.

Rory Boland, Which? Travel editor, said: “It is inexcusable that it has taken the government nearly half a year to properly audit its own list of private test providers to remove firms that don’t exist and others advertising misleading prices.

“The number of firms being taken off or facing a warning shows the huge difficulty travellers face in choosing a trustworthy, reliable test provider. Many will have faced delays and missing tests because they used cowboy firms listed by the government.

“While it is frustrating that it has taken so long for the government to clamp down on rogue providers, with many summer holidays already ruined, it is vital that it now takes immediate action to remove any companies not following the rules.”

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