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Warning over misleading travel Covid test pricing

Written by: Emma Lunn
Firms ‘approved’ by the government to sell Covid-19 tests to travellers arriving in the UK are advertising misleading prices.

When searching for testing companies in London on 7 December, the curiously-named ‘! ! ! 0 – 100 Travel 19’ topped the government list, offering self-swab at home tests for £15. But when users click through to the site the cheapest day 2 test widely available was £64.99.

The firm does offer £15 on-site testing – but only in Chichester and the first available appointment is 15 December.

Second on the list is ‘00 123 Clinics’ which also offers tests for £15. But a visit to the firm’s website shows the cheapest test available is £79.

Claret Diagnostics also advertises £15 tests on the government list. But the only £15 tests available on its site were in Darlington. A day 2 test at a clinic in London – the area searched for – costs £69.

Which? mystery shopped Covid test providers earlier this year and found that the government approved list of providers included a number of ‘cowboy firms’. Despite the government saying it would clamp down on dodgy practices, nothing appears to have changed.

Trade body the Laboratory and Testing Industry Organisation (LTIO) is supporting calls from consumer groups to crackdown on misleading providers who continue to operate unchecked on the Government website.

A spokesperson for the LTIO said: “As the trade body for reputable testing companies, we are committed to transparent pricing and actively engaged in flagging these rogue providers to the Department for Health and are disappointed that action has not been taken to remove them.

“The advantage of displaying prices on the GOV.UK site is to help consumers make an informed choice when purchasing a test, yet given the government’s failure to enforce accuracy, the LTIO believes it should remove this function entirely. Such a move would instantly put a stop to companies manipulating and deceiving consumers with incorrect prices.

“All of the LTIO’s members have worked incredibly hard to meet the increased demand for PCR testing following the announcement last week, and with the government’s website being relied upon by thousands of people every day, it’s vital it acts on these warnings and clamps down on this misleading behaviour.”

Last week saw PCR testing provider Randox forced to make changes to its terms and conditions after the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) launched an investigation into the practices of the sector.

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