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Watchdog confirms Covid test probe

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Written by: Emma Lunn
13/08/2021
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has concerns about the price, reliability and quality of PCR Covid testing.

The regulator has announced details of its investigation into Covid testing companies to find out if they are breaching consumer laws. The CMA previously confirmed that it would look into the Covid testing market after pressure mounted on the government to take action over the pricing of tests.

Health secretary Sajid Javid wrote to the CMA earlier in the week to ask the watchdog to conduct a review of the market for PCR travel tests.

The CMA has responded, outlining three areas it is currently looking at:

  • Whether individual PCR providers may be breaching their obligations under consumer law and should be subject to enforcement action
  • Whether there are structural problems in the market for PCR tests, affecting price or reliability
  • Whether there are any immediate actions that the government could take in the meantime

George Lusty, CMA senior director for consumer protection, said: “It is essential that people paying for PCR tests are treated fairly, get what they pay for and that their rights are respected when things go wrong. We will not hesitate to take enforcement action if we find evidence that PCR providers are breaching consumer law.

“We are also working closely with DHSC to get the data we need to identify the cause of any wider problems in the PCR testing market, and to ground our advice on what action may be needed.”

Several Covid-19 testing firms were removed from the government travel testing list in June after an investigation uncovered pricing issues and found that some firms did not actually offer coronavirus tests.

An investigation by Which? found that a number of the tests listed among the cheapest providers turned out to be much more expensive than their initial listings suggested, while others were simply unobtainable.

Rory Boland, Which? Travel editor, said: “Which? raised serious problems with the travel testing system with the government ahead of travel reopening – long before the predictable disruption we are now witnessing for holidaymakers. Not only do travellers face paying hundreds of pounds for tests in order to travel, but they are also let down too frequently by delayed or missing test results.

“It’s encouraging to see the CMA recognise the urgency of this issue, although its review will come too late for those travelling over the summer holidays in the coming days and weeks. The government and regulator must now act swiftly to ensure private testing for travel is reliable, affordable and accessible for all UK consumers – not just those who are better off.”

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