Covid Travel Tests Probed by U.K. Competition Watchdog
(Bloomberg) -- The U.K.’s competition watchdog is investigating the cost of Covid tests for travelers, after Health Secretary Sajid Javid asked it to help stamp out any “exploitative behavior” by rogue firms.
The Competition and Markets Authority said it was aware of concerns about the “evolving markets” for the tests and would issue advice to the government on how to ensure they are “affordable and reliable.”
The government has faced a series of complaints over the proliferation of firms offering polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests for travel, with critics warning that regulation is far too lax and the market is a “complete Wild West.”
Costs in the U.K. can vary markedly -- kits last month ranged from 23.99 pounds ($33.29) to 575 pounds on the government website -- while some European countries have capped the cost of tests.
Some customers have complained of never receiving their results, damaged test kits and nobody answering the phone or emails. Some firms have advertised low prices that don’t exist when you click on their website.
“For too many people the cost of PCR testing can act as a barrier, especially for families who want to travel together,” Javid said in a letter to the CMA.
Calling for a “rapid high-level review”, he added: “It is not right if some families experience yet further disruption unnecessarily because of potentially unfair practices in the market for private travel tests.”
While the CMA does have powers to intervene directly in markets, in this case it is expected to advise the government on potential action to take against rogue firms so the process can be accelerated.
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