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UK competition watchdog to investigate ‘exploitative behaviour’ among travel PCR Covid test providers


Prices for travel PCR Covid tests, some of which are exorbitant and vary wildly between providers, have prompted an investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).

The body was called into action after the health secretary, Sajid Javid, wrote to it asking for a review following reports of “exploitative behaviour” and “unfair practices”.

Travelers arriving in the UK are routinely charged hundreds of pounds for Covid tests, with many complaining of inflated prices, missing results and poor customer service.

PCRs cost holidaymakers an average of £75 per person in the UK – roughly double the cost of the same type of test in other European countries – and some firms charge almost £400.

Travellers returning to the UK from amber- and green-list countries are required to purchase a single PCR test – and those who are unvaccinated and have been in an amber-list country within the previous 10 days must take two tests, on days two and eight. PCR tests are also required before travelling to some countries from the UK.

The Independent has heard of private providers offering PCR tests with faulty activation codes, rendering them useless, and firms that do not respond to emails or phone calls leading to delays or test results failing to be returned.

Prices for the PCR tests listed on the government’s own website of approved providers range between £17 and £399.

In his letter to the CMA sent on Friday and reported in The Sunday Times, Mr Javid called for a “rapid high-level review” and said: “The cost of PCR testing can act as a barrier, especially for families who want to travel together.

“It is not right if some families experience yet further disruption unnecessarily because of practices in the market for private travel tests.”

Responding to his letter, the CMA said: “We look forward to providing the secretary of state with advice on how best to ensure that travellers have access to tests that are affordable and reliable.”

The Independent contacted the CMA for further comment.

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