PCR travel tests review launched amid concerns over price, reliability and quality of service
The competition watchdog has announced plans to review the PCR travel tests market amid concerns that the price, reliability and quality of service provided could be creating a barrier for families wanting to travel abroad. A response will be provided by the Competition and Markets Authority within the next month.
Update: 23 August 2021: A warning has today been issued to 82 day two and day eight PCR test providers, as they've been identified as displaying lower prices on Gov.uk than are available on their own websites at the point of checkout. These companies will be removed from the Gov.uk list if they fail to take action over these "misleading prices" within three days.
It comes after the secretary of state for health and social care, Sajid Javid, wrote to the CMA earlier this week calling for advice on what could be done to "stamp out" exploitation and to prevent any unnecessary costs for consumers.
Mr Javid wrote: "I know that for too many people the cost of PCR testing can act as a barrier, especially for families who want to travel together. We have all experienced enormous disruption to our lives over this pandemic but it is not right if some families experience yet further disruption unnecessarily because of potentially unfair practices in the market for private travel tests."
The CMA will now consider whether there are problems with the market and advise Mr Javid on any possible action the Government could take. All providers of PCR tests in the UK are under review, but the CMA says it may choose to focus on specific providers as its work continues.
It will also explore whether individual PCR providers should be subject to enforcement action. However, the CMA adds that it's too early to comment on how this could directly impact consumers. See our guide to the Cheapest Covid Tests if you're planning to travel abroad.
Tests can cost as much as £1,000 for a family of four
Whether you're returning to England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland, everyone in the UK needs to take a test before flying home, and get tested again at least once after getting back.
Depending on where you travel, you may need to:
- Take a test before you leave the UK (if the country you're travelling to requires it)
- Take a test before you return to the UK, and...
- Take one or two tests after you've arrived back into the UK
Sadly, you can't use the free NHS tests for travel - you do have to pay - and the rules on testing can differ depending on where you are in the UK. See our Cheapest Covid Tests guide for more info on the testing rules for leaving and returning to the UK.
What does the CMA say?
In its response to Mr Javid, the CMA said it was aware of concerns "about price, the quality of service people are getting from test providers, and what happens when things go wrong".
George Lusty, CMA senior director for consumer protection, added: “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."