UK Government website still showing £1 Covid test deals despite concerns few consumers can get these prices
The Government's recommended list of PCR travel test providers continues to include tests for as little as 30p that either don't exist in reality at that price or are only available to a tiny number of people, MoneySavingExpert.com can reveal. It comes amid concerns test providers are offering misleadingly cheap deals to boost their position in the Government's list.
Update: 6 December 2021: The UK Government has now removed over 60 providers from its list of approved PCR travel test companies - including the nine we highlighted for £1 or less on 3 December 2021. Several of the cheapest PCR tests are now priced at £15. However, when you click through to these sites many are still not available at that price or are only available for collection at one UK location.
In a report published by The Guardian on 2 December, the Government told the newspaper it had removed a host of companies from its list of PCR test providers after being told many of the sites offering £1 deals weren't suitable for most people as they were only available at one location, in person or on limited dates.
In response, the Government said it regularly audits companies and does not endorse any specific test providers, despite the fact they are listed on the Government's own website.
The Guardian reported the majority of these deals had been removed from the website by the morning of 2 December, however, when MoneySavingExpert (MSE) checked the list on Friday 3 December there were still nine sites with deals for £1 or less - many of which had no available dates for the super cheap tests, while others were only available to collect in one location in the UK.
The findings come just days after the Government reintroduced PCR tests for travellers to the UK in a bid to tackle the new Omicron variant. See our guide for more on how to find the cheapest Covid tests for overseas travel.
Some sites are offering tests for as little as 30p - but there's no availability
The Government's list of 451 providers is in order of price, meaning those with the cheapest deals feature at the top. We found one company, Vivo Clinic, advertises PCR tests for just 30p but when you click through to the site it's only available to collect from West Bromwich, while another, YCT MedLabs, advertises tests for 75p but only has one date available for testing at this price on 12 January.
MSE contacted Vivo Clinic and YCT MedLabs for comment.
Earlier this year, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) launched a review into the PCR testing market, amid concerns that the price, reliability and quality of service provided could be creating a barrier for families wanting to travel abroad. A formal investigation was launched into two providers, and the CMA also wrote to a further 19 unnamed test providers warning them to improve their pricing information.
The trade body for Covid testing companies, the Laboratory and Testing Industry Organisation (LTIO), said: "Members of the LTIO adhere to a strict code of conduct which includes clear commitments to be transparent and honest with consumers about test prices.
"LTIO members commit to ensuring that prices shown are the total cost, including all compulsory Government charges, and to providing a high level of customer service throughout the testing process. Are some cowboy operators profiteering? Absolutely yes. Are any of those profiteers LTIO members? Absolutely not."
Vivo Clinic and YCT MedLabs are not LITO members.
Tests can cost as much as £1,000 for a family of four
All travellers regardless of vaccination status arriving into the UK now need to take a PCR test, and self-isolate until they receive a negative result. The day you arrive is counted as day zero and tests can be taken as soon as you’ve landed right up until the end of day two after arrival.
Whether you're returning to England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland, everyone in the UK needs to get tested at least once after getting back. Depending on where you travel to, and whether you're vaccinated or unvaccinated, 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 (only if you're unvaccinated).
- And take one or two tests after you've arrived back into the UK.
The rules on overseas travel are subject to change. See full info in our Coronavirus Travel Rights guide, which includes a list of countries currently on the red list. See our full guide on cheapest PCR tests for more on how to cut your costs.
What does the Government say?
A UK Health Security Agency spokesperson said: “We regularly audit the providers listed on gov.uk and remove providers when they are promoting misleading test prices.”
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