COVID-19: PCR tests are a rip-off, says former regulator

PCR tests for travel are ‘a predictable COVID rip-off’, says the former head of the Competition and Markets Authority, Lord Tyrie.

PCR test
© Unsplash
PCR test

Too slow to react

Former head of the Competition and Markets authority, Lord Tyrie, has revealed that the competition regulator had been ‘too slow to react’ to the issues raised about those responsible for carrying out the testing.

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Tourists have objected to the inflated prices and abysmal service from more than 400 test firms listed on the government website. Tests cost about £75 on average, but prices can get up to hundreds.

Recently, Health Secretary Sajid Javid asked the CMA to investigate ‘unreasonable’ pricing and ‘exploitative practices’ among PCR COVID test firms. Initially, the CMA said it would take up to a month to report back. However, after a huge outcry from the travel industry, the CMA said it was reviewing the situation ‘immediately.’

Lord Tyrie in an interview with the BBC said that 'the CMA could and should have been better prepared':

It should either be acting already directly using existing powers. Or if deemed inadequate for the job, it should be advising the government on how to obtain a quick remedy, whether by legislation or by other means.
This advice should already be with the government.

Campaign for change

Lord Tyrie resigned from the competition watchdog last summer after two years in the post, suggesting the role prevented him leading a more aggressive campaign for change.

He added:

The CMA acted much more quickly to quell price-gouging on hand sanitiser and other COVID-related products 18 months ago. Far from building on this success, boldness appears to have taken a back seat.
The CMA is full of able and highly motivated people, keen to tackle detriments like this.
Their energies need to be released from an excess of caution at the highest levels.

At the weekend, the cost of NHS coronavirus tests for international arrivals to the UK was reduced. Test and Trace tests were brought down from £88 to £68 for people arriving from green-listed countries, as well as for those coming from amber-listed countries who are fully vaccinated.

Meanwhile, the price of two tests for amber arrivals who have not had both jabs has been cut from £170 to £136. It is believed that the price cut is an attempt to reduce the cost across the market, so other operators will do the same.

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