The competition watchdog has warned PCR Covid test providers against enforcement action over misleading advertising and potential failures to deliver results on time.

In an open letter to providers, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said a range of harmful practices could breach consumer protection law.

The practices of concern to the CMA include:

  1. advertising up-front prices for PCR tests which do not include additional charges that everyone must pay
  2. advertising cheap PCR tests which are only actually available in very small quantities or are not available at all
  3. failing to deliver PCR tests or provide results within stated timescales, or at all
  4. refusing to provide consumers with refunds where tests are not provided within advertised and/or agreed timescales, or at all.

The letter also instructed PCR test providers to ‘immediately review their practices and policies to make sure they are in line with the requirements of consumer law and to make any changes where necessary’.

The move follows the government announcement on Monday (August 23) that 82 companies face being removed from the list if they advertise misleading prices.

CMA general counsel Sarah Cardell said: “PCR test providers should be in no doubt that they need to get on the right side of the law. If they don’t, they risk enforcement action.

“Our advice today will also help people by setting out exactly what they should expect for their money.”

The move is the latest step towards tackling the rip off prices and bad service, she said.

She added: “We continue to work closely with DHSC (Department of Health and Social Care) in reviewing this market and will be providing further advice to DHSC on action that can be taken.”

The letter also lists 11 steps providers should take, including not focusing their advertising on cheap tests which are only available in small numbers; showing the full cost of tests including all compulsory charges; and providing ‘honest, accurate and clear’ timescales on when tests will be received.

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