The UK’s competition watchdog said on Thursday (August 12) it would investigate the price of PCR Covid tests ‘immediately’ and help the government in taking action against testing companies if they were found breaching consumer law.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid had written to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) on August 6 asking it to look into the market for PCR tests to ensure that consumers did not face unnecessarily high charges or poor service.

The CMA said in a statement that it was exploring if individual PCR providers were breaching their obligations under consumer law, and if there were structural problems in the market for PCR tests that could affect price or reliability.

It would also examine if there was any immediate action that the government could take in the meantime.

George Lusty, CMA Senior Director for Consumer Protection, said: “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.

“We are also working closely with DHSC to get the data we need to identify the cause of any wider problems in the PCR testing market, and to ground our advice on what action may be needed.”

For international travel during the coronavirus pandemic, the UK has divided countries in three categories, with low-risk countries rated green for quarantine-free travel, medium risk countries rated amber, and red countries requiring arrivals to spend 10 days in isolation in a hotel.

Tests cost about £75 per person on average but there are reports of some being offered for as little as £20, and others more than £500.

All travellers from countries on the green and amber lists must book a test to be taken two days after they arrive in Britain.

Earlier, the CMA had said it would respond to Javid’s request “within a month”, which sparked an angry reaction from travel industry and people.

“…we welcome the opportunity to explore issues in the PCR testing market in more depth. We recognise that this is a very live issue, impacting consumer now, so we will tailor our work to allow us to respond within the next month,” CMA Chief Executive Andrea Coscelli CBE said in a letter addressed to the Health Secretary Sajid Javid on August 10.

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