End of the travel tests rip-off? Watchdog vows swift crackdown on rogue firms charging holidaymakers huge sums for Covid swabs
- The Competition and Markets Authority said it as working on imminent ‘interim’ measures to ensure families can get a well-earned foreign break
- Body said it would ‘not hesitate to take enforcement action’ against test providers flouting the law and not providing the service customers paid for
- Some firms are charging over five times the price of a return flight to Europe
- Sajid Javid referred the travel test market to the CMA amid growing reports of ‘rip-off’ prices and travellers receiving tests and results several days late
- The Daily Mail has campaigned for weeks for fairer prices for consumers
The first signs of a crackdown on ‘rip-off’ travel test companies emerged last night as the competition watchdog vowed to help swiftly tackle rogue firms.
The Competition and Markets Authority said it was working on imminent ‘interim’ measures to ensure families can get a well-earned foreign break or reunite with loved ones abroad.
And it warned it would ‘not hesitate to take enforcement action’ against providers flouting the law and not giving customers what they paid for.
More than 400 private firms are listed on the Government’s website for holidaymakers. Double-jabbed travellers from countries on the green and amber lists must book one PCR test to be taken within two days of arrival in Britain. Non-fully vaccinated passengers must book another test to take on day eight when returning from amber nations.
The Competition and Markets Authority said it was working on imminent ‘interim’ measures to ensure families can get a well-earned foreign break or reunite with loved ones abroad [Stock image]
On Tuesday, the Mail revealed how some firms are charging more than five times the price of a return flight to Europe for each swab.
Yesterday, among the 426 private firms on the Government-approved list, the average price for a single post-arrival PCR swab was £91. Advertised prices range from £20 to as much as £400 each.
Scrapping VAT on PCR’s ‘would give economy a £5bn boost’
Axing VAT on Covid travel tests could boost the UK economy to the tune of £5billion, new modelling shows.
The figures were based on the estimated 6.7million Britons who would be encouraged to go on holiday if PCR tests were cheaper.
The study from the University of Hull Business School challenges the Treasury’s reported argument that VAT from tests, pictured, is an important source of income amid soaring pandemic debts.
The research projects that cheaper tests could boost spending generated by outbound international travel from £9.4billion to £14.7billion for this quarter, or July to September.
In turn, the overall tax take in relation to holiday spending could rise from £1.92billion to £2.06billion.
Avi Lasarow, boss of testing firm Project Screen by Prenetics, said VAT on tests was a ‘stealth tax’ and that companies could drive down prices if it was removed.
A spokesman for the Government said it was working with private providers to try to reduce costs.
The Daily Mail has campaigned for weeks for a fairer deal for would-be travellers by calling for test prices to be driven down and unscrupulous practices stamped out.
It comes after Health Secretary Sajid Javid referred the travel test market to the CMA amid growing reports of ‘rip-off’ prices and travellers receiving tests and results several days late.
Some have not received them at all, while others have wrongly been sent another person’s results.
It has led to some having to extend their quarantine period or even miss flights. Dozens of complaints have been made to Action Fraud.
Mr Javid has asked the CMA to conduct a ‘rapid’ review of ‘exploitative practices’ among private providers of PCR tests.
Yesterday, the watchdog released a statement following suggestions it may not complete its work until the summer break is over, which sparked an angry backlash from MPs and travel industry chiefs as many hope to travel before schools reopen in September.
George Lusty of the CMA has acknowledged that it’s a ‘pressing issue’ and added: ‘That is why we are providing ongoing support to [the health department], including on steps that could be considered in the interim before the rest of our work on the PCR testing market is concluded.’
The watchdog will investigate whether private firms are breaching consumer law, what wider structural problems exist in the market and the action ministers should take.
The move was welcomed last night. Rory Boland, of Which? Travel, said ‘it’s encouraging to see the CMA recognise the urgency of this issue’.
The CMA has powers to fine companies, take them to court or it can order them to change their procedures.
But a source said the watchdog believes that the most effective and swift action is likely to be through providing advice to Mr Javid about the actions he should take.
This is because more formal CMA investigations usually take place over long periods.
The Department of Health said: ‘While we await the CMA’s advice, the Government will continue to ensure testing providers are held to account by the independent United Kingdom Accreditation Service. Companies that fail to meet the high standards required will be removed from our list of approved suppliers without hesitation.’
Health Secretary Sajid Javid referred the travel test market to the CMA amid growing reports of ‘rip-off’ prices and travellers receiving tests and results several days late