The UK competition watchdog has warned of a potential crackdown on PCR Covid test providers amid concerns they may be breaking consumer law.
In an open letter the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) raised concerns about a number of harmful practices in the sector.
These included advertising up-front prices for PCR tests that do not include additional charges, advertising cheap tests that are only available in small numbers, failing to deliver tests or provide results within stated timescales — or at all — and refusing to give refunds when advertised services are not provided.
It comes after the government said it would be warning 82 companies that they could be removed from the gov.uk list if they advertise misleading prices.
The CMA also warned that test providers could face enforcement from the watchdog or Trading Standards if they mislead customers or treat them unfairly.
“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,” said CMA general counsel Sarah Cardell.
“This warning goes hand-in-hand with action taken by government this week and is the latest step in our work to tackle rip off prices and bad service. We continue to work closely with DHSC in reviewing this market and will be providing further advice to DHSC on action that can be taken.”
The letter lists 11 steps firms should take, including not focusing advertising on cheap tests that are only available in small numbers, showing the full cost of tests with all compulsory charges and providing “honest, accurate and clear” timescales on when tests will be received.
PCR test providers should also ensure that tests and results are provided within advertised timescales.