PCR test providers need more regulation, says competition watchdog
The UK’s competition watchdog has warned that greater regulation of the PCR Covid testing market is required amid fears that competition alone “will not deliver the right outcomes for consumers”.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said that without such provisions, testing firms could begin to compete on grounds other than quality, leading to a “race to the bottom”.
Yesterday analysis from the Evening Standard showed that UK holidaymakers had paid more than £1bn this summer on costly PCR tests.
In the UK the average cost of such a test is £93, far higher than in many European countries.
In addition to the hefty costs, consumers have complained of testing kits arriving late or not at all, and not being able to contact the firms in question in event of a problem.
There are currently hundreds of testing firms listed on the government’s list of providers.
The CMA said that in order to guarantee a fair outcome for consumers a “combination of up-front regulation, monitoring and wider sanctions is needed”.
It said that the government should create an list of quality providers by “significantly improving the basic standards to qualify for inclusion”.
In addition, ministers should bring in an enhanced monitoring system to keep track of providers and quickly remove those which fall short of standards.
CMA chief executive Andrea Coscelli said the market needed a “more interventionist approach” in order to protect consumers.
“Buying a PCR travel test is a lottery. From complaints about dodgy pricing practices, to unfair terms, to failure to provide tests on time or at all, to problems with getting refunds, the experience for some is just not good enough.
“Recent weeks have underlined that we will not hesitate to take action against any PCR test provider we suspect is breaking the law and exploiting their customers.
“However, competition alone will not do the job, even when backed by enforcement of consumer law.”