Holidaymakers hit with massive £149 PCR Covid tests as watchdog launches probe over 'rip offs'
HUNDREDS of angry holidaymakers have been left out of pocket after Covid test providers marketing the service for £20 on a government site charged up to £149 each.
The system has been blasted as the firms were also accused of long delays, invalid results, test items being missing from kits and shoddy customer service.
The Sun on Sunday has also discovered that the £20 "day 2 and day 8 tests" offered by ten of the 26 firms are actually provided by just four companies.
The tests are required to allow passengers to fly out to some countries and then be free from quarantine on return to the UK.
It comes as the competition watchdog is to investigate fees for PCR tests amid reports of holidaymakers being charged wildly differing sums.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said it would intervene after Sajid Javid, the health secretary, wrote asking it to help stamp out “exploitative behaviour” and “unfair practices” by 420 firms.
Tory MP Nigel Mills called the testing model a "complete shambles" and said the Government urgently needed to do an audit of all providers to check on them.
He said: "This is a very worrying situation. We need travel to get back up and running again, and these firms are crucial to that. They need to massively improve."
One firm, Expert Covid Testing, was yesterday selling tests for £20, but only in Warrington, where there were no slots. It leaves the public having to pay £129.99.
The firm said: "As you can appreciate these tests are extremely popular."
Covid 19 Travel Clinic's tests were £28, but only at a Newcastle site, with no slots, meaning the public have to pay £149.
A spokesman said: "These slots are selling like hotcakes as they are the cheapest."
Mr Mills added: "Anyone on the approved list has to be up to standard and if not, they should go."
A government spokesman said: All private providers must meet the minimum required standards."
“The cost of PCR testing can act as a barrier, especially for families who want to travel together,” Javid said in his letter to Andrea Coscelli, CMA chief executive.
“It is not right if some families experience yet further disruption unnecessarily because of practices in the market for private travel tests,” the health secretary said as he asked for “a rapid high-level review”.
It comes as Mr Javid signalled that the government would act against firms that have imposed "unnecessary costs" or who supplied "low quality" tests.
Tory MPs are agitating for the government to replace PCRs with the cheaper and quicker, but less accurate, lateral flow tests.
Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, has said the PCRs are more “helpful” because they can be used to keep track of variants.
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