The health secretary Sajid Javid has written to the Competition and Markets Authority to ask it to assess possible 'excessive' pricing and 'exploitative practices' among PCR COVID-19 test firms.
The UK's travel testing regime is complicated, with different rules depending on whether you are travelling back to the UK from an 'amber list' or 'green list' country, and depending on your vaccination status (see here). You may be required to purchase a PCR test to take on Day 2 and Day 8 following your return.
The government's website lists some 441 different providers, with the prices of tests listed as ranging from £20 to £400. Clicking through some of the options, there are a dizzying array of tests available at a huge range of prices, and it is difficult to establish which options meet the government travel requirements. However, it seems that a family of four could expect to pay under £100 in total for tests, or well over £1,000, depending on the provider used.
In those circumstances, it is unsurprising that consumers have complained of extremely high prices and low quality services. Sajid Javid has asked for the CMA to provide immediate advice on how to tackle the issue. A CMA spokesperson has confirmed that as formal investigations can take a long time, it will instead provide advice on swift actions that can be taken to ensure that travellers have access to affordable and reliable tests.
However, whether this will lead to anything changing in time for those families trying to escape for a summer holiday (or at all) remains to be seen.
Update: On 11 August 2021 the CMA published a letter from its Chief Executive, Andrea Coscelli CBE acknowledging Mr Javid's letter and noting that the CMA would aim to respond substantively within one month.