The competition watchdog has pledged to complete its investigation into the price of COVID travel tests within the next month after acknowledging it is a ‘very live issue’.
In a letter to Health Secretary Sajid Javid, Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) boss Andrea Coscelli vowed to make the probe a priority.
“The CMA’s work throughout the pandemic has focused on protecting consumers and fair-dealing businesses and we welcome the opportunity to explore the issues in the PCR testing market in more depth,” he wrote.
“We recognise that this is a very live issue, impacting consumers now, so we will tailor our work to allow us to respond within the next month.”
Coscilli said it will identify the ‘core issues’ and advise on what action needs to be taken.
He added that the CMA will ‘always focus on the need to help ensure that travellers have access to tests that are affordable and reliable, both now and in the future’.
The Health Secretary asked the CMA to investigate the cost of PCR testing amid mounting anger from the industry and consumers.
In addition to the costs of tests – which are markedly higher than other European countries – the entire system is creaking under the weight of demand.
Consumers have reported long wait times for results, while images have been circulating of overflowing drop off boxes.
But it is the cost which has caused the most resentment, with companies accused of exploiting consumers with inflated prices.
Labour MP Ben Bradshaw described the system as a ‘sham’.
The industry is pushing for an end to PCR tests altogether in favour of much cheaper lateral flow tests.