A Which? investigation has found misleading pricing information and firms that don’t offer COVID tests at all listed on the Government’s site for recommended providers.
It found that a number of the tests listed among the 10 cheapest turned out to be much more expensive than indicated and some weren’t available at all.
The consumer champion carried out its research amid concerns that private testing providers won’t be able to cope with demand when mass travel resumes.
Which? looked into the cost of tests for holidaymakers returning from amber-listed countries, for which two tests are needed, on day two and day eight.
It found that the three cheapest providers appeared to be Biograd Diagnostics and Screen4 (both £60) and Book A Travel Test (£79.99). But these prices were for just one test, not the two that are needed.
After Which? contacted the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), the prices from these providers were amended to £100 to £160 and, as a result, the three companies no longer appeared in the top 10 cheapest providers.
Both Biograd Diagnostics and Screen4 told Which? that there was an issue with how the DHSC recorded price information.
Since then, Which? said other companies have jumped to the top of the government’s list by quoting the cost of just one test instead of two.
Which? also uncovered test providers listed on the government’s website that were not actually offering testing services at the time.
01 Test, Nationwide Testing and Star Medicals provided little information about their services, did not answer calls to the numbers they provided, and testing lab Expert Medicals told Which? that while it was due to start working with them, the companies had not yet started offering tests.
After the consumer champion asked DHSC why companies that couldn’t yet provide tests were on the list, all three were all subsequently removed.
A fourth provider, 1010 Labs, stated that it was offering cheap tests at Premier Inn hotels around the country, but when Which? contacted Premier Inn, it told the consumer champion that this was not the case.
Premier Inn said it had been informed by 1010 Labs that the hotel chain had been listed by mistake, and that the tests are actually being carried out at Holiday Inns. But when Which? contacted Holiday Inn, it said it was not aware of the firm although it did say that some franchise hotels may have agreed to work with the test provider.
Which? said that, taken together, ‘these issues highlight serious flaws with the government’s current testing for travel system, with a clear lack of regulatory oversight that is desperately needed before mass travel resumes’.
It is urging the Government to look at capping the cost of tests, as other European countries have done, and also ensure that all providers are accredited.
Which? also wants the Government to provide proper oversight of the companies listed on its website, and ensure they provide up to date, accurate and accessible information about the tests available and their relevant costs.
It must also ensure there are effective consumer protections in place for travellers in the event of any problems with testing before mass travel resumes, said Which?
“Weeks on from some international travel being allowed to resume, it’s very concerning to still be uncovering such serious problems with the government’s testing system for travellers – problems that could have easily been ironed out well ahead of travel restarting, had proper regulatory oversight been ensured early on – Which? Travel Editor Rory Bolan
“As it stands, travellers risk being left at the mercy of rogue operators who, at best, attempt to profiteer off of those looking for testing services to allow them to travel, and at worst, risk leaving them out of pocket for services that don’t even exist. The government needs to urgently sort out these problems before mass travel resumes, or it will create chaos for travellers who have to rely on the system,” he added.