Dozens of Covid travel test companies face removal from gov.uk website due to ‘misleading prices’

Health secretary has hit out at ‘private companies’ for ‘taking advantage of holidaymakers’

Sam Hancock
Sunday 22 August 2021 23:58
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<p>This file photo from 18 August shows passengers waiting in line outside the testing centre in London Heathrow Airport’s Terminal 5</p>

This file photo from 18 August shows passengers waiting in line outside the testing centre in London Heathrow Airport’s Terminal 5

More than 80 private travel testing companies have been warned over listing prices on the government’s official website which are lower than those offered on their own sites at the point of checkout.

Sajid Javid, the health secretary, said 82 businesses were being sent a two-strike warning while a further 57 were being removed from gov.uk’s “find a travel test provider” page altogether.

Brands will be removed from the list if they fail to take action within three days of strike one as part of the new two-strike policy, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said.

It comes after the DHSC carried out a review of the pricing and service standards of the day two and day eight testing providers officially recommended by the government.

The inspection found that 82 – which makes up around 18 per cent of all day two and day eight providers listed – advertised far lower prices on gov.uk than those on offer when users clicked through to the brand’s official website.

“It is absolutely unacceptable for any private testing company to be taking advantage of holidaymakers and today’s action clamps down on this cowboy behaviour,” Mr Javid said in a statement about the issue.

“Fifty-seven firms will be removed from the gov.uk list and a further 82 will be given a two-strike warning – if they advertise misleading prices ever again, they’re off.”

Some of those being removed were on account of them no longer offering a day two and day eight testing service, Mr Javid added.

He also said the gov.uk website would be updated to reflect the true cost of the tests.

“We are also introducing regular spot checks this week to make sure all private providers follow the rules and meet our high standards of transparency,” he said.

The checks will include DHSC officials ensuring companies are complying with the rules to ensure that prices displayed are accurate, providers are legitimate, and companies have not changed their name to get back on the list.

Meanwhile, findings from the department’s review will be shared with the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to support their own review of the market and align recommendations and actions.

There has been much confusion and anger over the changing costs and requirements of coronavirus travel tests.

Earlier this month it was confirmed that UK holidaymakers would benefit from cheaper packages. As of 13 August, the cost of NHS Test and Trace tests for international arrivals were reduced from £88 to £68 for green or fully vaccinated amber arrivals. For those either not fully jabbed or returning from amber list countries, the cost decreased from £170 to £136.

The cuts came following months-long criticism from the struggling travelling industry that the cost of tests was too much, and would could discourage families from booking trips abroad.

On the gov.uk website, for instance, some providers charge as much as £390 or even £575 for the tests – adding a significant chunk onto travel plans for bigger groups.

The CMA is currently investigating the market for laboratory-analysed PCR Covid-19 tests. On Thursday, Britain’s competition regulator said it would explore “immediate actions” that the government could take ahead of the conclusion of its probe.

Under the current travel guidance, anyone entering England must have pre-booked two Covid tests: one to be taken on day two, or sooner, after arriving into the country and one on day eight – or later depending on availability.

Children aged four and under do not need to take these tests.

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