Australia’s consumer watchdog has announced it will crackdown on price-gouging of Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs) amid a nationwide shortage.
“The ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) is monitoring the situation and will take appropriate action under its existing powers,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said in a statement.
“We won’t be shy to name and shame suppliers and retailers we consider to be doing the wrong thing.”
This comes as concerns grow over the price of the tests, with social media posts showing that some retailers were selling them for as much as AU$45 (US$32) per test.
As the Omicron variant explodes across Australia, testing labs that offer PCR tests have been under tremendous pressure and temporarily closed, which resulted in an increasing push for RATs.
Around 84 million rapid antigen tests, jointly funded by the federal government, have been secured by state and territory governments.
Sims said the watchdog is seeking information from suppliers about their costs, current stock levels, amounts on order, and expected dates when additional tests may become readily available to consumers.
“We are also contacting major retailers and pharmacies seeking similar information and reminding them that they need to be able to substantiate any claims they make to consumers about the reason for higher prices,” he said. “We’ve also had over 100 consumer contacts to our Infocentre or through the online form.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who has previously said RATs would not be made free for everyone as in some countries such as the U.K., has been facing harsh criticisms from the opposition and unions.
“This is a public policy failure the likes of which we haven’t seen in this country before,” Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese told reporters in Newcastle.
“It is unbelievable that the government has told people to not go and get tested, but to test themselves with a rapid antigen test that isn’t available and that isn’t affordable.”
Gerard Hayes, secretary of Health Services Union NSW, said he had heard of some suppliers selling RATs for $100.
“We’ve had the opportunity to look at what happens overseas, and yet we don’t put plans in place to make sure we’re ahead of the game,” he told ABC on Wednesday.
“I think the government at a federal level should be able to run a logistical campaign that looks after all Australians, whether you’re wealthy, whether you’re not wealthy.”
The national cabinet will meet on Wednesday to discuss discounted RAT prices for concession cardholders.
Consumers who want to report concerning conduct or has evidence of price-fixing cartels are encouraged to contact the ACCC.