UK Government Warns 80 PCR Travel Test Firms on ‘Cowboy’ Pricing

By Simon Veazey
Simon Veazey
Simon Veazey
Freelance Reporter
Simon Veazey is a UK-based journalist who has reported for The Epoch Times since 2006 on various beats, from in-depth coverage of British and European politics to web-based writing on breaking news.
August 23, 2021 Updated: August 23, 2021

One fifth of the UK’s officially-sanctioned travel testing firms have been issued with a two-strike warning over pricing, as the government said it was clamping down “cowboy behaviour.”

A health department review of providers of PCR tests—which are now a legally-required, private expense for travellers—found that 82 of the firms charged customers more than was advertised on the official government website.

Currently, all travellers must take at least one PCR test after arriving in England, which they must pay for themselves from an approved provider, in addition to a test prior to departure from overseas.

Those tests for the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus typically cost around £75 ($100) in the UK but can be far more pricey.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said in an Aug. 23 statement: “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.

“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.

“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.”

The Department of Health said that it will share the findings from its review with the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), which is currently investigating the PCR testing market.

Former head of the CMA, Lord Tyrie, recently described the tests as “a predictable COVID rip-off,” saying that the CMA had been too slow to react.

“The CMA acted much more quickly to quell price-gouging on hand sanitiser and other COVID-related products 18 months ago,” he said.

The CMA rejected Tyrie’s claims, and last week revealed it had advised health officials about the PCR market in the spring and given further advice to the health secretary earlier in August.

A spokesperson for the CMA previously told the Epoch Times via email, “We continue to work closely with [the health department] in reviewing the market and, as we have made clear, we will not hesitate to take enforcement action ourselves if there are breaches of consumer law.

“Since the start of the pandemic, the CMA has secured hundreds of millions of pounds in refunds for people who have been treated unfairly, in sectors including holiday accommodation and package travel.”

One PCR test is required within two days of arrival from “green list” countries, regardless of vaccination status. Two PCR tests, taken on days two and eight after arrival, are required for all travellers from “red list” countries, and for all unvaccinated travellers from “amber list” countries.

Many key figures and organisations in the travel industry say that the testing regime is holding back the recovery of the sector.

Simon Veazey
Simon Veazey
Freelance Reporter
Simon Veazey is a UK-based journalist who has reported for The Epoch Times since 2006 on various beats, from in-depth coverage of British and European politics to web-based writing on breaking news.