Health Secretary announces £10k fines for 'cowboy' travel test providers

10 September 2021, 20:53

The Health Secretary took action following the review.
The Health Secretary took action following the review. Picture: Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

Health Secretary Sajid Javid has announced £10,000 fines for "cowboy" travel test providers.

It is one of multiple new penalties being introduced from September 21 and comes after a UK watchdog said tougher regulations were needed for PCR test providers.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) warned that there was a "race for the bottom" between companies, leading to customers losing out.

It called on the government to take a "interventionist" response, suggesting they create a one-stop shop list of "approved test providers by significantly improving the basic standards to qualify for inclusion and remaining on the gov.uk list".

Read more: Javid asks competition watchdog to investigate 'excessive' cost of PCR tests

Read more: "It's a money making exercise": LBC unearths the huge cost of holiday Covid tests

As a result of the review, Mr Javid said that he would be cracking down on companies "messing around with costs" of the tests for holidaymakers.

It comes after customers have been hit with multiple issues in their attempts to get holiday tests, including private tests costing anything from £20 to £399.

An LBC investigation also found that firms had failed to send out test kits, or even results on time.

Mr Javid said: "It is completely unacceptable for any private testing company to take advantage of holidaymakers and we are taking action to clamp down on cowboy behaviour."

Read more: Scotland to introduce Covid vaccine passports after Nicola Sturgeon wins vote

He said: "Through our regular reviews and spot-checks, we have identified even more providers that were messing around with costs and have now removed 91 providers from gov.uk and corrected inaccurate prices of 135 private providers who will be removed from the list if they advertise misleading prices again.

"From September 21, in order to ensure travel test providers are performing to a high legalised standard, there will be tough new penalties for companies that fail to follow the law, including fixed fines of up to £10,000.

"I am reviewing the recommendations from the Competition and Markets Authority and will outline further changes shortly to ensure consumers are given the best tests at the very best prices."

Andrea Coscelli, chief executive of the CMA, said: "Buying a PCR travel test is a lottery.

"From complaints about dodgy pricing practices, to unfair terms, to failure to provide tests on time or at all, to problems with getting refunds, the experience for some is just not good enough.

"Recent weeks have underlined that we will not hesitate to take action against any PCR test provider we suspect is breaking the law and exploiting their customers.

"However, competition alone will not do the job, even when backed by enforcement of consumer law.

"The PCR testing market is unusual because its key features are dictated by Government policy decisions to fight the pandemic."