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

8 August 2021, 19:54 | Updated: 8 August 2021, 20:07

The Health Secretary said he wanted to ensure consumers did not face "unnecessarily high costs".
The Health Secretary said he wanted to ensure consumers did not face "unnecessarily high costs". Picture: Alamy

By Sophie Barnett

Sajid Javid has asked the competition watchdog to investigate the "excessive" costs of PCR tests to protect travellers from being "exploited".

The Health Secretary said he wanted to ensure consumers did not face "unnecessarily high costs" when purchasing PCR tests ahead of international trips.

He said he understood the cost of the tests - which are needed on return to the UK - can prevent families from being able to travel.

Mr Javid wrote to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) requesting a "rapid high-level" review of the tests - which are used to detect coronavirus on the tonsils and up the nose.

Costs of the tests can vary, but on average have a fee of around £75 per person.

Read more: Changes unveiled to foreign travel traffic light system - full list

In a letter to CMA chief executive Andrea Coscelli, Mr Javid said: "We have all experienced enormous disruption to our lives over this pandemic, but it is not right if some families experience yet further disruption unnecessarily because of potentially unfair practices in the market for private travel tests.

"It is important that the sensible measures we have introduced at the borders are fair and transparent and don't involve unnecessary costs or low quality provision to people who have made so many sacrifices during this pandemic.

"I would be grateful if you would provide me with advice on what further steps we might take to stamp out any exploitative behaviour in this market and would also urge you to take action to prevent such exploitation where you can under your existing powers."

Read more: From travel insurance to PCR tests: How to book a holiday abroad in 2021

The Health Secretary also tweeted: "People should be able to go on holiday, whether it's to see family or just to relax, without fearing excessive fees for PCR tests."

Some MPs and travel firms are pressurising ministers to scrap the costly tests and instead use the cheaper lateral flow tests.

A CMA spokesman said: "We are aware of concerns about the evolving markets for Covid-19 tests for international travellers.

"We look forward to providing the Secretary of State with advice on how best to ensure that travellers have access to tests that are affordable and reliable."

Read more: Fully-vaccinated arrivals from France no longer have to isolate as travel rules change

From 4am this morning, fully-vaccinated arrivals from France no longer need to quarantine after it was removed from the "amber plus" list.

Austria, Germany, Slovenia, Slovakia, Latvia, Romania and Norway have also been put on the green list, allowing for quarantine-free travel for all tourists provided they test negative when coming back.

A number of countries - including Mexico - moved to the red list this morning, meaning travellers arriving home after 4am will need to spend 10 days in a quarantine hotel.

The cost of these hotels is set to almost double from August next week, at an increased cost of £2,285.