Britain's competition watchdog said on Thursday it will help the government take action against COVID-19 testing companies if it finds they are breaching consumer law, amid concerns about the price and reliability of PCR travel tests.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid wrote to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) on Aug. 6 asking it to investigate the market for PCR tests to ensure that consumers did not face unnecessarily high costs or other poor provision.
The watchdog said in a statement it was exploring if individual PCR providers may be breaching their obligations under consumer law, and if there were structural problems in the market for PCR tests that could affect price or reliability.
It would also examine if there was any immediate action that the government could take in the meantime.
"We are also working closely with DHSC (Health Department) to get the data we need to identify the cause of any wider problems in the PCR testing market, and to ground our advice on what action may be needed," George Lusty, CMA Senior Director for Consumer Protection, said.
The United Kingdom operates a "traffic light" system for international travel, with low-risk countries rated green for quarantine-free travel, medium risk countries rated amber, and red countries requiring arrivals to spend 10 days in isolation in a hotel.
The cost of a laboratory analysed PCR COVID
-19 test ranges from 20 pounds to nearly 600 pounds ($28 to nearly $830) depending on the provider, according to the Financial Times newspaper.
People coming to England from green and amber-list destinations must take at least one such test to avoid fines of up to 2,000 pounds.
Britain has double vaccinated a higher proportion of its population against COVID
-19 than most other countries, but a maze of rules has prevented travel to many countries, devastating the travel industry.