Watchdog probe into testing may see holiday costs slashed – ‘family of 4 could save £166’

Holidays: Simon Calder issues warning about PCR test cost

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The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has launched an investigation into the cost of PCR tests for travel. It comes amid reports of soaring prices leaving international travel inaccessible to millions.

The CMA will provide its findings and advice to Secretary of State for Health Sajid Javid, after which experts hope the cost of tests will dramatically reduce.

“The decision to refer this issue of excessive pricing by some testing providers to the competition’s watchdog is long overdue,” said Avi Lasarow, EMEA CEO of Project Screen by Prenetics.

“Companies on the Government list must be responsible in their pricing strategies.

“The list has been exploited by some testing providers luring in consumers with misleading prices and then offering tests that are up to nine times more expensive.

“But the easiest way to make tests cheaper is for the Government to axe VAT on Holiday COVID tests.

“If VAT was removed, a family of four flying from London to Majorca could save £166 – which would pay for the cost of the flights.”

Mr Lasarow believes this will make travelling “safer and cheaper”, while providing a “boost” for the travel industry.

Rory Boland, Which? Travel editor, added: “The government must take action to ensure private testing for travel is affordable for all UK consumers – not just those who are better off.

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“Currently, an unvaccinated traveller on a return trip to Spain requires four tests totalling an estimated £219 per person, and even if you are vaccinated it’s still close to a hundred pounds.

“Much of that cost is because of the high price of tests in the UK.”

The consumer rights group said it has been “warning the Government for several months” about the cost of testing for travel in the UK.

Mr Boland described it as “comparatively and prohibitively high.”

The health secretary wrote to the CMA on Friday, slamming highly-priced testing as “exploitative” and “unfair”.

“The cost of PCR testing can act as a barrier, especially for families who want to travel together,” Javid said in a letter to Dr Andrea Coscelli, CMA chief executive.

A CMA spokesperson 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.”

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Last week, data from online doctor service ZAVA, discovered that British travellers have shelled out an estimated £1.6 billion since March 2020.

For one in ten who did manage to secure a test, a positive COVID-19 result added further devastation to their travel plans.

The research also found Britons were at risk of delayed processing times, with some test results not making it back in time to facilitate travel.

According to Nicky Kelvin, head of The Points Guy UK, the Government should do more to provide an “open and clear” look at the testing providers included on its “approved” list.

“I think testing definitely needs to be made more affordable,” he said.

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