Liam Halligan: Are Brits being ripped off by PCR tests for international travel?
They're more expensive in the UK than many countries
Travelling abroad – for business or pleasure - has been particularly expensive over recent months. That’s because, on top of the usual travel and accommodation costs, there’s also been the sky-high bill for those pesky Covid PCR tests – which, as millions of families can tell you, often cost more than the flights themselves.
But why are PCR tests – needed even for travel to and from so-called green list countries – so much more expensive in the UK than elsewhere?
Are lawmakers and regulators here a bit too chummy with these rapidly assembled, fast-growing, hand-over-fist money-making testing companies?
Or are British holidaymakers and business travellers just a soft target - particularly easy to rip-off?
Something weird has been happening - if you compare PCR testing prices across different countries.
According to the insurance company Admiral, these are the prices across various holiday destinations:
Earlier this month, the Competition and Markets Authority, the UK’s main consumer watchdog, DID launch an investigation into complaints alleging one private firm, Expert Medicals, which hasn’t provided tests and results in a timely manner, or even at all – while failing to respond to customer complaints or issue refunds. Expert Medicals deny wrongdoing.
The CMA has also written to a further 19 test providers expressing concern they “continue to falsely advertise tests at very low prices, when they are not available at that price or include hidden conditions, such as where the tests must be collected from”
The CMA warns such firms to improve their pricing information or risk legal action. Health Secretary Sajid Javid has signalled the end of PCR tests for fully jabbed holidaymakers. Travel chiefs have called for all tests – PCR and the easier and cheaper lateral flow tests - for those arriving from low-risk countries to be scrapped.
While the damage our testing regime has done to our travel and aviation industry, now and in the past, is very significant indeed, we can debate whether such tests are necessary.
What is beyond debate is that here in Britain we’re paying far more – through the nose if you like – for PCR tests than any other country in Europe.
So that’s our On The Money question for today: PCR tests: Are Brits being ripped off?