ACCC to crack down on retailers selling expensive tests

Australia’s consumer watchdog says it’s been inundated with complaints that some retailers are raising the cost of COVID-19[female[feminine rapid antigen tests.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) today said it had ‘significant concerns’ about the price of the tests, which it deemed to be as extreme as $500 for two tests.

The watchdog said it is receiving an average of about 150 consumer reports a day about pricing for rapid antigen tests – or RATs – as state governments push residents into do-it-yourself testing to ease pressure on PCR test clinics.

A sign advising customers that there are no rapid antigen tests (RATs) in stock is placed outside a pharmacy in Sydney. Extreme demand has seen other retailers raise prices. (Bianca De Marchi)

“At the extreme, we have received reports or seen media coverage of tests costing up to $500 for two tests in online marketplaces, and over $70 per test at convenience stores, gas stations and independent supermarkets, which is clearly outrageous,” the ACCC chairman said. said Rod Sims.

“Several companies have been reported to us repeatedly through information provided by the public.

“We are asking these companies to urgently explain the prices they charge.”

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) chairman Rod Sims said some cases of test pricing were “outrageous”. (PAA)

Mr Sims said the ACCC had contacted more than 40 test providers, major retailers and pharmacy chains for information on their current costs and prices.

Wholesale prices for a single rapid antigen test currently range between $3.95 and $11.45, subject to supply chain variables such as size of order placed and test manufacturer.

“The supply chain is often complex, with multiple companies involved from initial sourcing to retailing the tests to consumers. Retailers operating under the same brand or chain can set prices and sell tests independently of other stores in the chain,” Sims says.

“This means the resulting wholesale and retail prices can vary significantly.”

COVID-19 positive rapid antigen test (Getty)
Demand for rapid antigen tests has skyrocketed as wait times for PCR have skyrocketed. (Getty)

Pricing strategies used at convenience stores and gas stations, which form the bulk of consumer complaints, are of particular concern.

“We are specifically looking at reports of single tests being sold for around $30 or more in some stores,” Sims said.

The most commonly reported retail price in Watchdog reports is around $20 for a single test.

“In the midst of a significant outbreak of COVID-19 within a pandemic, the overpricing of rapid antigen tests needed to diagnose the disease and protect other members of the public is a significant concern for the ACCC,” Mr. Sims said. .

“Just a few weeks ago, tests were readily available at most pharmacies and supermarkets for around $10 for a single test.

“We realize that demand and supply chain issues have had an impact since then, but our initial research suggests that a price of around $20 per test or more, regardless of packaging, may be difficult to achieve. justify based on average wholesale costs and those retailers should explain why the price is so high.”

Severe shortages have led to price hikes for every test, with the ACCC currently investigating allegations of price hikes at some outlets.
Severe shortages have led to price hikes for every test, with the ACCC currently investigating allegations of price hikes at some outlets. (SMH / Christian Stokes)

Under Australian consumer law, businesses and suppliers can largely set their own prices, but they cannot make false or misleading statements about the reasons for those prices.

In special circumstances, overpricing of a product deemed essential may fall within the legal definition of “unreasonable conduct”.

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A biosafety law that came into effect on January 8, 2022 and will remain in effect until February 17, 2022 prohibits a person from reselling or offering to resell rapid antigen tests purchased at retail for markups greater than 20%.

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