COVID-19 Travel Tests Investigation

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Key Points

  • Fideres’s research on PCR test prices has been featured in The Guardian.
  • Of the top 50 cheapest PCR test providers, 66% had no availability for the advertised pricing for the summer holiday period.
  • For these providers, the average price difference between the advertised price and the price truly available was £60, with some charging as much as 7x the advertised price.
  • Further, the advertised prices were often below cost – they could only be sustainable if firms restricted access to their cheapest products and used them predominantly to lure in customers who ultimately purchase a more expensive test.
  • Following Fideres’s research, the Competition and Markets Authority launched an investigation into PCR test pricing.


A Fideres investigation, featured in The Guardian, finds that two thirds of the cheapest Covid-19 PCR travel tests listed on the government website are unavailable or inaccessible. Of the top 50 cheapest companies, 66% of providers offering on-site or click and collect test packages had no availability during the summer holiday period, with customers paying orders of magnitude more for home-delivery tests.

Fideres also found that the travel test providers at the top of the government’s list had the biggest gap between advertised and actual prices. Of the top 50 providers, the average price disparity was £60, with some providers charging as much as 7x more for home delivery tests.

These ‘rock bottom’ prices are often below cost, as top labs charge providers at least £38 per test. Paul Vella, Economic Consultant at Fideres, said “This is only sustainable if providers restrict supply to the below-cost service, using it to steer customers into buying their more expensive tests.”

Vella went on to say: “The government is reporting prices that are a small fraction of what most consumers pay, without actually checking if these low prices are available … Not only does this mislead consumers, it can actually steer them into using more expensive providers.” To address this, the Government should only list prices that are “truly available to a meaningful number of consumers.”

The Advertising Standards Agency is now investigating, after receiving complaints from consumers about “inconsistent pricing”.

You can read the full article here.

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