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News: CMA warns test providers to follow the law

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The Competition & Markets Authority (CMA) has sent an open letter to PCR Covid-19 test providers warning that a range of harmful practices in the sector could breach consumer protection law.

The move comes after the government removed more than 50 test providers from the official list, after it became clear they did not exist.

Now, the CMA has warned some companies are advertising up-front prices for PCR tests which do not include additional charges that everyone must pay.

There are also concerns businesses are advertising cheap PCR tests which are only actually available in very small quantities or are not available at all, or failing to deliver PCR tests or provide results within stated timescales, or at all.

The CMA has also unearthed evidence of testers refusing to provide consumers with refunds where tests are not provided within advertised and/or agreed timescales, or at all.

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The letter from the CMA instructs PCR test providers to ‘immediately review their practices and policies to make sure they are in line with the requirements of consumer law and to make any changes where necessary’.

CMA general counsel, Sarah Cardell, said: “PCR test providers should be in no doubt that they need to get on the right side of the law. If they don’t, they risk enforcement action.

“Our advice today will also help people by setting out exactly what they should expect for their money.

“This warning goes hand-in-hand with action taken by government this week and is the latest step in our work to tackle rip off prices and bad service.

“We continue to work closely with Department of Health & Social Care (DHSC) in reviewing this market and will be providing further advice to DHSC on action that can be taken.”

The letter lists 11 steps providers should take, including not focusing their advertising on cheap tests which are only available in small numbers; showing the full cost of tests including all compulsory charges; and providing ‘honest, accurate and clear’ timescales on when tests will be received.

PCR test providers should also ensure that PCR tests and results are provided within advertised timescales.

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