Travellers requiring Covid-19 tests have been misled by firms that appear on the government’s official list of test providers, according to a consumer group.
Prices were quoted for tests that did not meet the requirements for travel, and some firms were unable to provide the tests they advertised, Which? said.
The problems will compound the confusion and cost surrounding foreign travel since the launch of the traffic light system in May, under which people returning from a country on the amber list are required to quarantine and pre-book two PCR tests to be taken on days two and eight after arrival.
Which? said a number of the tests from firms listed among the 10 cheapest providers turned out to be much more expensive than initially suggested, and others were unobtainable.
The three cheapest providers advertised on the government list for entry into the UK offered tests at between £60 and £80, but it transpired that the prices only covered a single DIY test and not the two PCR tests required to return from an amber list country.
Which? said other listed providers did not offer testing services, and that its investigation had highlighted serious flaws in the government’s system. It called on the government to explore ways to reduce the cost of testing and to urgently ensure all providers are accredited, with proper oversight of the listings and accurate information.
The problems persist six months after widespread complaints about the availability and efficacy of test providers when the UK launched its “test to release” policy, which allowed returning travellers to end quarantine on day five with a negative test.
Rory Boland, Which?’s travel editor, said it was concerning to still see problems with the system. “As it stands, travellers risk being left at the mercy of rogue operators who at best attempt to profiteer off of those looking for testing services to allow them to travel, and at worst risk leaving them out of pocket for services that don’t even exist,” he said. “The government needs to urgently sort out these problems before mass travel resumes, or it will create chaos for travellers who have to rely on the system.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We carefully monitor issues raised by the public and raise complaints with private test providers directly. The government regularly evaluates all providers’ performance, including their delivery and test turnaround times.” Providers that did not meet the minimum standards were removed from the list, they added.