Major UK Covid-19 test provider faces probe by market watchdog, reportedly still selling tests

The UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has opened an inquiry into Expert Medicals – one of the nation’s major Covid-19 test providers – following customer complaints. The company still allegedly sells the tests, though.

Expert Medicals, one of the largest providers of PCR travel tests in the UK, has been removed from a list of companies that “self-declare that they meet the government’s minimum standards for COVID-19 testing,” the CMA said in a press release on Friday.

The competition watchdog said it had opened a formal probe into the test provider since it had been “the subject of a high number of complaints.” Expert Medicals has reportedly been accused of failing to provide tests and results in a timely manner, or even at all, as well as failing to respond to customer complaints and issue refunds when due.

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“Our actions today are the next steps in our work to ensure the PCR testing market works for consumers and we are preparing to take further action in this sector,” said Andrea Coscelli, the CMA’s CEO.

One of the cheapest Covid test providers on the UK market, Expert Medicals has been selling kits for travelers for £28 ($39), including postage and packing. The company received a large number of complaints over delays in delivery of its tests and customer results, according to some media reports.

However, the test provider is apparently still able to sell the kits despite being removed from the government list, the UK’s ‘Which’ media outlet said. That is despite Oncologica – one of the Covid-19 test laboratories Expert Medicals used to work with – telling ‘Which’ it is unlikely to cooperate with the test provider after it was pulled from the official list.

Apart from taking action against Expert Medicals, the CMA also warned further Covid-19 test providers that they should improve their pricing information or face some action from the watchdog.

The move comes about a week after the agency issued another statement telling Covid test providers that some of their “harmful” practices could be in breach of consumer protection law.

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The chief issue concerned some companies advertising PCR test prices that do not include additional obligatory charges, or advertising very cheap tests that are available only in very small quantities or not at all.

Failures to meet the required timeframe and refusals to provide customers with refunds when due were also on the CMA’s list of “practices of concern.” The watchdog demanded that test providers include the full cost of tests in their ads and provide “honest, accurate and clear timescales on when tests will be received.”

“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,” said the CMA General Counsel Sarah Cardell.

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