The consumer watchdog says it is getting 121 calls a day about the cost of rapid antigen tests (RATs), with pharmacies topping the list of complaints from consumers.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) says customers are still paying between $20 and $30 per test, despite the average wholesale price coming in somewhere between $3.82 and $11.42 per test.
“While $20 retail prices remain lower than the more extreme reports received by the ACCC, this is still an unusually high mark-up that in our view is very difficult to justify,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims says.
Of 3900 complaints, 1309 have been about pharmacies, while 781 have been about petrol stations, and 764 about either convenience stores, tobacconists or supermarkets.
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More than 50 suppliers have been asked to explain themselves to the ACCC after the watchdog warned it wouldn’t hesitate to name-and-shame culprits, adding that high prices must be justified by genuine stock availability and wholesale costing.
“In view of the public interest in this issue, we will continue to name business chains whose stores are reported to have engaged in this conduct, and are working very closely with our fellow law enforcement agencies in this area, particularly in relation to individual stores,” Sims says.
“For example, we have received many reports of high prices at a number of individual IGA Supermarkets and BP-branded petrol stations (133 and 72 complaints respectively, to 26 January, 2022).”
The ACCC also confirmed it is investigating claims from several businesses that the federal government pushed in line or even seized RAT orders bound for the free market, something that Health Minister Greg Hunt vehemently denied.
Sims says the watchdog is speaking to several suppliers who made the refuted claim, continuing that they must be able to prove any excuses to customers about why contractually bound orders cannot be fulfilled.
One business has already retracted its claim that the government was partially to blame for their inability to fulfil a RAT order, but the watchdog did not say who.
Meanwhile, consumer tip-offs about the re-selling, package splitting and sale of unapproved tests have been given to the Australian Federal Police and the Therapeutic Goods Administration, the ACCC says.
Package splitting — where packs are “split and sold in individual lots, sometimes without instructions for their use” — is illegal, but the watchdog says it continues to receive reports about the widespread practice.