inisters were warned about the “potential risks” of consumers being ripped off by providers of Covid PCR tests as early as April, competition regulators insisted on Thursday.
Travellers can pay between around £60 for home tests to £200 for private clinics, to get laboratory “gold standard” tests.
Travellers returning from abroad must take at least one test when they get back to England regardless of their vaccination status.
Passengers who are not fully vaccinated must take up to three tests if they are coming back from amber list countries such as Spain or France at a cost of £300 or more.
The Government provides a list of authorised testing companies but the advertised prices are often not available.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid asked the CMA’s chief executive Andrea Coscelli to investigate “excessive” pricing and “exploitative practices” among PCR Covid test firms at the start of August.
In a letter to the CMA, Mr Javid said it was time for a “rapid high-level” review to protect consumers.
The CMA is understood to be gathering information on more than 400 PCR providers including some pharmacies.
Julie Lo Bue Said, chief executive of Advantage Travel Partnership, the UK’s largest group of independent leisure and business travel agent experts, said: “It feels like a PR exercise for the Government to come out and say ‘we’re looking at this now’.It is far too late, when the public has had to pay for all these tests”.
Mr Javid announced last week that the price of PCR Covid tests provided by NHS Test & Trace for travel would fall, by £20 for one test to £68, and by £35 for two tests to £138.
A CMA spokesman said: “The CMA gave advice to DHSC officials about the PCR testing market in April and we gave further advice to the Secretary of State last week.
“We continue to work closely with DHSC in reviewing the market and, as we have made clear, we will not hesitate to take enforcement action ourselves if there are breaches of consumer law.
“Since the start of the pandemic, the CMA has secured hundreds of millions of pounds in refunds for people who have been treated unfairly, in sectors including holiday accommodation and package travel.”