RATs in the ranks: Consumer watchdog flooded with claims of rapid test ripoffs

The consumer watchdog has received 1800 complaints of price gouging for rapid antigen tests as Queensland business said the lack of test kits was a critical factor in the crippling of the supply chain and staff shortages.


Jan 17, 2022, updated Jan 17, 2022
The worker shortage is crippling business, according to CCIQ

The worker shortage is crippling business, according to CCIQ

About 85 per cent of businesses polled by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry said supply chain disruptions and staffing issues were limiting their ability to keep the doors open or service customers. A major factor was the lack of RAT supplies.

The impact on staffing has spread across industries from hospitality to constructions and transport and according to the chamber part of the solution would be to have freely available rapid antigen testing.

But the ACCC said it had significant concerns about the pricing and cited media reports of as much as $500 for two tests, despite the wholesale costs of between $3.95 and $11.45 a test.

ACCC chair Rod Sims said that level of pricing was “clearly outrageous”. There were also potential scams relating to stores accepting payments for tests but not supply a product.

“There are several businesses that have repeatedly comes to our notice thanks for information from the public. We are asking those businesses to urgently explain the prices they are charging,” Sims said.

The ACCC said there was an increase in the amount of RAT selling through service stations and convenience stores and they had become the source of many of the complaints it was receiving.

Sims named the King of the Pack and Metro Petroleum stores as those for which the ACCC received a high number of complaints, but said it was only a small number of stores within these chains that had been complained about.

“We are writing to those traders to validate the reports and asking them to explain their prices so we can work out what’s going on,” Sims said.

The lack of RATs has been felt most particularly in the hospitality and tourism sector and many in the industry were calling for financial support, according to the CCIQ. The Queensland Government said in October about $1 billion had been spent on the sector in pandemic relief measures.

CCIQ policy and advocacy general manager Amanda Rohan said the chamber had been pushing for better access to the RATs for business.

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“Now we’re at a crunch point and a lack of availability of RATs is hindering business’s ability to reopen and recover,” Rohan said.

“Businesses and individuals need free and wide access to RATs to give them peace of mind in knowing they can confidently plan their future ability to reopen and remain open.”

CCIQ has estimated it would cost Queensland businesses $45 million a week to pay for the necessary tests.

She said isolation rules also had to be updated and reviewed to allow workers to return as soon as possible to allow for economic recovery.

Google’s mobility data also shows the impact on workplaces with visitation to the office down 42 per cent on the pre-Covid base in Brisbane for the week of January 13. Some of the fall would be related to the holiday period.




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