‘$500 for two tests’: ACCC cracking down on RAT price gouging

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has received over 1800 reports from the public concerned about the price of rapid antigen tests (RATs).

Despite wholesale costs ranging between $3.95 and $11.45 per test, they are often retailing between $20-30 per test, and sometimes over $70 a test at smaller outlets, with most reports of price gouging coming out of NSW.

Rod Sims, Chair ACCC, said there are several businesses that repeatedly come to its notice, and they are asking those businesses to urgently explain the prices they are charging.

“At the extreme end, we have received reports or seen media coverage of tests costing up to $500 for two tests through online marketplaces, and over $70 per test through convenience stores, service stations and independent supermarkets, which is clearly outrageous.”

The most reported traders are pharmacies with 47 per cent of complaints, followed by convenience stores, tobacconists, and supermarkets with 15 per cent, and petrol stations also with 15 per cent.

Theo Foukkare, CEO of the Australian Association of Convenience Stores (AACS), said they have received reports about incidents of excessive pricing across the market with a handful of incidents relevant to its members, which have been quickly addressed by their head offices.

“In most cases, it has been the result of the retailer purchasing the RATs at an inflated wholesale price, not through a retail transaction. We have supplier members that are supplying retailers with the identical brand on shelf as major supermarkets, and their product RRP is identical to our members.”

Foukkare has spoken with the Department of Home Affairs, Department of Health, and the ACCC, to clarify their concerns to ensure AACS members are correctly informed of their responsibilities.

Sims said that the ACCC realises that demand and supply chain issues have impacted costs, but their research suggests that a price of around $20, however packaged, may be hard to justify based on the average wholesale costs.

“In the middle of a significant outbreak of COVID-19 in a pandemic, the excessive pricing of rapid antigen tests required to diagnose the illness and protect other members of the public, is of significant concern to the ACCC.”

The ACCC has also received reports of retailers refusing to provide receipts or providing incorrect receipts to consumers.

“We are closely examining reports of businesses refusing to issue receipts for rapid antigen tests. Refusal to provide receipts when requested or for total purchases of $75 or more (excluding GST) is a breach of the Australian Consumer Law. Businesses could face penalties for this conduct,” said Sims.

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