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ACCC to investigate complaints of price gouging on rapid antigen tests

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has launched an investigation into complaints of price gouging by retailers selling COVID-19 rapid antigen tests.

The move comes as angry and frustrated Australians continue to report high prices being charged for rapid antigen tests (RATs) amid a desperate shortage of stock at most chemists and retail stores.

The ACCC has so far received more than 100 complaints from consumers about excessive prices being asked for RAT tests.

Rapid Antigen Tests are hard to find. (Nine)

“We are seeking information from suppliers about their costs and the current pricing of rapid antigen tests,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said.

“We are also contacting major retailers and pharmacies seeking similar information and reminding them that they need to be able to substantiate any claims they make to consumers about the reason for higher prices.”

While suppliers are generally able to set their own prices, businesses must not make false or misleading statements about the reason for high prices.

“We won’t be shy to name and shame suppliers and retailers we consider to be doing the wrong thing,” Mr Sims said.

9News understands Prime Minister Scott Morrison will take a plan to subsidise rapid tests for pensioners and low-income earners to National Cabinet tomorrow.

The tests are available to buy at various retailers at differing prices.

It comes as some convenience stores through UberEats at inflated prices.

One shop has listed a two-pack of tests for $65. This is more than double the $30 they are listed for at major supermarkets and chemists.

9News reporter Airlie Walsh posted photos on Twitter yesterday afternoon of single RAT tests being sold at an Edgecliff service station in Sydney’s eastern suburbs for $30 each.

Another Twitter user, Vito Carrozzo, also expressed his disgust at seeing online retailer Kogan selling one Innoscreen RAT test for $44.99.

When 9news.com.au checked, the product did not appear on Kogan’s website, however, several other home testing kits were listed as sold out.

A Bondi resident, who asked not to be named, told 9news.com.au a convenience store on Campbell Parade was selling a packet of two RAT tests for $59.99.

“I requested two and was told it would be $121 including credit surcharge,” he said.

“They said it was a more expensive brand which is why it cost double the normal amount.”

The man said he later searched for the same product online and noticed it was being sold at $25.99 for a pack of two at Blooms The Chemist online.

Mr Sims said eBay was the source of many complaints to the ACCC and he was also aware of concerns about prices being charged for RAT tests through Kogan.

Australians are being urged to contact the ACCC if they see retailers attempting to sell rapid antigen tests at excessive prices.

Demand has surged for rapid tests in Australia after some states, including Queensland, moved from PCR testing requirements to RATs for interstate travellers.

Last week, the National Cabinet also changed its guidelines for who qualifies for PCR testing, making home testing the go-to for initial COVID-19 screening in many cases.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison promised last week rapid tests would be available for free at COVID-19 testing sites for those required to take one, including close contacts.

However, Mr Morrison has continued to resist calls to make the tests free for everyone, saying he does not want to undercut Aussie businesses selling them.

“We’re now at a stage of the pandemic where you can’t just make everything free, because when someone tells you they want to make something free, someone’s always going to pay for it and it will be you,” Mr Morrison said.

Testing facilities have been inundated across the country this year, with many people lining up for hours before being turned away. This has impacted the accessibility of rapid tests at these sites.

Federal Opposition leader Anthony Albanese said this morning the situation was a mess.

“Australians are being told you’re on your own, go out and get a rapid antigen test, but they’re not available in so many areas,” Mr Albanese said.

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese has slammed the government’s response to the Omicron outbreak which has left people struggling with long PCR queues and a shortage of rapid tests. (Alex Ellinghausen)

“If people are lucky enough to find one, they’re not affordable. And for many people that’s simply pricing them out of access to that important health care.

“And of course, we have no action from the federal government when it comes to price gouging.

Chemist Warehouse director Mario Tascone yesterday joined the chorus of people demanding for rapid testing to be made more accessible and affordable, suggesting the GST cut as an option to relieve pressure on retailers.

Peak advocacy organisation People with Disability Australia (PWDA) said in a statement released this afternoon the government should make rapid antigen testing free for the wider community but particularly for people with a disability and workers in the sector.

“Government has a clear responsibility to keep people with disability safe by providing safe and free in home testing, including PCR testing for those who cannot safely travel,” PWDA president Samantha Connor said.

Ms Connor, an advocate and disability rights activist, said Australia could look overseas for good models to follow.

“In the United Kingdom, a twice weekly preventative regime is in place to ensure that people with disability who receive care services are safe from COVID,” she said.

“People with disability and their caregivers are able to access rapid antigen tests in the UK, including via mail, as part of a wider preventative regime of COVID-safe strategies.”

National Cabinet last week pledged to “work on arrangements to provide RAT tests to vulnerable cohorts such as remote Indigenous communities as well as in school settings and exceptional circumstances”.

Contact reporter Emily McPherson at emcpherson@nine.com.au.

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