‘Clearly outrageous’: ACCC investigates retailers overpricing RATs

By Jackson Graham

January 18, 2022

rapid-antigen-test-RAT
RATs are being sold in many stores for more than $20 a test. (ink drop/Adobe)

Australia’s competition watchdog says rapid antigen tests are being sold in many stores for more than $20 a test and is asking retailers to explain why. 

A team of Australian Competition and Consumer Commission public servants is investigating the prices, writing to retailers and suppliers and gathering reports from the public as RATs remain scarce on Australian shelves and online stores. 

ACCC chair Rod Sims says reports of two tests sold for $500 online — and for more than $70 a test at some convenience stores, service stations and independent supermarkets — are “clearly outrageous”. 

This is despite wholesale costs ranging between $3.95 and $11.45 a test.

“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,” Sims said. 

The watchdog has contacted more than 40 test suppliers, major retailers and pharmacy chains about current pricing, stock availability and to make clear that justifications to consumers for higher prices need to be substantiated. 

The ACCC and Australian Federal Police are investigating whether price gouging is breaching a federal government change under the Biosecurity Act, in effect from January 8 to February 17, which prohibits a person from reselling or offering to resell RATs at retail level for mark-ups above 20%. 

“We will continue our investigations and analysis of information from consumers, retailers and suppliers, and will provide further updates in coming weeks,” Sims said.

He flagged that retailers operating under the same brand or chain could be setting prices different to other stores in the chain. 

The ACCC is receiving about 150 reports a day about the self-tests, and consumers have lodged 1800 reports since late December, with most stemming from NSW and relating to prices. 

The watchdog has already made inquiries with a number of stores, including in the King of the Pack and Metro Petroleum chains, where it received dozens of complaints about individual tests being sold for around $30. 

“Any test costing more than $30, even with supply constraints, is almost certainly too expensive and would seem to be taking advantage of the current circumstances,” Sims said.

Consumers are also reporting retailers selling separated individual tests from multi-packs – an issue the Therapeutic Goods Administration is addressing.


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