There remains a huge shortage of the tests around Australia.
On Tuesday, black and white crudely made signs appeared around Sydney’s busy Central station saying ‘Available; rapid antigen tests” and sporting a giant QR code.
The QR code directs to a page where a box of 20 Panbio branded Covid-19 rapid tests, made by US firm Abbott Laboratories, is for sale for $300.
Several pharmacy websites have the identical product on sale for $250 or cheaper, although they are all sold out.
The text on the page says the kit “was purchased while oversease (sic) to comply with daily testing requirements as a tourist.
“The kit is no longer needed. I can provide free delivery to CBD and surrounding areas at a date or time of your choice”.
RAT tests were advertised for sale for $300 via QR codes on signposts near a Sydney station. Picture: News.com.au.
When you click on the option to pick up, it directs you to a 7-Eleven store in the city.
It is unclear from the ad whether the ad is directing people to stock available in 7-Eleven, whether a staff member is selling a pack or indeed if the seller is completely unrelated to the store.
If the latter is the case, the store might be a pick up point where the test is passed from seller to buyer.
Staff at the store told news.com.au they were flummoxed by the advert. They did have some RATs on order but like most other retailers they had yet to come through.
“Our marketing team would never put a random A4 piece of paper up on a wall,” news.com.au was told.
7-Eleven’s Australian head office has been contacted for comment to confirm if the ads have any connection to the company, its franchisees or staff. The seller of the test or tests has also been contacted.
The desperate search for RATs has led some businesses to offer them as an incentive to customers – which has not gone down well.
However, the move drew immense criticism on social media, with people labelling the promotion as “tacky” and “unethical,” and others swearing off the brand.
Rapid antigen tests have sold out across Australia. NewsWire / Sarah Marshall
ACCC calls out ‘outrageous’ RAT prices
Rapid tests can now be used as conformation of a Covid-19 infection, alongside traditional PCR tests.
But a severe lack of availability has seen some sellers hike prices to what the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission (ACCC) has said is “outrageous” levels.
Despite the wholesale cost of a test ranging from $3.95 to $11.45 a test, the ACCC has found that some retailers are charging more than ten times the cost of the tests as demand skyrockets.
Pharmacists and service stations were the most complained about RAT sellers.
“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,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said on Monday.
“There are several businesses that have repeatedly come to our notice thanks to the information provided by the public. We are asking those businesses to urgently explain the prices they are charging.”
The consumer watchdog has contacted more than 40 test suppliers, major retailers and pharmacy chains seeking information about their costs, current pricing, and stock availability, and reminding them they need to be able to substantiate any claims they make to consumers about the reasons for higher prices.
The ACCC added that “complex supply chains” can mean prices will vary. But they shouldn’t vary to the amount some sellers are trying to flog them off for.
The ACCC has received over 1800 reports from consumers about rapid antigen tests since Christmas and said it was now averaging close to 150 reports a day.
A survey by think tank the Australia Institute found 72 per cent of Australians believe the government should provide RATs to everyone free of charge.
Even Coalition voters backed the call for free RAT tests with 66 per cent of voters who voted for Scott Morrison urging the Prime Minister to act.