Rapid antigen test (RAT) price gouging continues to be a major issue in Australia, with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) putting a number of suppliers on notice.

The ACCC confirmed today that more than 50 RAT suppliers had been asked to “explain their pricing” after the commission received almost 3,900 complaints in a month.

The ACCC said it had received about 212 reports every day between 25 December and 26 January.

Pharmacies have been the most-complained-about sector, attracting 1,309 complaints, or almost 34 per cent of reports, outstripping petrol stations (781 complaints, 20 per cent of reports) and convenience stores, tobacconists and supermarkets (764 complaints, almost 20 per cent).

Since mid-January, however, pharmacy complaints were less than 25 per cent of total reports, as many more complaints were received from smaller stores which would not usually sell RAT kits.

More than 50 test suppliers, major retailers and pharmacy chains have now been asked by the ACCC to explain their costs, current pricing, and stock availability.

They have also been warned that they must be able to substantiate any claims made to consumers about the reasons for higher prices.

The ACCC has also referred some cases to both the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) following tip-offs by consumers about alleged illegal re-selling of RATs and alleged package splitting and sale of tests not approved for home use in Australia.

“Community concerns about sales practises for rapid antigen tests remain very high, for good reason,” ACCC chair Rod Sims said.

“We thank the consumers who have taken the time to pass on to us crucial information about what is happening in this market.

“These reports, and the public scrutiny, are helping to keep prices at lower levels than otherwise.”

Sims said businesses should be aware that the ACCC would be in touch “ very quickly” if they were imposing unjustifiably high marks-ups on tests.

Businesses named and shamed

Sims singled out individual IGA Supermarkets and BP-branded petrol stations as having numerous complaints made against them.

“We are looking at reports of single tests being sold for $30 or more from certain stores,” he said.

“For example, we have received many reports of high prices at a number of individual IGA supermarkets and BP-branded petrol stations (133 and 72 complaints, respectively).

“However, I want to emphasise that these complaints are limited to a small number of individual stores in these chains and that the majority of stores in those chains have not been the subject of complaints to us.

“We have contacted those chains, and will be engaging with the stores named in complaints to ask them to explain their prices so we can work out what’s going on.”

The ACCC said wholesale prices for RAT kits remain between $3.82 and $11.42 per test, depending on the type.

“While $20 retail prices remain lower than the more extreme reports received by the ACCC, this is still an unusually high mark-up that, in our view, is very difficult to justify,” Sims said.

“The average price of tests in pharmacies, based on consumer tip-offs, has recently been closer to $21.

“Most pharmacies appear to be charging between $15 and $25, however there are outliers with much higher prices.”

Extracted in full from”: Over 50 suppliers put on notice to explain RAT prices (yahoo.com)