Ministers have been accused of doing the “bare minimum” to curb companies charging “misleading” prices for Covid travel tests and have instead been asked to name and shame the companies.
Ahead of a review of the traffic light system of quarantine rules which government sources say is unlikely to result in many major changes, Labor has urged Transport Secretary Grant Shapps to take tougher action against companies “exploiting” the pandemic by imposing “rip-rebates”.
Ministers announced earlier this week that 82 companies had received a ‘two-warning notice’ for posting lower prices on the gov.uk website than those available at checkout, representing around 18% of companies on the government approved list. .
The actual costs of the tests have now been updated and the companies will be removed if it is found that they again advertise misleading prices, the Department of Health and Welfare said.
However, Shadow Transportation Secretary Jim McMahon said a faster and better way to ensure fairness would be to nominate and shame those who are not transparent about the cost of their tests.
McMahon – who also called on the government to release all the data behind the decisions to change the traffic light system that ranks countries based on factors such as their Covid case, vaccine and variant rate – argued that ministers should do “all they can” to support travelers, “rather than increasing their costs”.
He said: “The government has failed to properly vet the test providers listed on its own website, with incomplete and often inaccurate information being offered to the public, as well as misleading prices.
“Ministers have done the bare minimum to help desperate families escape after such a difficult time, instead leaving them to bear unreasonable and hidden costs. Naming and humiliating the vendors who exploit this situation is the least they can do. “
MPs, including the Conservatives, have been pushing for the cost of travel tests to be drastically reduced.
A government spokesperson said: “We review all private vendors to make sure they meet our exacting standards.
“More than 80 private travel test companies have been warned of two inaccurate price warnings and may be removed from the gov.uk list if they try again.
“The decision to add countries to the red, orange or green lists is taken by ministers, informed of the latest scientific data and public health advice. We publish a wide range of data and evidence on gov.uk, including regular reviews by the Joint Biosecurity Center (JBC) and the methodology behind them.
Henry Smith, who is chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Future of Aviation, said people were being forced to “pay through the nose for a battery of tests” and compared the charge to a “tax” on travelers, suggesting a cap of £ 40 for each PCR test be set.
A few days ago, Health Secretary Sajid Javid said it was “absolutely unacceptable” for “cowboy” companies to advertise deceptive prices. He added: “We are also introducing regular spot checks this week to make sure all private providers are playing by the rules and meeting our high standards of transparency. “