The Competition & Markets Authority has launched an investigation into the price of PCR testing for British travellers returning from overseas.
The secretary of state for health and social care, Sajid Javid, wrote to the body earlier this month asking it to consider three key issues.
The CMA is now examining whether individual PCR providers may be breaching their obligations under consumer law, as well as whether there are structural problems in the market for tests, affecting price or reliability.
Also under consideration is whether there are any immediate actions that the government could take before enforcement action is necessary.
George Lusty, CMA senior director for consumer protection, said: “It is essential that people paying for PCR tests are treated fairly, get what they pay for and that their rights are respected when things go wrong.
“We will not hesitate to take enforcement action if we find evidence that PCR providers are breaching consumer law.”
He added: “This is a particularly pressing issue just now for families hoping to enjoy a well-earned holiday after such a difficult year, and for those reuniting with friends and relatives overseas.
“That is why we are also providing ongoing support to Department of Health & Social Care, including on steps that could be considered in the interim, before the rest of our work on the PCR testing market is concluded.”
Consumer rights organisation Which? has called for a price cap on tests.
Rory Boland, Which? travel editor, said: “Which? raised serious problems with the travel testing system with the government ahead of travel reopening – long before the predictable disruption we are now witnessing for holidaymakers.
“Not only do travellers face paying hundreds of pounds for tests in order to travel, but they are also let down too frequently by delayed or missing test results.
“It’s encouraging to see the CMA recognise the urgency of this issue, although its review will come too late for those travelling over the summer holidays in the coming days and weeks.
“The government and regulator must now act swiftly to ensure private testing for travel is reliable, affordable and accessible for all UK consumers – not just those who are better off.”
“The government must urgently look at ways, including the possibility of introducing a price cap, to reduce the cost of testing, while the CMA must complete its review of the market swiftly, and take action against any firms found to be charging excessive or misleading prices.”