The cheapest firm on the government’s day 2 and day 8 list has been removed and the CMA (Competition and Markets Authority) has announced an investigation into its services.
Expert Medicals sells the test kits for travellers for just £28, including postage and packing, which is far cheaper than the next cheapest provider on the list at £40. Expert Medicals has received an enormous numbers of complaints of tests and results not arriving on time.
Until Wednesday 1 September the official government list of providers still listed Expert Medicals as working with the accredited laboratories Oncologica and Nonacus, as well as using its own lab. However, the list was then changed to say that its lab was ‘LY’.
We checked, and no such laboratory is approved for Day 2 tests in the UK. After Which? informed the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), Expert Medicals was removed from the government list.
Which test provider to book with – see our guide on Randox, Expert Medicals, Express Test and more
Expert Medicals still selling tests – and you can still use them for travel
Expert Medicals is still able to sell tests despite no longer being on the list, and previously bought tests are still valid for travel. Appearance on gov.uk shows that firms have ‘demonstrated compliance with the applicable minimum standards’ but is not a legal requirement.
Oncologica told us that it would honour tests that had already been purchased through Expert Medicals but implied that it would no longer be working with the firm after that. It said it was: ‘committed to supporting providers on the gov.uk list only.’
Nonacus said that it had never carried out PCR sample testing for Expert Medicals although it had provided genome sequencing of its tests for the government.
Expert Medicals is still able to use its own laboratory in Bradford but it’s not clear from its website whether it’s also using other laboratories. It hasn’t replied to a request for comment.
Test arriving late or not at all
Members of Which? Travel’s Facebook group and other social media sites have complained of tests not arriving at all. One person said that only one out of four tests they’d ordered had arrived.
We asked Expert Medicals why it has been removed from the government’s list but it has not responded. The government also said that it wasn’t able to comment on why it had removed the firm.
The information on gov.uk says that travellers can choose providers that are not on the official list but ‘must check they meet minimum standards.’ It’s difficult to see how potential customers would be able to do this.
The CMA (Competition and Markets Authority) announced today (Friday 3 September) that it is investigating Expert Medicals. It also said that it was writing to a further 19 providers regarding misleading pricing.
The CMA has already written an open letter to Covid test providers warning that some might not be complying with consumer protection law. It highlighted issues with ‘bait’ advertising and ‘failing to disclose important caveats upfront, particularly in relation to cheaper PCR tests – for example failing to make clear that consumers must attend a specific venue at a specific time.’
Test providers not inspected or accredited
All testing firms on the government’s official list have to self-declare that they meet the required standards. Laboratories and firms carrying out tests at clinics also have to go through a three-stage accreditation process with UKAS – the United Kingdom Accreditation Service.
However, firms that work as intermediaries, sending out the tests to customers and then returning them to the laboratories, are not required to be inspected or approved by UKAS.
One firm on the government’s list told us that they were concerned that the rule ‘means that many providers are essentially unregulated or accredited.’
How to get a cheap Covid test for travel
Recent research by Which? showed that none of the £20 tests advertised on gov.uk were available for home delivery. Appointments to collect tests were extremely limited and even if you could get an appointment collecting them would involve, for most people, long journeys.
With many providers having received huge numbers of complaints it’s important to check social media and review sites before booking a test. See here for more advice on what to consider when booking a cheap Covid test.