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20 Dec 2021

Amazon Covid tests sell out in Christmas travel panic

New cheap PCR tests could be great news for travellers - but sold out within days of arriving on the market
Hand holding credit card in front of computer scre

Amazon has entered the market for Day 2 and Fit To Fly Tests just as many existing companies warn of severe Royal Mail delays -but within days its tests were no longer available.

With tests from £34.99 and discounts if you're buying for more than one person it was the cheapest provider for delivering the obligatory travel tests.

The average price of tests on the gov.uk list is £78. The most popular providers charge between £40 and £55 - but many people have paid much more and still not had test kits or results on time.

Our research has shown that it's been very difficult to find a cheap, reliable PCR test provider, even when travel was at relatively low levels during the pandemic. So Amazon's fast, efficient distribution network and low price is likely to have been extremely popular. It's also the only cheap provider to promise a full refund if you don't get your result within 24-hours of the sample being received by the lab.

Amazon warns tests can't be processed over Christmas and New Year

Amazon says it 'offers customers the convenience they've come to expect from Amazon.co.uk by providing access to highly accurate COVID-19 testing, at an affordable price.'

However, although tests are delivered by Amazon's own vans, they still have to be returned to its laboratory via Royal Mail priority mailboxes. This means Amazon has had to warn customers that it can't register tests over the Christmas period.

The Amazon website says: 'Due to Royal Mail closure over the holiday period, you will be unable to register test kits from 23/12 through 27/12 and 30/12/21 through 02/01/22. Do not buy this product if you want or need to test on these days. During the holiday period, you can take your test and ship to the laboratory only on the 28/12 and 29/12, and receive results 24 hours after arriving at the lab.'

When we looked on Monday 20 December tests had already sold out and a message said: 'Currently unavailable. We don't know when or if this item will be back in stock.'

Amazon told us: 'There has been very strong demand from customers for our affordable at-home PCR tests. Global demand for test kit components is high and we are working hard with our suppliers to make this product available again.'

If you do need to travel between Christmas Eve and New Year you can see more advice on how to get a reliable test at Christmas here.

Should I book an Amazon PCR test?

It's too early to judge whether Amazon can be the saviour of a market that's been hit by endless problems and scandals - but we do have the answer to some important questions:

How quickly does Amazon provide PCR tests and results?

It originally said it sent out tests within a day of your order - but when we looked on Saturday 18 December kits weren't predicted to arrive until 30 December. Tests then have to be returned by Royal Mail priority mailbox, which should be next day delivery but can take longer. After the test is received by Amazon it says that it will send you the result within 24-hours.

The fact that tests can be sent out immediately does mean that, if you order them while you're abroad, they may arrive when nobody is there to receive them.

If you're going on holiday it might be worth ordering before you leave the country, so the test is waiting for you when you get home.

Can you get a refund for Amazon tests if you don't need them?

Unlike some other test providers Amazon will give you a full refund if you send test kits back sealed and undamaged within 30 days of your original order. If you've ordered a day 2 test you are legally obliged to take it but you can get a refund if your plans change and you don't actually travel.

It will also provide a full refund if you don't get your result within 24-hours of the sample being received by the lab.

Does Amazon provide a refund if you don't get your test or result in time?

If you haven't got your test kit within three days of your order you can have a full refund. We have asked if it also provides refunds if test results don't arrive on time.

Is Amazon's laboratory accredited to provide PCR testing?

No, but under rules that the government introduced to encourage the rapid ramp up of private testing at the end of 2019, firms do not have to be accredited to begin selling PCR tests.

As long as they self-declare that they meet the required standards they can start selling tests and be added to the official gov.uk list. They then begin an accreditation process run by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS), which takes around eight months.

The last stage of this is an official inspection by UKAS - either virtual, during the pandemic, or in person.

Amazon opened its laboratory in Manchester in October 2020 but initially it only provided tests to its own staff and so wasn't legally required to have official accreditation.