PCR tests for travel have become “a predictable Covid rip-off”, says the ex-chair of the Competition and Markets Authority, Lord Tyrie.
Lord Andrew Tyrie said the competition regulator had been “too slow to react” to complaints about testing providers.
Holidaymakers have objected to high prices and poor service from many of the 400-plus test firms listed on the government’s website.
Tests cost about £75 on average, but prices can reach hundreds.
Lord Tyrie told the BBC that the regulator “could and should have been better prepared” and should be advising the Government on how to obtain a “quick remedy”.
A CMA spokesperson said: “These comments are inaccurate. The CMA gave advice to DHSC (Department of Health) officials about the PCR testing market in April and we gave further advice to the Secretary of State last week.
“We continue to work closely with DHSC in reviewing the market and, as we have made clear, we will not hesitate to take enforcement action ourselves if there are breaches of consumer law.
“Since the start of the pandemic, the CMA has secured hundreds of millions of pounds in refunds for people who have been treated unfairly, in sectors including holiday accommodation and package travel.”
Last week, Health Secretary Sajid Javid asked the CMA to investigate “excessive” pricing and “exploitative practices” among PCR Covid test firms.
Initially, the CMA said it would take up to a month to report back. But after a chorus of objection from the travel industry, the CMA said it was reviewing the situation “immediately”.
At the weekend, the cost of NHS coronavirus tests for international arrivals to the UK was reduced. Test and Trace tests were cut from £88 to £68 for people arriving from green-listed countries, as well as for those coming from amber-listed countries who are fully vaccinated.
Meanwhile, the price of two tests for amber arrivals who have not had both jabs has been cut from £170 to £136.
It is understood the price cut is an attempt to drive down the cost across the market, so other operators will follow.