RAT price gouging: How to do better online
Avoid the price gouging of physical stores and buy TGA-approved rapid antigen tests online.
It's February: The kids are back at school, workplaces are shaking off their new year slumber, and social calendars are filling up. With COVID testing more important than ever, the price of DIY rapid antigen tests (RATs) has exploded in the last month and a half.
Now, amid reports of price gouging and dodgy sale practices, consumer watchdog ACCC is cracking down on pharmacies and physical businesses taking anxious customers for a ride. Tests that the ACCC says are wholesaling for $3.82 - $11.42 (per test) are regularly being marked up to an average of $21 for customers.
"While $20 retail prices remain lower than the more extreme reports received by the ACCC, this is still an unusually high mark-up that in our view is very difficult to justify," ACCC chair Rod Sims said.
The federal government has ordered more than 80 million RATs that should arrive and drive prices down later this month, but can you save in the meantime by going online?
How shopping online might help you save
The latest ACCC data indicates many consumers are still paying $20-$30 per rapid antigen test. If your local stores are selling RATs for $20 or more, you should be able to get them cheaper online.
Finder's "Where to buy rapid COVID tests in Australia" page is updated hourly with verified RAT sellers. The average price per test is $12 - $15 per test, better than many physical marketplaces at the moment.
A possible reason for this is the digital footprint that online sellers leave when they make a sale. It is therefore more difficult for them to engage in price gouging without leaving a trail of evidence for the ACCC.
Here's how things look right now, in terms of pricing:
Online prices in the table above start at just $12. If you buy 5 tests or more, that price drops further to as little as $10 per test.
Concession card holders and other at-risk individuals may qualify for a free RAT. Check the link above to find out more details and see if you qualify.
How can I make sure my online test is genuine?
All COVID-19 rapid antigen tests that are sold in Australia must be verified by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). You can see a list of verified suppliers and tests in our guide here.
However, as with anything online, some sellers don't follow the rules. The ACCC has a list of 4 red flags that point to dodgy sales practices whether you're buying in-store or online.
- Pricing. RATs are price regulated. This means retailers that charge excessive mark-ups are actually breaking the law. It's not a free market where the price is anything people are willing to pay, and the ACCC urges consumers to report excessive prices when they see them. Never pay $30 or more for a single test.
- False/misleading claims. Some online stores have lied to customers about when tests would be available and the reasons behind supply delays. If the seller accepts payment without a realistic date of when tests will ship to you, it's shady.
- Bad receipt practices. This applies more to in-person purchases, but can be relevant online too. If a business is refusing to give you a proper receipt for your purchase, they could be trying to hide the fact they're ripping you off.
- Package splitting. Some stores split antigen test kits into individual packages, sometimes not even selling them with instructions on how to use them. If you're getting a single test, or it's not rated by the TGA for home use, it may not be above board.
When will prices drop?
No one knows for sure, but with tens of millions of tests en route to Australia (and millions arriving every week through the private sector) we can expect supply problems to be alleviated by mid-late February.
Until then, it's important to report any price-gouging or unsavoury business practices around RATs to the ACCC.
"Community concerns about sales practices for rapid antigen tests remain very high, for good reason," said ACCC Chair Rod Sims. "[But] these reports, and the public scrutiny, are helping to keep prices at lower levels than otherwise."
Looking to purchase tests? See our where to buy guide which is updated regularly.