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Monday, September 27, 2021

Boots is among government-approved Covid test firms refusing to give refunds

Boots is among a series of government-approved Covid testing firms that are refusing to refund customers for late PCR results in a potential breach of consumer law. 

Travellers arriving in Britain from countries on the green and amber list must pay for PCR tests within two days of landing. Non-vaccinated people who have come from amber list nations must also have a test on day eight or face a £2,000 fine. 

Shockingly, Boots is one of several firms whose terms and conditions say these tests are non-refundable even if they are never delivered – despite the Consumer Rights Act allowing customers to claim for money back if a service is not as described. 

Travellers arriving in Britain from countries on the green and amber list must pay for PCR tests within two days of landing. File photo of someone receiving a PCR test 

Richard Claughton and his wife, who are both NHS workers, paid £150 for a pair of day two tests after a trip to Spain in July. Only one test arrived, which was late and damaged beyond use. 

But Boots refused to refund them, claiming that, according to its terms and conditions: ‘The service is deemed to have been provided in full by Boots and ReCoVa-19 by providing the customer with their booking reference number.’

The company told the Guardian that rather than giving a refund, it would replace any missing or faulty kit free of charge. But in the Claughton’s case this would have meant the test results arriving after the official quarantine period had ended. 

Trustpilot, a consumer website, says another firm called  is warning reviewers that 

Another testing firm, Atruchecks, has been bombarded with poor reviews on Trustpilot, with customers complaining of tests not being delivered, misleading pricing and poor customer service. 

In response, the company has threatened to take legal action against those who leave negative feedback. All reviews since June have rated it ‘bad’, citing the non-delivery of testing kits, misleading pricing and unresponsive customer service.

Francesca Simon, author of Horrid Henry, paid the company Rightangled £94 for test that – if it comes back as negative – allows travellers to leave quarantine early. She also purchased a day eight test. 

The kits were delivered but she did not receive her results until the quarantine period had ended. 

Rightangled said she not entitled to a refund as it was not liable for delays at its laboratory.

Gary Rycroft, a partner at lawyers Joseph A Jones & Co, said terms and conditions that rule out refunds for services that never materialise may be illegal. 

MailOnline has contacted all three companies for comment. 

Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said: ‘It is completely unacceptable for any private testing company to take advantage of holidaymakers and we are taking action to clamp down on cowboy behaviour.

‘I requested a review from the Competition and Markets Authority to address exploitative behaviour in the private testing market and ensure the government is doing everything it can to crack down on excessive pricing and inaccurate claims.

‘Through our regular reviews and spot-checks, we have identified even more providers that were messing around with costs and have now removed 91 providers from Gov.uk and corrected inaccurate prices of 135 private providers who will be removed from the list if they advertise misleading prices again.

‘From September 21, in order to ensure travel test providers are performing to a high legalised standard, there will be tough new penalties for companies that fail to follow the law, including fixed fines of up to £10,000.

‘I am reviewing the recommendations from the Competition and Markets Authority and will outline further changes shortly to ensure consumers are given the best tests at the very best prices.’ 

Shockingly, Boots is one of several firms whose terms and conditions say these tests are non-refundable even if they are never delivered

Shockingly, Boots is one of several firms whose terms and conditions say these tests are non-refundable even if they are never delivered

It comes as the government is poised to announce that double-jabbed travellers will no longer have to take PCR tests after returning to the UK.  

Officials are working towards scrapping the requirement for green and amber list countries before the half-term holidays next month, providing a huge boost for millions of holidaymakers and the beleaguered travel industry.

Travellers will no longer need Covid tests before leaving for Britain, while the unpopular PCR tests currently required on the second day after arrival will be replaced by cheaper lateral flow tests.

The move will slash the cost of family holidays by hundreds of pounds. Currently, the PCR test can cost more than £100, while the NHS offers free lateral flow tests.

The plan will be discussed this week by Boris Johnson, Chancellor Rishi Sunak, Health Secretary Sajid Javid and Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove who form the so-called Covid-O committee.

The change would also tackle fears that some PCR firms are profiteering and could provide an incentive for people to be vaccinated, as the new rules would only apply to those who have been double jabbed.

The leadership of Heathrow are among senior travel industry figures urging the Government to ‘streamline’ the rules for international travel after warning it has gone from being Europe’s busiest airport in 2019 to number 10 on the list, behind rivals in cities such as Amsterdam, Paris and Frankfurt.

It wants the amber list to be scrapped, and a two-tier system introduced.

Under the airport’s proposals, fully vaccinated arrivals from green list locations would no longer be required to take a test, whereas those who are not fully vaccinated would need to take lateral flow tests pre-departure and post-arrival.

Only those who test positive would need to take a more expensive PCR test.

Hotel quarantine would be retained for arrivals from high-risk red list countries.

The Government is believed to be preparing to overhaul its traffic light system.

Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye said: ‘The Government has the tools to protect the UK’s international competitiveness which will boost the economic recovery and achieve its ‘global Britain’ ambitions.

‘If ministers fail to take this opportunity to streamline the travel rules then the UK will fall further behind as trade and tourists will increasingly bypass the UK.’

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