Company at centre of Tory sleaze row improves customer terms
A Covid-19 testing firm at the centre of a Government sleaze row has improved its terms and conditions to avoid falling foul of competition laws.
Northern Ireland firm Randox has made changes to give clearer information to customers, in particular on when it will provide PCR tests and results, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said.
The locally-based company has also improved how it notifies consumers about their legal rights to cancel and claim refunds, and removed terms which could suggest people are not entitled to compensation if things go wrong.
Former Northern Ireland secretary Owen Paterson resigned as a Conservative MP last month over concerns that he repeatedly lobbied ministers and officials on behalf of Randox and another company while working as a paid consultant for them.
Nearly £600 million of Covid testing contracts were awarded to Randox by the Government.
Fears over the Omicron variant of coronavirus have led to new rules requiring fully-vaccinated UK arrivals to buy a PCR test.
There has been widespread anger at the cost and service levels for many travel testing firms during the pandemic.
CMA chief executive Andrea Coscelli said: “With recent changes to the rules for travel, the spotlight is once again on PCR testing providers and their practices.
“I am pleased that Randox has agreed to change its terms, which means consumers benefit from their legal rights to cancel and get a refund, and are not stopped from pursuing compensation if there is a problem.
“However, it’s essential that all companies play by the rules and treat people fairly. We are clear that, if they fail to do so, they risk facing enforcement action from the CMA or Trading Standards.
“We recently provided recommendations to Government on changes to better protect consumers in this market and we hope that, given the reintroduction of PCR testing for travellers, these will be implemented as quickly as possible.”
A spokeswoman for Randox said: “Randox has been happy to engage fully with the CMA from the outset to ensure the interests of its customers while the company delivers millions of Covid-19 PCR tests to facilitate vital international travel against the changing requirements of governments.
“As the industry leader, Randox has been in the ideal position to both review the services required to support the international traveller and provide a consumer-industry standard of terms and conditions. These have, of necessity, evolved over time.
“In working with the CMA, Randox’s aim has been to ensure absolute fairness whilst building and providing critical services in a highly volatile and demanding environment.”
The CMA has sent letters to 25 PCR test providers warning them to review their terms and conditions or risk facing enforcement action.
It is formally investigating two firms — Expert Medicals and Dante Labs.