‘Felt a bit dodgy’: Sydney woman pays $25 for rapid antigen test after chemist sells multipack individually

Just a couple of weeks ago, Anne-Marie Mannil could buy a five-pack rapid antigen test (RAT) kit from her local pharmacy in north west Sydney for $50. This week, she paid $25 for a single test in a zip-lock bag.

Key points:

  • The consumer watchdog says it will call out suppliers exploiting the shortage
  • The government says the department of fair trading will catch those doing the wrong thing
  • NSW residents will get free RAT kits from the end of January

Ms Mannil, who has a legal background, said they had clearly been broken up from a bigger pack.

"As the stocks are becoming more sparse, some retailers are taking advantage of that situation," she said.

"And divvying-up the packs, that they obviously get from the wholesalers, into single packs, into resealable plastic bags not too dissimilar to a drug dealer, it’s unscrupulous gouging."

She ended up paying $100 for four tests.

Demand for the at-home testing kits has outstripped supply across Australia and it's set to get worse as they replace PCR tests as the requisite tool for the next phase of living with COVID-19.

Ms Mannil says prices are "berzerk" and there needs to be some monitoring.(Supplied)

International travellers flying into Sydney can now use RAT instead of PCR tests.

And following yesterday's Cabinet Meeting, they now form part of the national "gear change" with COVID-positive people requiring one on day six of their infections.

NSW residents are set to get free kits from the end of January.

Ms Mannil, said she had never seen that type of behaviour before and likened it to last year's "toilet paper-gate".

"When I made the purchase it felt a little bit dodgy to me and when I said to the lady … 'is there a reason why you're giving them out individually?' she said, 'stocks are so low, that's what we've decided to do.'

"I said, 'you know you're marking them up at double their normal price'. She said, 'I don't set the prices; if you don't like it, go somewhere else'."

Many of Ms Mannil's friends have had similar experiences, with some travelling to Queensland next week, driving 50 kilometres to get a $35 test.

The consumer watchdog says it can call out those who are taking advantage of the shortage in supplies.(ABC News) Ms Mannil paid $100 for four tests, which individually sold for $25.(Supplied)

All she wants is retailers to be "good humans", act responsibly and to be monitored to stop the "berserk" price hikes.

A spokesperson for the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) said suppliers exploiting the shortage of rapid antigen tests can be publicly called out.

"Under the Competition and Consumer Act, excessive prices may, in certain circumstances, constitute unconscionable conduct," they said.

"Any such case would need to be ultimately decided by a court."

Phil Smith, who is currently in Goulburn en route to Adelaide, told the ABC they had been trying to get RATs for two days.

"We've tried calling chemists, service stations and various other places but there are no supplies," Mr Smith said.

"Tried Goulburn, Wagga, Hay and even tried chemists in Canberra and were tempted to go to Melbourne to see if we can find something there."

Mr Smith thought about going to Melbourne to try and get a RAT kit.(ABC News)

The state government has put those charging excessive prices on notice. 

Deputy Premier Paul Toole said the government would be looking into how much retailers were charging.

He said anyone doing the wrong thing would be caught by Fair Trading.

"We will certainly monitor that. We don't want anyone — supermarkets, pharmacists— in anyway, taking advantage of rapid antigen testing," Mr Toole said.

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"We will certainly make sure that the minister for fair trading is keeping an eye on this as well because we don't want to see gouging.

"We don't want to see people being hit in the bottom pocket because a chemist thinks they can make a quick buck at the end of the day." 

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt also issued a warning to price-gougers, saying the government would take action.

"We will have a discussion with the suppliers to make sure there is no price-gouging," Mr Hunt said.

"If there were, as we did last year, we would take strong, clear, swift action."

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Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

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