Rapid antigen tests – better known as RATs – are available in a scarce supply across Australia as demand for the kits continues to rise across the country.
And now the Australian Federal Police have noticed it.
Watch the video above to see Australia’s best fast antigen test explained
AFP’s Taskforce LOTUS, established last year in response to potential criminal threats against the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine, will lead the investigation into the pricing of RATs in Australia.
Individuals and businesses are being warned that they could face up to five years in prison or a $ 66,000 fine if they are caught reselling COVID-19 tests for more than 20 percent of the original retail purchase price.
If a person or company buys RATs from a dealer, like a chemist, and then sells those RATs for more than 20 percent of what they were bought for, they will be prosecuted under criminal law.
It does not apply to retailers who buy from a wholesaler.
Individuals or companies may also be forced to surrender the RATs that will be sent to the national medical warehouse.
“AFP will use its full powers to crack down on RAT prices,” said AFP Assistant Crime Commander Nigel Ryan.
“Not only is the pricing of RATs unethical, but it is illegal, and AFP will use its significant resources to ensure that it protects the public from the illegal greed of others.”
“My message is clear. Do not risk jail time or a substantial fine for a few extra dollars.”
The AFP intervention comes amid a nationwide shortage of kits where some retailers have been caught charging exorbitant prices.
Australian National University emeritus professor of criminology Roderic Broadhurst told the AAP that a pressure on supply creates opportunities for criminal entrepreneurs who are already well equipped to distribute.
“They’ve already got a smuggled logistics arrangement, they may not even have to go to a large part of the work” to deliver products on the black market, says Professor Broadhurst.
Earlier in the pandemic, dark web sites traded in protective equipment and questionable vaccines, and later moved into things like vaccine certificates, though Prof Broadhurst notes that entrepreneurial criminals do not only make money on COVID-19.
“It’s everywhere we have supply (problems),” he says.
‘The golden rule is that crime follows opportunities, when there is a gap in the market to exploit, it will be (exploited) by someone’ – ANU emeritus criminology professor Roderic Broadhurst
ACCC chief Rod Sims says retail pricing on COVID-19 rapid antigen tests is “more than outrageous”.
The Consumer Watchdog said in the “extreme end” that it had received reports of RATs costing up to $ 500 for two tests through online marketplaces and more than $ 70 per. testing through grocery stores, service stations and independent supermarkets.
Despite the wholesale RAT cost being up to $ 11.45 per. test, the agency said that prices for the kits are often sold between $ 20- $ 30 and are priced much higher through smaller stores.
“It’s just more than outrageous … it’s extremely worrying,” said Mr. Sims to reporters in Sydney on Monday.
“We are aware that demand and supply chain issues have affected since then, but our initial research suggests that a price tag of around $ 20 per test or more, no matter where it is packaged, can be difficult to justify based on the average wholesale costs, and such retailers should explain why the price is so high, ”he said in a separate statement.
‘Any test that costs more than $ 30, even with supply constraints, is almost certainly too expensive and seems to take advantage of current circumstances’ – ACCC Chair Rod Sims
He branded more than 100 percent retail margins on RATs as “outside pale” and said the agency was collaborating with Therapeutics Goods Administration and AFP to eradicate unscrupulous sales of RATs.
“We are very much looking forward to what (retailers’) explanations are for the very high prices that have been reported,” he said.
“Often some of these high prices are in stores you would not expect, such as petrol dealers, tobacconists and grocery stores. We look at them a lot as well as pharmacies.”
In addition to exorbitant prices, some retailers failed to provide receipts, while other retailers broke up wholesale bundles of RATs, designed for medical centers, and sold them to retailers.
Sir. Sims said the ACCC planned “very soon” to take action – which could include fines and lawsuits – against nonprofit dealers.
“A lot is happening and we hope companies hear this message and adapt their behavior,” he said.
The watchdog said it had “come into play” in light of analyzes of more than 1,800 reports from the public since Christmas.
Close to 150 reports come every day from concerned members of the public about sky-high RAT rates, it said.
Chemists are the worst offenders, followed by convenience stores, tobacconists, supermarkets and gas stations, with the ACCC particularly pointing to some King of the Pack and Metro Petroleum stores.
The ACCC has so far contacted more than 40 test suppliers, major retailers and pharmacy chains across the country, reminding them that they need to back claims to consumers about reasons for higher prices.
“We will continue our research and analysis of information from consumers, retailers and suppliers and will provide further updates in the coming weeks,” said Mr. Sims.
Pharmacists are under pressure as people chase scant tests, with members of the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA) reporting receiving an average of four calls per minute for rapid antigen testing.
In many cases, pharmacists were also required to pay for tests in advance and then demand the money back from the government for the free tests available to cardholders, which created cash flow problems for smaller companies trying to procure supplies, PSA director Fei said. Sim to AAP.
“Pharmacies actually have no stock, or if they have any, the stock level is very low.
“It is now the responsibility of pharmacists themselves to go and pick up our own RATs,” says Dr. Sim.
The federal health ministry said Thursday that supplies should stabilize in the coming weeks, rejecting “categorically untrue” allegations that the government had requested tests from private importers and suppliers.
“Supplies of RAT kits are not redirected to the Commonwealth and the department has at no time attempted to place itself in front of other commercial and retail entities … Any such claims are false and where they are notified to the department they will be referred to the ACCC , “the department said in a statement.
– With AAP