PCR testing industry’s reputation under threat from ‘cowboys’, Ingham warns

The reputation of the PCR testing industry is threatened by ‘cowboy entrants’, trade body director Francis Ingham has told PRWeek.

The reputation of the PCR testing industry is at stake, warns Francis Ingham (pic credit: Getty)
The reputation of the PCR testing industry is at stake, warns Francis Ingham (pic credit: Getty)

Francis Ingham, a director of recently formed self-regulatory body the Laboratory Testing Industry Organisation (LTIO), said the integrity of the whole industry is at risk after an investigation by The Times newspaper found evidence that PCR test companies are exploiting holidaymakers.

The investigation found providers advertising COVID-19 tests for as little as 30p to get to the top of the list of test providers; an example of bait pricing, where an unrealistically low price is advertised to lure in customers to the seller’s website.

It reported that after clicking on the Government website to book, a 30p test was unavailable and the next cheapest cost £59.


Ingham, who is also director-general of the PRCA, told PRWeek: “This is a classic example of cowboy entrants into a market dragging down the reputation of an industry that has existing high standards.”

Other issues highlighted earlier this year by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) include false claims about how long test results would take to be processed, a failure to provide refunds, and drip pricing – when an initial low price is gradually increased by extra charges added during the buying process.

Ingham said the point of self-regulatory bodies was to set and enforce best practice, and “drive the cowboys out of the market”.

He added: “That’s why the LTIO was established, and my experience in self-regulation was why I agreed to be one of its directors. This is the country’s biggest crisis since the war, and it’s imperative that the public has confidence in the testing process.”

Ingham took up the role of LTIO independent director when the body was founded in September following publication of the CMA’s findings.

He oversees an executive committee of six private sector COVID-19 testing firms.

The professional body was designed to set, enforce and raise the standards of service for customers in an attempt to counter reputational issues stemming from some PCR testing companies’ operations and profits.

Warning to firms

Downing Street has insisted that exploitative PCR test firms will be struck off the Government-approved list.

In response to the investigation, a spokesperson for the Prime Minister said: “It is clearly unacceptable for any product testing company to take advantage of holidaymakers. The average price of a day two test is now under £45. We will strike companies off the list if they are found to be seeking to exploit the public when they need these tests.”

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