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SA’s major labs agree to drop Covid-19 rapid antigen test prices

Competition Tribunal says tests are now capped at R150.
Image: Bloomberg

Local private pathology laboratories PathCare, Lancet Laboratories and Ampath have agreed to immediately reduce their Covid-19 rapid antigen test prices to a maximum of R150 (including VAT) for two years.

According to a statement by the Competition Tribunal on Thursday, the laboratories may charge or negotiate a lower price than the maximum R150 price cap. Previously the labs were charging between R230 (PathCare) and R390 (Ampath) for the test.

This is part of separate consent agreements between the Competition Commission and the three respective labs, which were confirmed as orders by the tribunal on Thursday.

The latest agreements follow PathCare, Lancet and Ampath having recently agreed to reduce their prices for Covid-19 PCR tests to a maximum of R500 (including VAT) from the previous R850.

Read: CompCom’s ‘R500 per PCR test’ recommendation could leave SA with fewer options
Listen: Labs agree to lower cost of Covid PCR tests (read transcript here)

The tribunal added: “For as long as they provide COVID-19 rapid antigen tests, they also undertake to disclose the name of the test kit used to all consumers of these tests, so that they can identify the type of antigen test provided. This information should also be reflected on any test results.”

“On 13 December 2021, during its investigation into the pricing of COVID-19 PCR tests, the Commission received a complaint from a Health Department official relating to COVID-19 rapid antigen tests. An investigation into rapid antigen tests shows that, prima facie, pathology groups have contravened section 8(1)(a) of the Competition Act (“the Act”) i.e. excessive pricing.

“The three laboratories indicated their willingness to immediately reduce the price of rapid antigen tests to no more than R150 (VAT inclusive). Consequently, the Commission concluded the consent agreements with them, which have today been confirmed as orders by the Tribunal.”

The three laboratories however do not admit to having charged excessive or exorbitant prices in contravention of the Act, read together with Regulation 4 of the Consumer Protection Regulations.

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