Feds launch investigation into RAT price gouging

The AFP smells a RAT. (Sources: Getty)
The AFP smells a RAT. (Sources: Getty)

An investigation into rapid antigen test (RAT) price gouging has been launched by the Australian Federal Police (AFP), as the consumer watchdog warns shoppers anything beyond $30 per test is too high.

The specialist task force will assess whether retailers have been charging illegally high prices for RATs as Australia struggles to overcome its Omicron wave.

Charges will be laid against people and businesses attempting to sell RATs with markups of more than 20 per cent than their original retail price.

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"The AFP will use its full powers to crack down on RAT price gouging," AFP assistant commissioner of the crime command Nigel Ryan said.

"Not only is price gouging of RATs unethical but it is illegal, and the AFP will use its significant resources to ensure it protects the public from the unlawful greed of others."

Those caught could face fines of up to $66,000 and up to five years in prison, and will also need to surrender their rapid tests to AFP strike teams who will add the tests to the national medical stockpile.

"My message is clear: do not risk jail time or a significant fine for a few extra dollars,” Ryan said.

There are two separate investigations occuring in Queensland and NSW, as part of the AFP’s Taskforce LOTUS.

It comes after the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) received more than 1,800 complaints of price gouging, with retailers reportedly selling single tests for as much as $70.

The wholesale costs range from $3.95 to $11.45 a test, but individual tests have often retailed for $20-$30.

“At the extreme end, we have received reports or seen media coverage of tests costing up to $500 for two tests through online marketplaces, and over $70 per test through convenience stores, service stations and independent supermarkets, which is clearly outrageous,” ACCC chair Rod Sims said on Monday.

“Any test costing more than $30, even with supply constraints, is almost certainly too expensive and would seem to be taking advantage of the current circumstances.”

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