Insider at private Covid test firm tells ITV News customers 'aren't getting value for money'

ITV News Consumer Editor Chris Choi reports on the service problems in the private Covid test industry

Anyone still aiming to go abroad this summer will need to buy Covid-19 tests, but we've found that there have been more than £1 million in refunds from the sector - and one industry insider has told ITV News about the delays some customers have had getting test results.

Covid testing for travel has rapidly created a whole new consumer market which can seem complex and costly.

More than 400 testing firms are now offering services across a wide range of prices and categories.

PCR tests in this sector range from £27 to almost £400 each.

Over the past few months ITV News has heard from people with complaints about delays and mix-ups receiving their test kits and results.

Credit: PA

The consumer organisation Which? is so concerned about testing for travel is has said: "The government must urgently take steps to ensure all results are delivered on time, every time."

Testing firms say that problems account for only a tiny percentage of the high volumes of work they have done in a short amount of time, setting up new systems to cope with demand.

The test firms also stress that many problems have been caused by other factors including delivery delays.

These tests become integral to people’s travel plans and quarantine arrangements, so if things do go wrong it can have knock-on effects.

A couple have dinner in an empty restaurant next to the beach in Barcelona, Spain. Credit: AP

Take a look on social media and you will find plenty of examples of the high stress levels that can be caused to customers when things go wrong.

Now a worker from one of the testing firms has spoken to us anonymously.

She thinks people who have had poor service deserve far better.

"They are not getting value for money, they are not getting their test kits on time, they are not getting their results in time," the woman said.

The test company she works at, Anglia DNA Services, told us delays and errors affected less than one percent of its work.

They've apologised, given refunds and say they resolved any problems quickly.

"They are not getting value for money," a test firm worker tells ITV News

The insider we spoke to believes more must be done to improve services in this sector.

"There's a danger of people over-extending their quarantine unable to go to work commitments, or even children missing exams."

Tejinder Sahota was a customer of the same firm in April. When he returned from his wedding in Canada, the test result he needed to leave quarantine came late.

Living with elderly parents, he was anxious.

'You do end up having to put things on hold'

"You do end up having to put things on hold.

"I was living in a slightly separate part of the house, I was wearing a mask indoors I was doing all those things to protect the family and not going out."

The company refunded, apologised and says it used special couriers at its own expense to help customers affected by a small number of problems, which were beyond its control. The firm says such issues are not representative of its service.

The head of another test firm that had postal problems delivering results, insists those issues have been fixed.

'I think that better policing of the list would help' says private test insider

Aaron Kravitz of Now Test says more scrutiny of firms on the government's approved list would help.

"I think that better policing of the list would help unfortunately there's a resource cost to that and in effect the only thing they could really do is kind of mystery shop every one of these firms."

The Department of Health told us it monitors and evaluates firms that provide tests for those travelling abroad, removing any that fail to meet minimum standards from its approved lists.

With the peak holiday season ahead, test firms may yet be to face their biggest challenge.

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