Australia makes price gouging on COVID rapid antigen tests punishable by up to 5 years in prison

Australia makes price gouging on COVID rapid antigen tests punishable by up to 5 years in prison
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The Australian government has put a stop to price gougers, making marked-up COVID-19 home tests illegal.

According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, RATs (rapid antigen tests) wholesale for around AU$3.95 and AU$11.45, but it has seen reports of the tests costing up to $500 for two through online marketplaces.

"It's some of the worst price gouging we've seen during the course of the pandemic," says Dean Price, senior campaigns and policy advisor at consumer advocacy group CHOICE.

Now the Australian Government Department of Health has announced new measures prohibiting RATs being on-sold for a mark up of more than 20 percent.

People found to be price gouging or unlawfully exploiting RAT kits will face a fine of up to $66,000 and up to five years imprisonment, it said in a statement.

The measures will remain in place from January 8 to February 17.

This comes as the Australian Federal Police (AFP) launched two investigations into RAT price gouging in Queensland and New South Wales on Friday after receiving referrals from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. It said more referrals are expected to come.

AFP Assistant Commissioner Crime Command Nigel Ryan said there will be zero tolerance for those profiting from RATs at the expense of others.

"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," Ryan said.

"My message is clear. Do not risk jail time or a significant fine for a few extra dollars."

In Australia, RAT testing is free for people who are suspected to have COVID-19 or who are close contacts.

All travellers in Australia must provide a negative COVID-19 test result, commonly done at home with RAT tests.

RATs are not as accurate as your traditional test, but it's fast and convenient.

The New Zealand Government is announcing a test strategy on Wednesday that is likely to include the use of unsupervised RATs by the public.