The Competition Commission and South Africa’s three largest private pathology groups, Pathcare, Lancet and Ampath, have agreed to the price reduction of Covid-19 Rapid Antigen tests to no more than R150 inclusive of VAT with immediate effect.
The price reduction will remain in effect for two years from the date of confirmation of the consent agreements as orders of the Competition Tribunal.
This is a second successive price reduction in less than 14 days.
The three laboratories have also undertaken to submit to the Commission, a compliance report that will include financial statements every three months, to monitor prices charged for Covid-19 Rapid Antigen tests and any material changes in costs, said the Competition Commission in a statement on Thursday.
This as the commission continues with its investigation against Dis-Chem following a complaint lodged by the Department of Health (DOH) on 14 December 2021.
The DOH alleges that private laboratories and retail distributors have historically charged around R350 for a rapid antigen test, reducing recently to around R250 in November and December 2021.
It further alleges that the National Health Laboratory Services (NHLS) charges R150 and that a test kit costs R50 through UNICEF, and therefore prices above R150 could be excessive.
Following an investigation, the Commission found that prima facie that Pathcare, Lancet and Ampath may have engaged in a contravention of section 8(1)(a) of the Act. Unlike a PCR test, a Covid-19 Rapid Antigen test is relatively simple insofar as the test can be administered by a nurse and the result rapidly generated.
“This is yet another major victory for South Africans, particularly the vulnerable groups during the time of a devastating and resilient pandemic. The reduction of Covid-19 Rapid Antigen test prices will help alleviate the plight of consumers and widen accessibility and affordability of Covid-19 Rapid Antigen testing, which is a critical part of the initiatives to avoid the escalation of the pandemic,” said Competition Commissioner, Tembinkosi Bonakele.
“The Commission will continue with its investigation on supply and delivery of Covid-19 Rapid Antigen tests. We will not hesitate to apply for maximum administrative penalties against companies found guilty of exploiting consumers and customers.”