I run an independent pharmacy and was approached by Covid PCR testing firm, Rightangled, to sell its fit-to-fly tests. It is on the government-approved list of providers, so I paid for the tests upfront to sell on. Two customers bought five tests between them and didn’t receive the results on time, causing them to miss their flight. Rightangled refuses to refund them. I have therefore had to reimburse both £600 of my own money to protect my business reputation.
Rightangled has earned itself free publicity in this column before by dint of its disappointing service, and refusal to engage with customers it has let down. It has never yet responded to my requests for a comment, but an automated email sent to customers who complain blames an “inundation” of orders. Nevertheless, the website is still selling PCR travel tests at £120 a pop and still reassuring customers that “we know speed is important”, while stating in its terms and conditions that it operates a strict “no refund policy” if results are delayed.
What is extraordinary is that it remains on the government list of private PCR providers. While the UK Health and Security Agency (UKHSA), the government body which replaced Public Health England, insists it does not endorse or approve listed firms, its consumer guidance suggests otherwise. Those needing to book a private PCR test before, or after, travel, are told to ensure that the firm they choose is on the official list, “which means it will have been assessed against the government’s minimum standards by the UK Accreditation Service (UKAS)”.
Listed providers will, says the website, either be accredited or in the process of becoming so. Except many are not, and never will be. UKAS told me that it only accredits companies who actually carry out the tests, not agents like Rightangled that subcontract to labs. UKAS, therefore, has no powers to investigate or sanction Rightangled. So how do firms get on to this all-important list? Simply by filling out a form declaring that it will meet minimum standards.
Rightangled’s website assures customers it is registered with the Care Quality Commission (CQC). That’s not strictly true, either. The CQC regulates its other healthcare services. But, in December last year, its oversight of eligible PCR testing firms was transferred to UKAS. Rightangled, as I said, is not an eligible testing firm.
The government website claims that firms will be removed from the list if found to be in breach of minimum standards. You contacted the Department of Health and Social Care in August about Rightangled, as did I, but nothing has been done. When I put this to the UKHSA it merely regurgitated, word for word, the information on its website about UKAS accreditation for listed firms, and the removal of those who breach minimum standards.
UKHSA says: “We take all complaints about private testing providers very seriously. We would encourage anyone who has an issue to raise it directly with the company, and escalate their complaint to NHS test and trace and Citizens Advice if it isn’t resolved.” You are now making a claim through a county court.
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