Moves from Australia’s competition watchdog to keep the price of rapid antigen tests (RATs) low could have disastrous consequences and make it even more difficult for people to access the tests, advocacy body the Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance has warned.
Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) chairperson Rod Sims said this week the commission had received reports of “very high pricing” for RATs across the country.
The ACCC has promised fines of up to $10 million for anyone found charging too much for RATs.
Despite the good intention behind the idea, attempts to stop retailers from “price gouging” or raising the price of highly sought after Covid-19 RATs will only lead to a greater shortage of stock, exacerbate stockpiling and possibly create a black market.
Rapid antigen tests are highly sought-after, demand rising as Covid-19 spreads throughout the country.
“ACCC is making a mistake that could lead to even greater shortages,” ATA Chief Operations Officer Gabe Buckley said.
“It’s important to analyse economic policy based on the outcomes it will spur and not simply what we hope will happen.
“At its core, the reality of the situation cannot be ignored; history offers countless examples of the devastating impacts government-enforced price ceilings can have on a community.
“No-one with even a rudimentary knowledge of economics would suggest that imposing a maximum price on a rare commodity could ease supply shortages. To suggest that reducing the ceiling price to zero would ensure a surplus should be consigned back to the children’s fairy tale from which it was taken.”
ATA Executive Director Brian Marlow said the government needed to be held accountable for causing a supply issue in the first place.
“The government can try and shirk this issue as much as it likes, but they need to answer why the rest of the western world has had access to RATs for a year now while Australia once again fails to secure supplies of basic items,” Mr Marlow said.
Since 2011, the Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance has advocated for everyday Australians against everything from irresponsible to downright corrupt government moves.
The ATA is a grassroots advocacy group fighting for smaller government, more transparency and less bureaucracy.