NSW residents buy refurbished COVID rapid antigen tests amid continued shortages


Consumers are warned to seek out refurbished COVID test kits after some were sold in the New South Wales region.

Tamworth resident Tammy Clark hadn’t found rapid antigen tests (RATs) in stock at pharmacies in town when she looked further.

“We want to do the right thing and keep people safe,” Ms Clark said.

At a gas station last week, Ms Clark said she had a choice of a box of two tests for $48, displayed on the counter in boxes, or five tests for $99.

“I thought the $99 for five people offered better value — $20 each, although it was very expensive,” she said.

“Because we had no luck finding them in town, we just wanted to buy them.”

The tests were delivered in a ziplock bag.

Deanna Faulks felt pressured to purchase the tests due to nationwide supply issues. (Provided: Deanna Faulks)

Ms Clark posted in a private social media group to warn others about the suspicious packaging.

The post has since garnered over 60 comments, with other residents sharing similar experiences with other retailers.

Tamworth’s Deanna Faulks also struggled to find RAT kits locally and searched for stock on the Find a RAT website.

“My husband and I drove 60 miles each way to buy them at a petrol station as they were the only ones available in the northern parts of New South Wales,” Ms Faulks said.

“It was just two tests in a ziplock bag, clearly loose. It was $42 for both.

“We felt we had no choice because nothing else was available.”

Ms Faulks was asked to report to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), but ran into a problem.

When reporting an issue on the ACCC’s dedicated Antigen Rapid Test Reporting site, a screenshot or receipt is required.

“We haven’t received a receipt, we only have the EFTPOS transaction record.”

Blurry line of responsibility

NSW Police told the ABC they had no jurisdiction to investigate reports of doctored RAT kits.

“We only have the power to investigate if people do not register their positive RAT with Service NSW, not the sale of kits,” a spokesperson said.

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The ACCC website asks consumers to upload a screenshot or receipt with their report.(ABC New England: Kemii Maguire)

The advice was reflected in the offices of Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce and Tamworth State Member Kevin Anderson.

According to the Ministry of Health, the sale of RAT kits is the responsibility of the Therapeutic Goods Association (TGA) – an arm of the ministry.

A spokesperson said all rapid antigen tests sold should be in their original packaging.

“If test packs are split and repackaged, the test may not work properly,” the spokesperson said.

“Exposure to light or heat will also damage the test.

Customers suspected of a RAT kit were asked to report their purchase to the TGA or the ACCC.

The ACCC said it would not comment on individual cases.

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