The Australian Federal Police (AFP) has launched an investigation into Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) price gouging in Queensland and NSW after referrals from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).
Assistant Commissioner Crime Command for the AFP, Nigel Ryan said more referrals were expected and would be coordinated under the AFP’s Taskforce LOTUS, which was established in 2021 as a targeted and scalable response to potential criminal threats to the COVID-19 vaccine rollout.
Assistant Commissioner Ryan said there would be zero tolerance for people who were profiteering from RATs at the expense of the Australian public.
“The AFP will use its full powers to crack down on RAT price gouging,” Assistant Commissioner Ryan said.
“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,” he said.
“Commonwealth and State Agencies are working together on this issue and, under Taskforce LOTUS, the AFP makes no apologies for upholding the law to help keep Australians safe.”
Assistant Commissioner Ryan said people who breached the law faced penalties of up to five years’ jail or a $66,000 fine.
He said Taskforce LOTUS would refer allegations of RAT price gouging to Australia-wide AFP strike teams, which had the powers to force individuals or businesses engaged in price gouging to surrender the RATs, “which will be sent to the National Medical Stockpile”.
“The AFP has the power to investigate claims of RAT price gouging when a retailer or individual buys RATs from another retailer and sells those RATs with a mark-up of more than 20 per cent,” he said.
“It does not apply to retailers who buy from a wholesaler.”
Assistant Commissioner Ryan said one example of this was if a tobacconist bought RATs from a chemist and then sold those RATs for more than 20 per cent of what they were purchased for, that tobacconist could then face criminal charges under the law.
He said Taskforce LOTUS was coordinating its price gouging response with State and Territory law enforcement, Commonwealth Agencies and international partners.