Western Australian consumers are being warned to be on the lookout for websites and individuals selling dodgy COVID-19 rapid antigen test (RAT) kits, now that they are cleared for sale in WA.
Consumer Protection WA issued the warning after reports of opportunistic scammers setting up fake websites, and selling unapproved self-testing kits in person that don't work.
Commissioner for Consumer Protection Gary Newcombe said scammers are capitalising on the huge demand for rapid testing kits.
"Overseas experience suggests that desperate consumers experiencing supply shortages are buying home testing kits from unknown websites and, if they do receive anything, it is often a kit that does not provide accurate results," Mr Newcombe said.
"Using fake products that give false negative results increases the risk of people unknowingly spreading the virus or not getting the appropriate treatment.
"Apart from the risk of losing money, consumers purchasing these dodgy kits online may be the target of identity theft by providing personal and financial information to criminals."
Mr Newcombe said consumers should only purchase RAT kits that are approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), and to be extremely cautious when purchasing kits, particularly online.
"There are also websites selling bogus COVID-19 vaccines and treatments that consumers need to avoid and they should only rely on the advice of local medical professionals," he said.
"We recommend checking the TGA website to confirm the RAT kit you are purchasing is approved.
"Checks can also be made on the supplier by doing an ABN Lookup and searching the internet for any negative reviews or comments about the business.
"To avoid being scammed, we recommend paying with a credit card or via PayPal so there's an opportunity for a chargeback if the product doesn't arrive.
"Paying by bank transfer or any other method may be risky."
The Federal government has also placed a limit on the mark-up of test kits, to avoid price gouging, and has banned the import of kits from overseas.
People found to be engaged in price gouging or unlawfully exporting RAT kits will be required to surrender those kits to law enforcement agencies or customs officials for destruction or redistribution to the National Medical Stockpile as appropriate.
Penalties for failing to comply with the new requirements include up to five years imprisonment, a fine of up to $66,600, or both.
A list of approved RAT kits can be found on the TGA website.