Restaurants Are Price Gouging Rapid Tests on Food Delivery Apps

With rapid tests for COVID-19 selling out everywhere as Omicron spreads across the United States, restaurants, liquor stores, candy stores and ghost kitchens are selling rapid antigen tests through delivery apps like Seamless at sky-high prices.

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A Manhattan liquor and snack store is advertising two packs of Binax Quick Tests on Seamless for $80 (retail price $24) as one of the “new items” along with the corn dogs and garlic bread. Liquid Assets, a Brooklyn liquor store, offers two at-home iHealth quick tests for $39.99 when they cost $14 from the supplier. They offer overpriced, oversized packages, charging $124.99 for a “Covid Fighter Pack” that features two iHealth Tests, a digital thermometer, 32 ounces of Gatorade, one box of 124 Kleenex, one case of 16 DayQui capsules, and one package of 16 NyQuil capsule, 1 box of Emergen-C Drink Mix, and 1 sachet of 24 Recolas. However, these items combined should cost $90 at most.

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Village Farm Pet Food, which appears to be a seamless pet store and only Grubhub, sells cat food, dog food, and various kinds of quick tests. It charges $49.99 for two iHealth Quick Tests that cost $14, charges $59.99 for two Access Bio tests while they cost $16.75 at Target, $49.99 for the QuickVue Test that costs $23.99 at Walgreens and $29.99 for the FlowFlex Test which costs $9.99. His most popular option, the BinaxNow Quick Test, goes for $49.99 at Pet Foods but $23.99 elsewhere.

This does not only happen in the United States. In Australia, where tests typically cost between $10 and $20, a persistent shortage of tests has led to increasingly exorbitant hikes. On Tuesday, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that stores, gas stations and restaurants were charging up to $50 per test on UberEats. Previous reports have also shown a steady price increase, such as a five-test kit rising from $45 to $90 over a week elsewhere.

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UberEats and Seamless did not respond to Motherboard’s questions about whether there are any mechanisms to stop this kind of price gouging.

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In a statement issued on Tuesday about the ongoing problem of price gouging, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission – the country’s consumer watchdog – said it was “aware” of the situation, communicating with suppliers, and monitoring developments “closely”. The ACC previously stated that price gouging is not expressly illegal, but it may be able to act when companies engage in gross misconduct or mislead consumers about the rationale behind price hikes.

One immediate concern, other than the fact that these companies are taking advantage of the pandemic to make an extra profit, is that food delivery platforms are effectively able to do the same. Platforms like UberEats and Seamless, after all, take a portion of every transaction on their service through a variety of fees and costs, even if the transaction involves high-priced items like quick home tests offered by these and other companies.

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