Costs for the coronavirus tests needed to go abroad are higher in Britain than in any other country in western Europe.
Meeting testing requirements is more affordable for residents of France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Greece and Belgium than it is for Britons.
The cost of PCR tests combined with the requirement for all travellers to take one after arriving in the UK has put the prospect of foreign holidays out of reach for many families.
The average cost of a private PCR test in Britain is £75. More than 100 of the 430 test providers listed on the government website advertise tests for less than £70, but research has found that a third have either sold out or do not in fact offer them.
All travellers to the UK from green and amber-list countries must pay to take a PCR test two days after arrival, and must generally spend at least £25 for a rapid test before they board their flight. This puts the cost of coronavirus tests for a family of four returning from abroad at about £400.
Those who are not fully vaccinated and are returning from amber-list countries must pay for two tests and then quarantine for up to ten days at home.
The analysis comes as Tui, Europe’s biggest holiday company, said demand for holidays was high, with bookings rising as soon as restrictions eased. However, Fritz Joussen, the chief executive, said uncertainty was not helping.
Several European governments have capped the cost of PCR tests, with France setting a maximum of €49 (£41), Belgium €55 and Greece €60, although companies may be allowed to charge more for rapid results.
In countries where the cost of private tests has not been capped, including Germany, Spain and Italy, they are sold for between €60 and €100 on average. However, double-vaccinated travellers from these countries are not required to take a PCR test to travel to or return from most holiday destinations.
Smaller countries including the Netherlands, Denmark and Norway provide free PCR tests for travellers. Belgium is offering young people who have not had the chance to be double-vaccinated two free PCR tests to travel.
Sajid Javid, the health secretary, faces pressure over the cost of tests with some companies charging £200 each.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), which was asked by Javid to conduct a “rapid, high-level review” of “exploitative practices” by firms, said it would report “within the next month”. Most schools return early next month, meaning the review is unlikely to come in time.
Lord Tyrie, a former chairman of the CMA, said the evidence that the cost of private PCR tests was a problem had been building up for some time.
Last night George Lusty, the CMA’s senior director for consumer protection, said: “It is essential that people paying for PCR tests are treated fairly, get what they pay for and that their rights are respected when things go wrong. We will not hesitate to take enforcement action if we find evidence that PCR providers are breaching consumer law.”
If companies are found to be breaching consumer protection laws, for example by setting unfair terms, they could be forced to compensate consumers or face criminal prosecution.
Huw Merriman, the Tory chairman of the transport select committee, has estimated that £150 million will have been spent by Britons on PCR tests over the last five months.