Melbourne coffee roaster St Ali has come under fire online for offering two free rapid antigen tests with purchase orders over $159.99.
In a text message sent to special VIP customers, St Ali offered two free rapid antigen tests if customers purchased $159.99 worth of coffee or merchandise from their online store.
We were fortunate to obtain a limited number of rapid antigen tests for our staff, families and friends. As a special VIP customer, we would like to extend them to you as well, they said in the text.
The roasters also offered pulse oximeters, hand sanitizer and contactless thermometers for sale through their website, as well as bags of coffee, filters and champagne.
But the products appear to have been taken down after an online backlash on Twitter and Reddit after the initial text messages were posted.
St Ali has been contacted for comment.
Roasters faced a backlash against the text message, amid nationwide shortages of rapid antigen tests and reports of price gouging and exploitation by some companies, and have since withdrawn the offer.
In a follow-up text message, the company apologized, saying the offer was inappropriate in hindsight.
We recently purchased rapid antigen tests for our staff and their families, we had a surplus of supply so we texted some of our subscribers offering two free rapid antigen tests with a minimum order value , he read.
We thought it was a way to support our customers who regularly buy from us, but the message has been lost. We can see in hindsight that it was inappropriate.
We are really sorry.
The company has pledged to donate any additional tests it receives to South Melbourne charity, the Father Bob Maguire Foundation.
Our commitment is that once we receive further tests, the equivalent amount will be donated to Father Bob (South Melbourne Charity) to distribute as he sees fit, St Ali said.
Again, please accept our apologies.
The offer comes just a day after the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) said it had significant concerns about the prices and availability of rapid antigen tests.
In a statement on Monday, the ACCC said it had received more than 1,800 price gouging reports from the public, saying it had seen some tests offered at nearly $50 above retail prices.
ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said prices had risen in recent weeks and companies had been asked to explain their prices.
Amid a significant Covid-19 outbreak in a pandemic, overpricing of rapid antigen tests needed to diagnose the disease and protect other members of the public is a significant concern for the ACCC, he said.
Just a few weeks ago, the tests were readily available at most pharmacies and supermarkets for around $10 for a single test.
Any test costing more than $30, even with supply constraints, is almost certainly overpriced and would appear to benefit from current circumstances, he added.
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