Posted: Thu 7th Sep 2023

UK veterinary sector under Competition and Markets Authority scrutiny as soaring costs hit pet owners

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Thursday, Sep 7th, 2023

The UK’s £2 billion veterinary industry is under the microscope as the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) launches a comprehensive review.

The move comes amid growing concerns that the cost of pet care has surged beyond inflation rates, potentially leaving pet owners with hefty bills.

The CMA’s investigation will focus on the experiences of consumers and the business practices of veterinary services for household pets across the UK.

A key concern is the perceived lack of transparent information regarding pricing and treatment options available to pet owners when choosing veterinary services.

Recent data indicates that veterinary costs have risen at a rate surpassing general inflation.

This, coupled with the fact that many independent vet practices have been acquired by larger chains, has raised eyebrows.

The CMA is particularly concerned that pet owners might be unaware if their chosen vet is part of a larger group, which could influence the range of services offered or recommended.

Such industry dynamics could potentially limit choices for pet owners and diminish the competitive spirit among local vet practices, the CMA suggests.

Sarah Cardell, CMA’s chief executive, commented on the issue, stating, “Caring for a sick pet can be financially straining, especially with other rising living costs. It’s crucial that individuals receive transparent information and pricing to make informed decisions.”

She further highlighted the significant consolidation within the veterinary industry, noting that while independent vet practices constituted 89% of the market in 2013, this figure plummeted to around 45% by 2021.

The CMA is actively seeking feedback from both pet owners and professionals within the veterinary sector.

Ms Cardell emphasised the urgency of the matter, saying, “When pets require immediate care, owners often don’t have the luxury to compare prices as they would with other services. This can lead to uninformed decisions during already stressful times. We’re eager to hear from both pet owners and industry professionals about their experiences.”

Sue Davies, Which? Head of Consumer Protection Policy, said:

“Consumers have no choice but to turn to vets when their beloved pet is sick or injured – often footing eye-watering bills in the process.

“Which? research has uncovered a number of areas of concern, such as pet owners not knowing the price of treatments until after their appointment, people being unaware their vet is part of a chain, and difficulties shopping around for cheaper medication.

“The Competition and Market Authority’s review must consider these issues and lead to a more competitive veterinary industry which makes it easier for pet owners to shop around for the best option for them and their pet.”

The CMA anticipates providing an update on its findings early next year.

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