Pet Insurance

UK vets probed by competition watchdog over fears of unfair price rises

The UK's vet practices are being reviewed by the competitions watchdog over concerns prices are rising faster than inflation.

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The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) will scrutinise the experiences of pet owners and domestic vet practitioners to uncover whether customers are getting value for money.

The CMA fears pet owners are not given easy-to-access information to pricing and treatment options to make informed choices about which vet to use and which service to pay for.

And figures suggest the cost of vet services has risen faster than the rate of inflation, the CMA said when announcing the review.

The probe comes after a surge in independent veterinary practices being bought out by large chains.

In 2013 89% of UK veterinary practices were independent, but that almost halved to 45% by 2021.

The CMA fears many pet owners are unaware their chosen practice is owned by a large group that also owns hundreds of other surgeries.

They may also be aware that follow-on services recommended by a practice are actually being provided by a centre in the same group.

This could reduce a customer's choice and therefore reduce competition, the CMA says.

The CMA wants pet owners and vet practitioners - including surgeons nurses, practice managers and vet businesses - to give their experiences of:

  • Pricing of services - including whether pet owners were aware of how much a treatment would cost and how they would pay for it (eg themselves of with pet insurance)
  • How prescriptions and mediation for pets are arranged and sold.
  • Choosing a vet surgery and whether people are aware their vet is part of a larger chain that operates several practices in the area.
  • Using out of hours and emergency vet services.

People can give their experiences by clicking here.

Sarah Cardell, chief executive of the CMA, said: "Caring for an ill pet can create real financial pressure, particularly alongside other cost of living concerns. It’s really important that people get clear information and pricing to help them make the right choices.

"There has been a lot of consolidation in the vet industry in recent years, so now is the right time to take a look at how the market is working.

"When a pet is unwell, they often need urgent treatment, which means that pet owners may not shop around for the best deal, like they do with other services. This means they may not have the relevant information to make informed decisions at what can be a distressing time. We want to hear from pet owners and people who work in the sector about their experiences."

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Helen Barnett

Helen is a journalist, editor and copywriter with 15 years' experience writing across print and digital publications. She previously edited the Daily Express website and has won awards as a reporter. Read more here.