Home   Lifestyle   Article

Subscribe Now

Pet owners could be paying too much for medicine, finds CMA review into vet market





Pet owners could be paying too much for medicines or prescriptions, says the UK’s competition watchdog.

The issue of whether people, including those in Lincolnshire and Rutland, are getting value for money at the vets has been the subject of a review by the Competition and Markets Authority.

The CMA is proposing a formal investigation into the vet sector. Image: iStock.
The CMA is proposing a formal investigation into the vet sector. Image: iStock.

The CMA says it has identified ‘multiple concerns’ in the market, which includes customers not being given enough information to help them choose the best veterinary practice or the right treatment for their needs alongside the question of possible over payment for some medicine.

A formal investigation of the veterinary market is now being proposed by CMA officials, who are consulting on the plan.

This kind of probe, says the CMA, would allow it to ‘investigate its concerns in full’ and intervene directly to improve competition if it is found to not be working well.

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox every morning - sign up to The Briefing here

Sarah Cardell, chief executive of the CMA, said: “We have heard concerns from those working in the sector about the pressures they face, including acute staff shortages, and the impact this has on individual professionals. But our review has identified multiple concerns with the market that we think should be investigated further.

“These include pet owners finding it difficult to access basic information like price lists and prescription costs – and potentially overpaying for medicines.”

An ‘unprecedented’ 56,000 responses to the initial investigation were received by officials – including 45,000 from the public and 11,000 from those working in the vet industry.

A fifth of people who responded said they were not provided with any cost details before agreeing to tests on their pet while around half said they were not informed about charges before agreeing to out-of-hours treatment.

The initial review attracted 56,000 responses from people – both customers and staff. Image: iStock.
The initial review attracted 56,000 responses from people – both customers and staff. Image: iStock.

The CMA also found that around 80% of practices checked had no pricing information online – even for the most basic services they offer.

Some vet practices, it added, made up to a quarter of their income by selling medicines which – says the CMA – may mean there is often ‘little incentive’ to make owners aware of possible alternatives.

Sarah Cardell, chief executive of the CMA, said the watchdog was right to launch its review.

She said: “We launched our review of the veterinary sector last September because this is a critical market for the UK’s 16 million pet owners. The unprecedented response we received from the public and veterinary professionals shows the strength of feeling on this issue is high and why we were right to look into this.”

The CMA is concerned owners are not always given the right information to help choose which treatment. Image: iStock.
The CMA is concerned owners are not always given the right information to help choose which treatment. Image: iStock.

Based on the evidence gathered so far, the CMA says it has five key concerns it wants to investigate further. These are:

*Consumers may not be given enough information to enable them to choose the best veterinary practice or the right treatment for their needs.

*Concentrated local markets, in part driven by sector consolidation, may be leading to weak competition in some areas.

*Large corporate groups may have incentives to act in ways which reduce choice and weaken competition.

*Pet owners might be overpaying for medicines or prescriptions.

*The regulatory framework is outdated and may no longer be fit for purpose.

The CMA has now launched a four-week consultation on its desire to launch a formal market investigation. This closes on April 11, after which a decision on the next steps will be made.



This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies - Learn More