Money Wellness
Picture of a dog looking happy. Vet fees and costs to be investigated
calendar icon12 Mar 2024

Investigation launched into overcharging by vets

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) plans to launch a formal investigation into the fees charged by vets amid concerns pet owners are being overcharged.

The investigation follows the CMA’s review of the UK veterinary industry which raised a number of concerns that pet owners might be overpaying for medicines or prescriptions and are not being provided with enough information for them to be able to choose the right treatment for their pet.

The UK’s competition watchdog is also worried that consolidation in the veterinary market, which is dominated by six large companies, could have resulted in a lack of competition and over inflated prices.

And noted that around 80% of vet practices weren’t displaying prices on their website, with one in ten saying their pet had surgery before they were quoted a cost. Around a half also said they were not told about prices before agreeing to emergency out-of-hours treatment.

The review into the sector, which is worth £2 billion, attracted 56,000 responses from pet owners and industry professionals, with the CMA saying the level of feedback they’d received was ‘unprecedented’.

Sarah Cardell, Chief Executive of the CMA, 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.

“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 we should investigate further.

“These include pet owners finding it difficult to access basic information like price lists and prescription costs – and potentially overpaying for medicines. We are also concerned about weak competition, and the incentives for large corporate groups to act in ways which may reduce competition and choice.”

By opening a formal investigation, the CMA has the power to intervene directly, which could result in large vet groups having to cap prescription fees. They could also be forced to sell off parts of their business or assets to improve choice and help smaller, independent vet practices become more competitive.

Avatar of Caroline Chell

Caroline Chell

Caroline has worked in financial communications for more than 10 years, writing content on subjects such as pensions, mortgages, loans and credit cards, as well as stockbroking and investment advice.

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