Vet prices investigation over concerns pet owners being overcharged | UK News

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Pet owners could be paying too much for medicines or prescriptions, the competition watchdog has said.

It follows a review into the UK’s £2bn veterinary industry by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) after concerns pet owners are not getting value for money.

The CMA said it had identified several concerns in the vet market – with the review prompting more than 56,000 responses from pet owners and professionals in the industry.

The watchdog found:

• 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• The regulatory framework is outdated and may no longer be fit for purpose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 said it has provisionally decided it should launch a formal market investigation focused on its provisional analysis of the issues in the sector and is now consulting on this proposal.

CMA chief executive Sarah Cardell 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 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. We are also concerned about weak competition in some areas, driven in part by sector consolidation, and the incentives for large corporate groups to act in ways which may reduce competition and choice.

“Given these strong indications of potential concern, it is time to put our work on a formal footing. We have provisionally decided to launch a market investigation because that’s the quickest route to enable us to take direct action, if needed.”

Almost 90% of vets in the UK were independents in 2013.

But that had shrunk to around 45% by 2021, according to latest figures from the regulator.

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