Watchdog considering capping vet prescription fees

May 24, 2024

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is launching a formal investigation into the veterinary market amid concerns that pet owners are overpaying for treatments.

Reports from pet owners indicate struggles with vet bills and uncertainty about the best treatment options. The British Veterinary Association welcomed the review, calling the sector's regulation "woefully out of date."

The CMA estimates that 16 million UK households have at least one pet. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) found that the cost of veterinary and other pet services has surged by 50% since 2015, outpacing overall inflation.

Last year, the CMA received 56,000 responses from pet owners, vets, and charities regarding potential overpayments and lack of transparency in vet costs. Concerns included the absence of online price lists and insufficient upfront cost information.

Over half of UK vet practices are owned by six businesses, which the CMA suggests could reduce consumer choice. The investigation will examine whether limited vet options impact pet owners and if the current market regulation needs updating.

The UK's vet services market is valued between £2-£2.5 billion annually, with the overall industry worth £5.7bn. The investigation will also assess if consumers have adequate information, the impact of limited vet choices, vet business profits, and potential regulatory changes. Possible interventions include mandating consumer information, capping prescription fees, and restructuring businesses.

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