Pet lovers get tips to slash vet bills as watchdog promises pricing probe

Pet lovers get tips to slash vet bills as watchdog promises pricing probe

By Jill Dando News

It could be good news for animals and their owners as Vets' prescription fees could be capped by a Watchdog.

It is one of the measures being considered by the UK's competition body as it investigates the sector.

Animals are one of life’s greatest pleasures, and many people have been concerned about the spiralling costs often of having an animal treated at the vets.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is pressing ahead with a formal probe of the vets market amid concerns that pet owners are overpaying for treatments.

It said it had heard from thousands of people who were struggling to pay vet bills and did not always know the best treatment options for their pets.

They have also given pet owners tips when looking for treatments.

The British Vet Association said regulation of the sector was "woefully out of date" as it welcomed the review.

The CMA ran a review last year to ask people if they had any concerns that they could be paying too much, and received 56,000 responses from pet owners, vets and charities.

It said the Office for National Statistics has estimated that the cost of veterinary and other pet services has doubled since 2015, much higher than the overall rate of inflation.

Earlier this year it flagged concerns that pet owners might not be getting basic information like price lists online and were not always informed of the cost of treatment at a vets before agreeing to it.

Free Gray Tabby Cat Lying on White Surface Stock Photo

More than half of UK vet practices are owned by a handful of larger businesses, something the watchdog says may incentivise some to act in ways which reduce choice.

The CMA is now launching a formal investigation, which means it could intervene directly in the market in the future.

The regulator outlined three tips for pet owners when looking for treatments:

  • Look further than the closest vet as fees and services differ between practices
  • Ask if there are other treatment options
  • If the treatment is not urgent, consider buying medication elsewhere such as an online pharmacy or specialist pet shop

The formal investigation means the CMA could step in and force companies to make changes.

It said possible remedies could include forcing firms to provide certain information to consumers, imposing maximum prescription fees, and ordering the sale or break-up of businesses.

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