Veterinary costs come under scrutiny

Veterinary fees come under scrutiny. Image of a horse in a headcollar eating hay

The Countryside Alliance is calling for an investigation into UK veterinary services, as costs of veterinary care are rising, and independent practices are disappearing.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) undertook a market review of the veterinary sector last September (2023), which identified that pet owners are finding it difficult to access basic information like price lists and prescription costs, and are potentially overpaying for medicines. It also found weak competition driven by sector consolidation and incentives for large corporate veterinary groups to act in ways which may reduce choice and weaken competition.

Following this market review, the CMA is proposing to put their investigation onto a formal footing and has consulted on whether to make a Market Investigation Reference (MIR). A MIR would enable the CMA to deploy its full powers to investigate its concerns and to intervene directly in markets if it finds that competition is disadvantaging consumers. It also gives the CMA access to a wide range of legally enforceable remedies, such as requiring the provision of certain information to consumers.

The Countryside Alliance supports the CMA’s proposal, but, in addition, is calling on the CMA to investigate the pet insurance market and any impact it may have in driving up costs, and how commercial pressures affect the advice veterinarians give in relation to interventions, treatments and procedures, for example, for animals that are old or in a terminal condition and may not benefit from interventions. The Alliance is also calling for recognition from the CMA that some equines are kept as pets and the cost of their care may also be impacted.


James Legge, Director of Public Affairs for the Countryside Alliance, said: “Most of our members own pets, working dogs, equines, or other domestic animals and they have been reporting increasing concern about the veterinary market. The 16 million pet owners in the UK should be able to choose veterinary care options that best meet their needs and the needs of their pets. This is why we are backing the CMA’s proposal for a formal investigation into this sector, which will help us understand the veterinary market and the issues affecting pet owners, pets, and veterinarians alike.” 

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