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UK Pet Owners Paying Premiums for Treatments Due to ‘Humanization’ of Animals, CMA Finds

 |  July 9, 2024

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has revealed that pet owners are incurring high costs for advanced treatments to prolong their pets’ lives, a trend driven by the increasing “humanization” of pets. This tendency has led to pet owners opting for expensive medical procedures that might have previously resulted in euthanasia.

According to the CMA, veterinary practices have noted that the pressure to pursue extensive treatments often comes from pet owners themselves, influenced by successful case studies showcased on television programs. This insight is part of the CMA’s ongoing investigation into the veterinary sector, amid rising concerns about potential overcharging for services.

The CMA’s preliminary findings, published on Tuesday, highlighted significant advancements in animal medicine. These developments mean that complex and costly treatments, which would have been unthinkable in the past, are now available. This shift, according to the CMA, is partly due to the increased availability of such treatments and the growing trend of treating pets as family members.

While the CMA acknowledges that sophisticated treatments can be appropriate and align with consumer preferences, it stresses the need for transparency in the cost of veterinary care. The regulator’s investigation is set to address whether the dominance of the market by six major veterinary companies is adversely affecting pet owners.

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One critical issue identified by the CMA is the lack of transparent pricing in vet practices. An alarming 80% of practices do not display a price list on their websites, leaving pet owners in the dark until they have committed to a procedure. This opacity extends to the end-of-life care for pets, with concerns that owners might be overpaying for cremation services due to a lack of awareness about alternative options, such as directly purchasing cremation services from providers.

The CMA plans to scrutinize potential “self-preferencing” within large veterinary groups, where customers are advised to undergo expensive tests and diagnostics, only to be referred to another branch within the same group without clear disclosure. This practice raises questions about whether pet owners are receiving unbiased advice.

The investigation will also explore the disparity in pricing between animal medicines and their chemically identical human counterparts. This discrepancy could point to a broader issue of market competition and transparency.

To protect consumers, the CMA is considering several measures, including enforcing greater transparency from veterinarians regarding costs and treatment options. Additionally, it may impose caps on cremation mark-ups and prescription fees to ensure that pet owners are not unduly burdened financially.

Source: Yahoo