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UK Regulator Launches Formal Probe into Veterinary Market Amid Concerns of Overcharging

 |  March 12, 2024

The UK competition regulator, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), has announced its intention to initiate a formal investigation into the veterinary market. This decision follows an initial review that unveiled “multiple concerns” regarding potential overcharging for treatments and medicines, among other issues.

In a statement released by the CMA, Chief Executive Sarah Cardell expressed the necessity of further investigation due to the alarming findings from the initial inquiry. Over 56,000 individuals, including both customers and veterinary professionals, participated in the review, signaling a widespread unease within the industry.

Among the primary concerns highlighted by the CMA is the lack of transparency in pricing and prescription costs, which may lead to pet owners unknowingly overpaying for essential medications and services. Additionally, the watchdog is troubled by the diminishing presence of independent veterinary practices, as consolidation within the industry has seen a significant portion of practices being acquired by a handful of large corporate groups.

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According to data provided by the CMA, since 2013, approximately 1,500 out of the 5,000 veterinary practices in the UK have been absorbed by six major corporate entities: CVS, IVC, Linnaeus, Medivet, Pets at Home, and VetPartners. This trend has resulted in weakened competition and diminished consumer choice, prompting concerns about potential anti-competitive behavior.

The decline in independent veterinary practices is particularly striking, with their market share dropping from 89% in 2013 to 45% in 2021. This shift has occurred alongside a notable increase in the number of pet owners, largely attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic, with an estimated 17 million households now owning pets in the UK.

The CMA’s decision to launch a formal investigation underscores the urgency of addressing these pressing issues within the veterinary market. By placing the inquiry on a formal footing, the regulator aims to expedite the process of identifying any potential anti-competitive practices and implementing corrective measures to safeguard consumer interests.

Source: The Guardian