Prescription caps possible as CMA probe goes ahead

Prescription caps possible as CMA probe goes ahead

The CMA’s market investigation into the veterinary sector could see a cap put on vets’ prescription fees.

It follows an initial review last September which prompted 56,000 responses to a call from pet owners and those working in the vet industry.

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.

The British Vet Association said regulation of the sector was “woefully out of date” as it welcomed the review.

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.

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 message from our vets work so far has been loud and clear – many pet owners and professionals have concerns that need further investigation,” said Sarah Cardell, the CMA’s chief executive.

“We’ve heard from people who are struggling to pay vet bills, potentially overpaying for medicines and don’t always know the best treatment options available to them,” she said.

“We also remain concerned about the potential impact of sector consolidation and the incentives for large, integrated vet groups to act in ways which reduce consumer choice.”