Quarter of pet owners worried about ‘over-treatment’
One in four pet owners have concerns about potential over-treatment of their animals by vets amid concerns around unclear pricing, a Which? survey has found.
The consumer champion’s research shows that eight out of 10 think that vet treatments and medications are expensive but that it is hard to shop around due to unclear pricing online.
A review of veterinary services in the UK has been launched over concerns that pet owners could be paying too much. The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said vet fees were rising faster than other services and goods during the cost of living crisis.
Sue Davies, the head of consumer protection policy at Which?, said its “findings show that shopping around and getting reliable information about paying for veterinary services is much more difficult than it should be”.
he consumer group surveyed 2,000 pet owners who had used a vet in the past 12 months and looked at the websites of veterinary practices. They found that more than a third (36%) of pet owners said they were usually only informed about the price after the appointment at the reception.
Which? reviewed the websites of practices in the six large corporate groups, as well as a sample of independent practices. Most practices did not have prices for any treatments on their website.
The research also highlighted issues relating to large chains taking over hundreds of previously independent vet practices. Independent veterinary practices accounted for 89% of the UK industry in 2013, but this share had fallen to less than half (45%) by 2021.
Consumers’ lack of awareness of the ownership of their practice may not be directly harmful, Which? said, but it could reduce competition within the market, especially where groups have practices branded differently within the same local area.
The consumer group is urging the CMA to crack down on unclear pricing practices and ensure pet owners using veterinary services can easily shop around for the best treatment option.