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Competition watchdog launches probe into UK vet market

By Abigail Townsend

Date: Thursday 23 May 2024

Competition watchdog launches probe into UK vet market

(Sharecast News) - The competition watchdog is to launch a full investigation into the UK's £5bn veterinary market, it was confirmed on Thursday, after an initial review prompted 56,000 responses.
The Competition and Markets Authority said the probe will look at whether pet owners are properly informed, if profits are consistent with levels expected in a competitive market and if a limited number of vets in certain areas is impacting customers.

It will also review the sector's regulatory framework.

Sarah Cardell, CMA chief executive, acknowledged "acute" staff shortages in the sector, and accepted that many vets worked in difficult conditions.

But she continued: "The message from our vets work so far has been loud and clear: pet owners and professionals have concerns that need further investigation.

"We have 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.

"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."

Martin Coleman, group chair of the inquiry, added: "The vet services market is worth an estimated £5bn a year and provides a necessary service to pet owners, so it's right that we fully investigate competition concerns."

Around 16m households in the UK have pets, the CMA noted.

The British Vet Association welcomed the review, telling the BBC that current regulation was "woefully out of date".

As at 0945 BST, shares in retailer and vet group Pets At Home were down 4% at 271p. Shares in veterinary services provider CVS Group were up early 3% at 1,062.9p, however.

Russ Mould, investment direct at AJ Bell, said: "A lot of bad news about a probe into the vet sector has already been priced into the CVS shares, hence the muted reaction to today's update.

"CVS now faces the prospect of an 18-month investigation looming over the business. All it can do is co-operate and get on with the day job."


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