Thursday 7 September 2023

UK veterinarians to be investigated over rising bills

For me, this is a welcome development. And also for me, the rising bills are due to one primary factor: the buying up of independent veterinary clinics by big business managed by gray men in gray suits who focus on financial profit over animal welfare. 

Vet checks cat
Vet checks cat. Image: Pixabay.

They saw an opportunity in the marketplace which was veterinary clinics owned by the veterinarians themselves who were not, in their view, sufficiently focused on making money. They've dived in and bought them up and altered the pricing structure and the methodology of operating these clinics.

And now, the competition regulator has begun a review of veterinary services because there are concerns among cat owners and others that their costs are rising faster than inflation.

I suspect that the government's concern is more to do with the inflationary aspect of the services than animal welfare. The UK government is desperate to get inflation down. The Competition and Markets Authority is going to look into how services for pets are bought and sold. About two thirds of households in the UK own a pet.

And The Times agrees with me! I've just read that. They say that, "The market has been transformed by consolidation. Independent practices are being taken over by groups."

At one time, small practices i.e. independently-owned practices accounted for 89% of the veterinary industry in 2013. That figure has fallen to 45% in 2021.

"A single company may own hundreds of practices and it may be unclear whether their vet is part of a large group. This could impact choice and reduce the incentives of practices to compete". Those are the words of the Competition and Markets Authority.

The president of the British Veterinary Association defends veterinary practices for selling up to big business in saying that his association had "not seen any hard data or real evidence to suggest that corporatisation is driving up prices."

In contrast, a spokesman for the consumer magazine, Which?, said: "[Our] research has uncovered a number of areas of concern, such as pet owners not knowing the price of treatments until after their appointment, people being unaware their vet is part of a chain and difficulties [finding] cheaper medication. The Competition and Markets Authority's review must consider these issues and lead to a more competitive veterinary industry which makes it easier for owners to shop around for the best option for them and their pet."

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