The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has commenced a formal market investigation into the UK’s veterinary services market for household pets.

This follows a consultation on the proposals concluded last month.

The CMA’s investigation will focus on several key areas to ensure consumers receive the necessary information to make informed decisions. It will explore whether the limited choice of vet businesses in certain local areas is affecting pet owners, if profits earned align with those expected in a competitive market, and whether vet businesses might be limiting consumer choice when providing treatments or recommending related services. The investigation will also examine whether the current regulatory framework is hindering the market’s functionality.

The inquiry group overseeing the investigation will consist of independent experts and will be chaired by Martin Coleman.

BVA’s Response to the Investigation

The British Veterinary Association (BVA), representing over 19,000 vets across the UK, has responded to the CMA’s market investigation. Dr Anna Judson, President of the BVA, stated that vets take great pride in the high-quality service and specialised care they provide. She acknowledged that while fees reflect the necessary investments to keep practices viable, there is room for improvement in client choice. Vet teams are already working to address the CMA’s concerns about transparency of fees and practice ownership.

Dr Judson emphasised that vets prioritise the health and welfare of animals, which often drives their commitment to the profession. She highlighted the unacceptable abusive behaviour that vet teams have faced since the CMA’s review announcement, urging the public to remember that vets are not typically responsible for pricing structures.

Call for Legislative Reform

The CMA has recognised the need for urgent reform of the outdated Veterinary Surgeons Act, advocating for the regulation of vet practices. The BVA has long campaigned for these changes, asserting that the current legislation is inadequate and fails both vet teams and clients. The BVA hopes the CMA’s investigation will underscore the necessity for reform and garner cross-party support ahead of the General Election.

In response to the CMA’s initial review, the BVA recently published guidance aimed at helping vet practices enhance client choice by improving transparency around fees and practice ownership. This guidance provides veterinary professionals with tools to address some of the CMA’s concerns, promoting better-informed decisions for pet owners.