Skip to content

The CMA’s vet industry investigation, explained

The CMA’s vet industry investigation, explained
by Lucinda Beeman

Read time: 5 min

It’s been almost a month since the Competition and Markets Authority – tasked with keeping the UK economy fair and competitive – launched a formal investigation into the veterinary industry. 

But what does that mean? And why should UK cat parents be paying attention? 

Why did the CMA pick veterinary practices? 

Because there are more pet parents than ever in the UK – 16 million, in fact. (Thanks in part to all those pandemic pets.) Which means vets are more in demand than ever. 

How did they decide to open an official investigation? 

Quite simply, they asked UK pet parents and veterinary professionals whether they should. And if they did, what they should look into. 

In the end, the CMA received 56,000 responses to their Call for Information. Including 45,000 from the general public. And 11,000 from veterinary professionals themselves. Big numbers, by any  measure. 

What are the CMA’s main concerns? 

The CMA cited five major concerns in their decision to open an investigation. 

It’s tough for pet parents to compare practices and treatment options.

Because most vet practices don’t display prices online. Pet parents don’t shop around. And surgeries aren’t obliged to say when they’re owned by the same parent company. So even when pet parents do compare practices, they’re not always comparing competitors. Confusing stuff. 

Lots of practices in the same area are owned by the same people.

Because the sector is consolidating. Fast. In 2013, 10% of vet practices belonged to big groups. Now that share is almost 60%. Which means even if you did want to shop around? You might not be able to. Because all of your local practices have the same owner.

Big vet groups are getting pretty powerful.

And have started buying businesses related to pet care. Like diagnostic labs and referral centres. So if they wanted to raise prices or lower quality of service, they could probably get away with it.  

Pet parents might be overpaying for medicine .

Because even though vets have to use signs to tell customers that they can fill prescriptions elsewhere? The CMA isn’t sure they’re effective. 

The regulatory framework is way outdated.

Because it dates back to 1996. And a lot has changed since then. 

What’s next for the investigation? 

The CMA’s consultation wraps up on the 11th of April, 2024. Then the CMA will consider all of the responses it received. And decide how to proceed. 

What do vets think about the investigation? 

Vets are people – so opinions vary. But Dr. Anna Judson, President of the British Veterinary Association, welcomed the investigation as a valuable opportunity. To reflect on how veterinary teams and practices can continue to provide clients with the best possible service. 

She said, “Rising prices are a concern for everyone, but it’s vital to recognise that there is no NHS for vets…. At the British Veterinary Association, we’re keen to see healthy competition and consumer choice and so are already taking steps to support vet practices to be more transparent both in terms of cost and practice ownership.” 

She continued: “It’s important to remember that vets enter this high-pressure profession out of genuine care for animals and will always prioritise their health and welfare.” 

Why should cat parents care? 

Because regular vet visits are part of going all-in for cat health. And more competition in the vet industry could make them more affordable. And the costs clearer. Plus, relieve some of the pressure on vets themselves. 

Want to see a healthier, happier cat? Try our fresh recipes today.

Related articles