Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) Launches Formal Probe into Vet Corporates

The CMA is launching a formal investigation into the UK Veterinary sector to help save what is left of a monopoly dominated market. This comes late in the day for many people. After an initial review of the UK vets market raised multiple concerns.  The BBC, Sky News and the Guardian have all reported on the issue this year. Mass complaints and frustrations from pet owners about price hikes. These can often result in them being abusive to vet surgeons and veterinary nurses in practice.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said it wanted to move forward with a full review after an initial enquiry triggered a massive response from over 56,000 people including customers and vet professionals, who raised a number of concerns about practices within the £2bn industry. There are sixteen million pet owners in the UK and the CMA believes that the increasing concentration of the industry in the hands of six leading veterinary groups is leading to diminished choice and higher prices.

The groups in questions are:

IVC – Independent Vetcare


Companion Care/ Vets4Pets


Vet Partners


Graham Watson’s insight into the profession:

UK Veterinary Groups will be forced to comply and cap their fees which have increased by over 400% in some cases. In addition they will have to sell off parts of their business in certain areas.  Staggeringly they have been allowed to buy entire market share of practices in areas. Often meaning there is only only choice to use in an area, even though the individual practices have different names. IVC/ Independent Vetcare own almost a third of the profession on their own. They are owned by a private equity firm EQT.  All of the 6 groups are owned by hedge funds and private equity firms that have nothing to do with the profession whatsoever. Using the standard model of buying a business, tripling it’s value and selling it in 3-4 years- all of the unnecessary assets are stripped (admin and practice management staff) , costs increased and working times for staff increased. You can see where this has been going.

The growth of  these 6 groups has increased exponentially over the last 15 years. As an example whereas 89% of vets were independent in 2013, 8 years later that reached over 45%, with now almost three quarters of the sector owned by these six large corporate chains.

The initial investigation of the veterinary sector, has concluded that there’s a need for a full report into the sector because of a lack of price transparency and concerns that customers have been over-charged.

It’s interesting to note that 80% of vets don’t have any prices on display, and another thing that might imply exploitation of consumers is the changing nature of the sector.

The spectre of a totally burnt out, apathetic and over targeted profession has been increasing in proportion with this increase.  Read any vet forum and you will see regular frustration and concerns over staff being required to charge higher fees than they are comfortable with. Independents are not bound by the same pricing structures. We can only hope that the CMA continues to enquire in this issue and enforce accordingly. Veterinary Surgeon jobs have always been the primary focus for our agency, the health of  the profession is paramount here. These steps are incredibly important to restore balance, and hopefully salvage what is a superb example of a true UK profession.


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