April 15, 2024

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Vet prices need to be made clearer, says Which?

3 min read

A review of veterinary services in the UK needs to ensure that pricing is made clearer, a consumer body has said.

Vet prices need to be made clearer, says Which?
Vet prices need to be made clearer, says Which?

Which? said it had found evidence of unclear pricing and potential cases of overtreatment, with 73% of pet owners calling consultation fees expensive.

The UK’s competition watchdog is reviewing the sector over worries that pet owners could be paying too much.

But the British Veterinary Association said prices were a “fair reflection” of the cost of treating each animal.

The vet industry is worth £2bn, with pet ownership rising to two-thirds of UK households during the Covid pandemic. Although that figures has since fallen.

Which? said had it found a number of problems around information on pricing and treatment, after it surveyed 2,000 pet owners who had used a vet in the past 12 months and also looked at the websites of veterinary practices.

It found that three-quarters of pet owners thought vet consultation fees were expensive.

Meanwhile, 82% thought vet treatments and medications were expensive but found it hard to shop around because prices were not usually displayed on websites.

Which? said more than a third, or 36%, of pet owners told them they only found out about how much the treatment cost when they were at the reception after the appointment.

It also said that more than a quarter of pet owners it surveyed had doubted at some point whether a recommended treatment was really necessary.

Of those who had gone ahead with the treatment that they were not sure was needed, nearly three in 10 told Which? they did so because they not have enough information.

“Millions of UK households own pets and consider them part of the family – which leaves them exposed to practices such as unclear pricing and unnecessary treatment if a pet falls ill,” said Sue Davies, Which?’s head of consumer protection policy.

“Which?’s findings show that shopping around and getting reliable information about paying for veterinary services is much more difficult than it should be. That’s why it’s important that the Competition and Markets Authority review gets to the bottom of this issue and ensures pet owners are treated fairly when they seek help from a vet.”

However, British Veterinary Association (BVA) president Anna Judson said: “Vets deliver highly specialised, tailored care for the UK’s pets and the cost is a fair reflection of investment in medical equipment, supplies and medicines, and the time vet teams dedicate to the care of each patient.”

The BVA also called Which?’s survey “unfair” and said it was “very disappointing to see Which? magazine canvassing its readers for only negative experiences of veterinary care”.

“Any conclusion it draws will clearly fail to provide a balanced and accurate picture of veterinary care in the UK and has the potential to be highly damaging to the morale and wellbeing of vet teams, many of whom are already under severe pressure going into the busy festive period,” said Ms Judson.

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