Watchdog sticks nose into CVS deal amid concern at loss of independent vets

The group would dominate veterinary services in five areas if its takeover of The Vet goes ahead, the competition watchdog found.

18 February 2022

The competition watchdog could slow the gradual disappearance of independent veterinary practices from UK high streets after it waded into a new deal in the sector.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said that it would require vet group CVS to make new proposals or face a deepening investigation into its takeover of Quality Pet Care, which trades as The Vet.

The Vet runs eight veterinary practices in the UK.

The deal was announced in August but was put on ice by the CMA a month later when it announced plans to look into whether it could harm competition.

On Friday, it said that the deal would mean that CVS would dominate the vet market in five local areas.

If the takeover goes ahead, the company will provide more than 30% of all veterinary services in Bristol, Nottingham, Portsmouth, Southampton and Warrington, the CMA said.

About 17 million homes own pets across the UK, and they spend about £4 billion a year on vets and other services for pets.

Despite this, the power of vets has been concentrated in ever fewer hands in recent years.

Data cited by the CMA show that independent vets made up 89% of the UK industry in 2013, this had halved by 2021 to just 45%.

This is mainly as a result of independent practices being bought by big corporate groups, such as CVS.

“Pets are much-loved members of millions of households across the UK and, when veterinary care is needed, it’s important that pet owners have access to a good service at the right price,” said CMA senior director of mergers, Colin Raftery.

“The CMA has received a number of complaints in recent years about higher prices or lower quality services as a result of too many vets’ practices in the same area being under the control of a single company.

“This deal could lead to customers facing more limited treatment choices for their pets or paying over the odds for services in these areas. Should CVS fail to address our concerns we will refer the deal for an in-depth investigation.”

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