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The new service was reported in The Times, in an article titled "How much should your vet cost? Pet owners bitten by untamed fees."
Since launch, VetHelpDirect has offered owners information to help them pick a veterinary practice, including reviews, ratings (including a value for money score), RCVS accreditation, cat/ rabbit friendly status, health plan details and how out of hours cover is provided.
It has now added some basic information about each practices' charges, specifically the first consultation fee, a dog castrate and health plans, and then categorised them according with £££££ signs to indicate how far above or below the average they sit.
Susie said: “Most practices will give out these prices over the telephone, but there’s no way for the client to find them without directly getting in touch, something people are less and less likely to want to do nowadays.
"Our research data suggests that people want to find this information online, just as they would in any other service industry.
"When they can’t find any information at all on pricing, there can be a perception of secrecy that can do damage to the vet-owner relationship.”
Susie added: “True comparison for vet practices is of course very complex and no basket of services is ever going to capture the whole complexity.
"Every practice is different, from facilities and team qualifications; to the time allotted for consultations; to monitoring equipment for surgery; and of course the level of investigations undertaken which can also vary from vet to vet.”
“We can’t solve all this straight away but we started from a good place, over the years we have built up more information about vet practices than any other website.
"The aim is to provide commonly requested prices for owners to easily access and to add more and more detail on the vet practices over time so that owners can make the most informed choice on the vet that's most appropriate for them and their pet”.
VetHelpDirect says it will soon be adding prescription fees and out of hours consultation, and a much wider range of species-specific fees in the near future.
The company also points to the Competition and Markets Authority investigation into pricing in the UK, highlighting that in its 2019 Report into Funerals in the UK, the CMA noted that weaknesses in the sector included the fact that less than 40% of funeral directors posted any form of pricing online, and those that did were frequently not in a form that made for easy comparison.
Susie says the veterinary sector has an even lower rate of online pricing transparency.
To add your pricing information to VetHelpDirect, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Whilst greater transparency over pricing in almost any field is surely to be welcomed, it seems questionable whether comparing prices for consultations and standard procedures will be of much help to pet owners, because things like the level of investigations, how defensively a clinician practises and the owner's own relationship with risk are likely to have a far greater impact on the bill than whether a consult costs £20 more or less up the road.
There is perhaps also a risk of practices rated as '£££££ / more expensive than average' will be seen as just that. Expensive and nothing more.
It's not like a restaurant where £££££ usually means particularly delicious.
Whilst this may not matter much whilst so many practices are having to turn away business, it may become more important in the future.
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