Q: My golden retriever was limping. Our usual vet practice was absorbed by a group last year and I was directed to their weekend surgery. After examining William, the vet said he needed blood tests and x-rays and prescribed strong painkillers meanwhile. When we returned for the results the same vet said William had cancer in his foot which had spread. He would need to be put to sleep. In complete shock, I said I needed more time with him, and I took him home. By then I had spent £1800.
Friends persuaded me to request a second opinion. I took him to another practice in the group. They expressed surprise that no scan had been done and recommended a full body scan costing over £2,500. The results of that showed arthritis and spondylitis caused by an old injury. He was not dying. I wrote to the group to complain and demand a refund. I received excuses, no acknowledgement of wrong diagnosis due to incompetence and no refund. What should I do?
A: In consumer law vets are regarded as service providers, which means your rights are protected when purchasing a service from them. From what you say, it would seem the first vet failed to provide an adequate service. More importantly, had you accepted his diagnosis you may well have lost poor William forever.
As with any product or service, if it fails to meet the level of quality you expect and for which you have paid a fair price, you are entitled to have it performed again at no additional cost. Yet, the second vet, having proved that you were right to request a second opinion and the first diagnosis was incorrect, charged you again. There is little doubt that you are entitled to reimbursement of at least some fees, and probably compensation for your distress as this is a special contract. A solicitor who deals with civil compensation can advise you how to proceed.
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