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October 15, 2021

Chewy sues companies on allegations of misleading customers, diverting sales

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Pet product retailer Chewy is accusing a software provider and a competing pharmacy company of conspiring to divert prescriptions placed with Chewy.

In May, attorneys for Chewy filed a lawsuit in New York state against Vetcove, which provides software for veterinary practices, and Covetrus, which provides pharmacy services for veterinary practices. The complaint filed in court also indicates that Chewy may later name other defendants in the lawsuit.

“Vetcove and Covetrus intentionally interfere with the pet parent’s order of regulated pet products placed with Chewy,” the complaint states. The complaint also alleges that the other companies’ actions have delayed delivery of needed medications and hurt Chewy’s relationship with its customers.

Veterinarian, patient and client

At press time in September, attorneys for Vetcove had not yet filed a response and had not responded to requests for comment from JAVMA News. In August, attorneys for Covetrus sought dismissal of the complaint against the company, stating in a filing with the court that Chewy’s complaint fails to allege any wrongdoing by Covetrus and countering that Chewy was trying to prevent veterinarians from communicating with their own clients when it comes to sales of prescription products.

According to Chewy’s complaint, veterinary clinics use Vetcove’s prescription management software to handle requests from outside retailers such as Chewy to verify prescriptions for drugs or food when clients order from that retailer.

Chewy’s attorneys allege that, in multiple instances since late 2020, veterinarians authorized the requests, but the software responded by sending messages to the clients that appear to come from their veterinarian or veterinary clinic. Those messages, according to the complaint, suggested the clinic could offer additional discounts on the prescription products or that further action was needed to complete the order.

If clients followed links in the messages and placed new orders with Covetrus, the Vetcove software would send messages to the original retailers denying the requests for authorization, the complaint alleges.

A court filing from early September indicates that Vetcove would file a response to the complaint by Oct. 8.

Attorneys for Covetrus responded by seeking a dismissal of their client, indicating in part that the lawsuit focuses on accusations against Vetcove and participating veterinarians yet also seeks to hold Covetrus responsible for an undefined conspiracy. The attorneys also wrote that the lawsuit lacks any descriptions of actions by Covetrus under the jurisdiction of the New York state court.