GOC launches consultation on illegal practice strategy
The regulator hopes registrant feedback will enable it to be more proactive in its approach
02 November 2021
The General Optical Council (GOC) has launched a consultation on a revised illegal practice strategy and protocol.
It is hoped that the consultation, which will close on 13 December, will enable the optical regulator to be more proactive in its approach.
What is ‘illegal practice’?
The GOC described illegal optical practice as “conduct that amounts to a criminal offence under Part IV of the Opticians Act 1989.”
The regular added: “The GOC’s mission is to protect the public and, although not a specific statutory duty, it may act on reports about alleged illegal practice when necessary to protect the public.”
The regulator’s current approach is reactive to complaints received. The strategy and protocol were last reviewed in 2015.
Changes being proposed include the addition of criteria to assess complaints so that only complaints about an alleged offence under the Opticians Act are accepted, and matters outside of the scope are referred elsewhere at an early stage.
An approach to illegal online sales will also be set out, which the GOC hopes will allow it to be more proactive through the building of relationships with online platforms who may have the power to stop and eventually prevent illegal sales from occurring.
Early lawyer input into investigations will also be considered, as will greater clarity on when the GOC will consider a prosecution by outlining the specific factors it will assess.
The introduction of a process for test purchases, to obtain evidence of an illegal sale in cases where the GOC suspects illegal sales are continuing after a cease-and-desist letter has been sent, is also part of the consultation.
GOC director of casework and resolutions, Dionne Spence, said: “We really hope the revised strategy and protocol will provide clarity and raise awareness about our remit and about when we can bring prosecutions, and when alternatives to prosecution will be the preferred route.
“We believe that more collaborative working to prevent illegal practice from occurring will provide the best outcome for the public and our sector. We encourage our stakeholders to respond to the consultation before we implement the revised approach early next year.”
The consultation can be responded to via the GOC consultation hub.
The AOP has also launched its own campaign on illegal practice. Find out more about the #KnowYourLenses campaign here.