Which? consumer survey tips draw criticism from the optics profession

Advice to consumers from Which? to shop around between opticians is “unhelpful to patients buying prescription eyewear”

Professional adviser at the AOP, Geoff Roberson

Which? the UK consumer body, has published a new survey, including insight into the “best place to have an eye test” and “buy glasses.” The report also offers five “tips for buying glasses” – the content of which has drawn criticism from the optics community.

In the article, Which? states: “According to our survey results, the best place for an eye test isn't necessarily the best place to buy glasses.

“We asked customers to rate their optician for eye tests, buying glasses as well as their overall satisfaction with the whole experience. Some shops score much better for eye tests than they do for buying glasses and vice versa, so it may well be wise to have your eyes tested in one place, but switch to a different store to actually buy any glasses you need."

The report continues: “For example, one supermarket optician brand is ranked second out of nine by people who bought glasses there, with five-star ratings for price, value for money and offers, whereas it’s only eighth out of 12 for eye testing. And one large optician store's customers rate its eye testing better than for buying glasses, with all but one of its glasses-buying scores – including value for money and range of products – rated average.”

Describing the advice as “unhelpful to patients buying prescription eyewear,” the Optical Confederation (OC) has released a statement saying: “Getting the right pair of glasses, with a prescription that suits the user, and a fit that is right as well as comfortable, is more complicated than it seems. Problems with eyewear can be more common when patients exercise their right to take their prescription and shop around.”

Speaking for the OC, professional adviser at the AOP, Geoff Roberson, said: “Many patients understandably view their prescription as being either ‘right’ or ‘wrong,’ but there are many factors involved in the prescribing and dispensing of tailored visual correction wear. The lenses and the fit of the glasses work together towards a good or bad result.

“Glasses are bespoke items, tailored to individuals’ needs, and not all frames or lens types are suitable for all people so it’s important that a patient gets a professional service which optimises their vision and lifestyle. When buying glasses, the things to consider are – purpose, vision correction, quality, fit, comfort and eye health. It is very often better, as well as easier, to have glasses dispensed where the sight test is conducted,” Mr Roberson highlighted.

OC chair, Chris Hunt said: “As Which? shows, the UK eye health sector is second to none and brings high-quality care and choice to over 21m people a year, protecting the nation’s sight and playing an important public health role in the early identification of eye disease.

“People access optical services for a variety of reasons – to check the health of their eyes, to find affordable vision correction for their lifestyle, including high fashion styles, and to protect their vision, for example from the sun or industrial situations. This is reflected in the wide range of different provider models and approaches patients can choose from whilst showing universally high scores for satisfaction wherever people decide to go,” Mr Hunt emphasised.