Trading Standards has questioned whether patients buying prescription spectacles realise that the display frames they try on are the ones they will ultimately purchase.
In the wake of this, the Optical Confederation (OC) has taken legal advice and produced guidance on the steps that practices can take to manage the risk of breaching the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations.
The OC recommends that all practices review the information that they currently provide to customers.
Practical steps that optical businesses can take to ensure they are meeting their obligations include displaying a notice that lets customers know that frames on display may be the ones that are sold.
Where frames on display are being sold to a customer, then practice staff should explain this and point out any defects or issues with the display frames.
Practices are also encouraged to consider including wording on the customer order form that explains that the frames being fitted and purchased are the ones that the customer tried on.
The OC explains in its guidance that selling frames that are, or have previously been, on display without informing the customer of this could be viewed by the courts as a ‘misleading omission.’
“This is because information as to whether the spectacle frames being sold were those on display may affect a customer’s decision to buy,” the guidance states.
The guidance elaborates that, for example, a customer may be concerned that there would be an increased possibility of wear and tear on display frames, and may either seek a discount or wait until a boxed pair is available.
It also explains that the legislation in this area is consumer-friendly, so the courts are likely to find in favour of the consumer if there is any doubt.
AOP policy director, Tony Stafford, told OT that the new guidance focuses on simple practical steps that members can take to manage risks.
“Many members will think it’s obvious to patients that the frames they’re buying are from display, but the legal advice the OC has received makes it clear that there is a genuine risk if a customer thinks they haven’t been given all the facts,” he highlighted.