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FAQs For Consumers

I have written to the optician with my complaint but they have not replied. What do I do?

The various professional bodies who represent different optical professionals offer guidance on complaints handling processes. For example, The Association of Optometrists issue guidance to optometrists indicating that the practice should resolve a complaint within 8 weeks. The OCCS will consider each complaint separately, but recommend that professionals follow that advice. As a consumer, the OCCS will consider your complaint and assist in starting a dialogue to encourage the optician to provide a response to the complaint raised. 

I am unhappy with the glasses I have purchased. Do I have to complain to the Optician or can I come straight to OCCS?

You are welcome to contact the OCCS at any time if you have a query regarding the eye care or service you have received from an optician. If you have a complaint we will ask you to raise this with the practice, and can in certain circumstances help you to do this. 
It is important to raise your concerns with the practice as they may be able to resolve the problem with you directly. If the practice will not or cannot resolve the complaint, then it is important that your concerns are clearly explained so there is no confusion or misunderstanding. We therefore recommend that an email or letter of complaint should be sent to the practice. This should include:

  • What has happened;
  • Why you are dissatisfied;
  • How you would like to see the complaint resolved;
  • When you expect to hear from the practice (this must be a reasonable period of time).
  • We will ask you to send us a copy of the complaint raised and any response from the practice. 

If you are unable to prepare a written complaint, we can assist you so please get in touch. 

If you are worried that the circumstances of your complaint involve an emergency or a serious risk to your health, then please contact OCCS immediately and we will offer guidance on where to complain or what action you should consider. 

If you are worried about your eye health or have noticed any sudden change and your optician is not responding to you, then please consult your GP, another optician or contact NHS 111 immediately.

My optician has agreed to refund the cost of my glasses but I have not received this yet. Can I ask you to help?

Yes, please contact us either by calling 0344 800 5071 or complete our online complaint form. 

We will need to ask you to provide your written agreement for the practice to discuss your complaint with us in accordance with rules on patient confidentiality. Once we have this, we can then speak to the practice on your behalf and see if matters can be resolved quickly.

 

Can I take my prescription from one optician to another and purchase glasses or contact lenses?

Yes, you can take your prescription to another optician and buy glasses from another practice. An optician is obliged to provide you with the written prescription following the eye examination. You are then able to take the prescription to another practice. 

By law, the prescription must provide the basic results of the eye examination. There are however other measurements or results which are needed to dispense glasses but these will need to be taken by the 'dispensing practice' (practice where you buy the glasses). This can sometimes cause difficulties when purchasing online but the law does not require the examining optometrist to include these details as they may vary depending on the type of frames and lenses selected. 

At the OCCS we do find that resolving difficulties and dissatisfaction can be more complex where two practices have been involved. 

The College of Optometry has designed a form of words which optometrists may refer to on their prescriptions: ‘You have a right to have your prescription dispensed wherever you choose. However, as prescribing and dispensing of spectacles are closely linked it is best to have your spectacles dispensed where you have your eyes examined. It is often more difficult to resolve any problems you may have with your spectacles when prescribing and supply are separated’.

If the practices are referring you to one another or not listening to your complaint, please contact the OCCS for guidance and we will try to liaise with both practices and help find a resolution. 

We are working with the organisations involved in eye care to establish some guidance for opticians when these complaints arise and will publish this as soon as this is finalised.

 

I am unhappy with my glasses, do you advise that I visit another optician and buy another pair of glasses and then go back to the first optician to claim a refund?

No, this is not always the best way forward. 

As glasses or lenses are made for you to your prescription, it is important that the optician has the opportunity to try and fit or adjust the glasses as this may remedy the problem. If you are dissatisfied with your glasses or lenses, then raise this with the practice. You can lodge a formal complaint but initially speak to someone in the practice and ask for their help. There are a variety of reasons why glasses may not be correcting your vision for example, your eyes or your lifestyle may not adapt to a new or different type or manufacturer of lenses, the frames may need adjusting or your prescription may need reviewing. In many situations, the optician will be able to assist and resolve the problem.  

If you have asked for help or you feel that you cannot return to the practice for any reason, then it is still important that you raise your concerns and complaint with them. This should be done in writing. If you need particular assistance with this, then please call us on 0344 800 5071. 

There may be situations where you urgently need new glasses or lenses. If so, please contact us and we will offer you guidance on the best way to progress your complaint. 

Until an optician has agreed to give a refund, there is no guarantee that one will be given by the practice or that a refund is the appropriate solution. It is therefore important that this is established before you spend more money on another pair of spectacles. If you feel that a optician should offer a refund and they are unwilling to do so, then please contact us and we can give you guidance and if necessary mediate your complaint.

Can you make the optician give me a refund?

The OCCS will investigate a complaint and help those involved reach an agreement. We cannot force either the consumer or the optician to make or accept a proposal, but we will help the parties involved find a fair solution, and this may include a refund where appropriate. 

The optician says it is too late to complain?

The Opticians Act and the General Optical Council (GOC) Code of Conduct set out the responsibilities and obligations of the optical professionals. 

The GOC are also required by law to fund and provide a complaints mediation service for consumer complaints. The regulation and law governing opticians does not set out a complaints resolution process, and does not set out any deadlines for complaining to either the practices or the regulators. 

As such, there is no fixed time limit, but it is advisable to raise any concerns or complaints as soon as possible to give the optician the opportunity to resolve any issues. The OCCS recommends that complaints be investigated and a resolved by the optician within 8 weeks, but this is only guidance and will depend on the circumstances of the complaint. 

In most circumstances, we would ask that a consumer contacts us within 12 months of the complaint arising with the practice. If your complaint arose more than 12 months ago, we may still be able to assist, but will review the circumstances of your complaint and advise whether mediation would be possible. 

If an optician is not responding to your complaint, then contact us to discuss the available options.

The optician missed something but is refusing to listen to me. What should I do?

The majority of dissatisfied consumers will speak to the practice or the optician, and the complaint will be resolved. If this does not happen because the optician refuses to listen, then you should:

  • Ask for the practice’s complaints procedure, and follow this through to the end 
  • Ask to speak to a senior member of the management team, either in that practice or at the consumer experience/complaints team for that organisation. 
  • If the complaint is still not heard, then contact the OCCS.

 

If I refer my complaint to the OCCS, will I have to speak to the optician or go to a meeting?

No, the OCCS team will speak to each party separately and will only arrange a telephone conversation with the consumer and the optician/practice if this is appropriate and likely to be of help in finding a solution. The consumer and the optician must agree to this. 

How long will it take?

The OCCS aim to be working with the practice and the consumer to get a solution agreed within 45 days of accepting your complaint. This timescale may be extended if there is a delay in obtaining all the relevant information but we will keep you informed. 

On average in 2016-17, the average time between a consumer returning the signed complaint authority to concluding the mediation was 28.4 days.

How much will it cost?

The service is free for consumers. The OCCS is funded by the General Optical Council. There is no charge to optical professionals or practices who want advice or guidance on complaints handling and resolution. 

How can I refer my complaint to the Optical Consumer Complaints Service?

You can refer your complaint to the OCCS by:

  • Calling us on 0344 800 5071 between 8am - 6pm Monday to Friday
  • Completing the full complaint form
  • Emailing the OCCS as enquiries@opticalcomplaints.co.uk
  • Writing to the OCCS, 6 Market Square, Bishop's Stortford, Herts, CM23 3UZ

We will need you to give your consent for the optician and practice to release your personal details and records to us. A copy of this form can be downloaded from our Resources section.

I am optometrist or dispensing optician with a query. What can I do?

We are more than happy to offer members of the optical professions guidance and an opportunity to talk through an issue or a complaint. This helpline is free and may help to resolve a complaint within the practice.

To contact to one of our team:

  • Call us on 0344 800 5071 between 8am - 6pm Monday to Friday
  • Email the OCCS as enquiries@opticalcomplaints.co.uk
  • Write to the OCCS, 6 Market Square, Bishops Stortford, Herts, CM23 3UZ

 

Do I need a solicitor to get legal advice?

It is not necessary to get legal advice and you do not need to appoint a solicitor. We will ensure all information is provided in plain English and are here to answer any questions or provide further explanation. As mediators, we cannot give you specific legal advice but we can help you to understand the relevant legal rights and obligations. If we think it is necessary or advisable for you to obtain independent legal advice, or in the case of an optical practice, to refer the matter to your insurers, then we will tell you. You are of course entitled to seek independent legal advice if you wish to do so. We will always communicate directly with you or your personal representative, if you have appointed one as it is not necessary or cost effective for you if we communicate with solicitors. 

What happens if I change my mind and do not want to continue with mediation?

Either party is able to end the mediation at any time. Mediation is a voluntary process. We do ask both parties to consider carefully at the outset whether they feel mediation is appropriate.

If we reach an agreement what does that actually mean? 

The OCCS is a mediation service. This means we do not make a judgment or give a decision to resolve the complaint. We aim to use mediation to help both parties agree a resolution. If an agreement is found, this is confirmed in writing and provided to both parties so each party knows exactly was agreed and what action they have to take, if any and when. 

If the parties agree a resolution, this becomes a binding agreement on the parties, and can be enforced by either party. 

We would advise that where the resolution agreed is practical ie replacing the glasses or adjusting the fit of the frame it is unlikely to be ordered by a court and therefore not all agreed resolutions will be enforceable by a court.
 

Do I have put everything in writing or can I speak to someone? 

The OCCS team are happy to speak to consumers or practices on the telephone initially. 
We do have an online complaint form which is the quickest way to submit details to us, and can speed up the initial stages of the mediation. Once we have the initial information and confirm the complaint falls within our remit, the mediation process is generally dealt with on the telephone. Sometimes information will be exchanged by email or letter, but mediation works best when your assigned resolution manager can speak with you and then the other party. We find this is the most effective way of progressing matters. 

We will summarise discussions in writing for you when appropriate or necessary, and you will receive written confirmation of the outcome. 

In exceptional circumstances we can conduct the mediation process in writing, and we are happy to discuss this with you if you think this would be more appropriate for you.  

2016-17 has been an incredibly busy year for the OCCS. As practices become more aware of what we do, and consumers learn more about the service, we have seen an increase of 45% in complaint enquiries. There are over 22 million sight tests and eye examinations each year. The overwhelming majority of these are an efficient and positive experience for the consumer and the practice. The OCCS is here to help when a complaint arises and on the rare occasion, that the consumer’s concerns cannot be resolved. Just over half of the enquiries received concern complaints at an early stage and we encourage the consumer to raise their concerns with the practice. If matters cannot be resolved, we are here and I am incredibly proud of the OCCS team’s commitment and dedication to helping find a resolution for both parties. The 2016-17 OCCS Annual Report is now available and provides more information on the OCCS activity during 2016-17 and what we can learn from these complaints and enquiries going forward.