July 27th 2023

Complaint Focus: Goods & Services

Recently, the OCCS published our latest insights report which quantifies and reviews all of the work that has been carried out by the OCCS. The Annual Report explores the various complaint types and work that the service is carrying out to make the sector perform more efficiently and effectively. In today’s blog, we share a key takeaway from our report – that of the greatest share of complaints received in the last year are related to goods and services.

Between 1st April 2022 and 31st March 2023, the OCCS received 1707 complaints, 1588 of which fell into remit, which is consistent with activity in 2021-22. Of course, it is crucial to keep in mind that last year’s total represented a 21.5% rise in complaints submitted to the OCCS when compared to 2019-20, the service has maintained its position as an effective resource for those seeking to settle a dispute regarding their experience with the optical sector.

In terms of the most significant increase in complaint types – those seeking compensation – the increasing effects of the cost-of-living crisis may be influencing the remedy sought by a consumer. For a claim for compensation to be pursued, the consumer would have to establish harm due to negligence of breach of contract. Analysis of the complaints in the category do not suggest that we are seeing more potentially negligent care. Indeed, the growing number of consumers who insist that their dispute can only be resolved by way of financial remuneration is a clear sign that economic hardship is surfacing in the sector.

More than a third of people (35%) have resorted to cutting back their spending on food and other essentials, according to the Office for National Statistics.

With eye tests costing at least £20 and Optometry Today reporting that the average Brit will buy 26 pairs of glasses in their lifetime at a typical cost of £120 per pair (rising to £158 for those living in London), it’s clear to see that – for people forced to choose between heating and eating – visiting their optician might not be at the top of their priority list.

Conditions like glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, wet AMD and cataracts – which many people aren’t aware they have until they visit their optician because they’re often symptomless in their early stages – are going undetected for longer. If left untreated, they can cause irreversible sight loss, so early intervention is essential.

The expense of eye care isn’t the only issue people are facing – accessing ophthalmic services is becoming increasingly difficult too. In their latest report, Specsavers note that 633,000 people were waiting for NHS ophthalmology appointments in May 2022, and only 64% of ophthalmology patients were seen within the NHS’ recommended 18-week timeframe. This means that even people who do visit their opticians are often left waiting for follow-up appointments with their local hospital if any issues are identified during their eye exam.

As the cost of essential goods and services rises faster than incomes many households across the UK are cutting back in many areas. They may find it harder to afford the same goods and services they used to purchase before the crisis. This financial strain can amplify feelings of frustration, leading to more complaints about the perceived unaffordability of essential items. If you are unsure about the price of services, it is important to understand costings and discuss pricing with your optician before agreeing to a purchase.

If you are struggling with the cost of living, there may be help available to you. The NHS offer a Low Income Scheme to help those who may be struggling to pay for prescriptions, for more information visit https://www.nhs.uk/nhs-services/help-with-health-costs/nhs-low-income-scheme-lis/

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