December 3rd 2021

Consumer Rights at Christmas

With Christmas and the season of gift giving nearly upon us, we look at what are our consumer rights in regard to opticians as we focus on the important distinction within consumer rights law, that of a bespoke item.

The Consumer Rights Act 2015 enshrines in law certain provisions where it is possible to receive a refund on certain items purchased from an optician.

In an interview with the ABDO, Jennie Jones, Head of the OCCS, on the act says: ‘this act puts on an official footing that a refund should be done within 14 days of agreement, and in the way it was paid – that is, a cash refund for a cash payment or a refund onto the card that was used to pay. More often than not, however, this will make little difference to optical practices. If you agree to a refund in the practice, it is made there and then.’

But there is a very important distinction to be had in regard to refunds: that of a bespoke vs a ready-to-wear item. A product that is tailored to an individual, e.g. a pair of prescription glasses for example, would not be valid for a refund.

An off-the-shelf pair of sunglasses would, however. Whilst a sporting goods store may be happy to accept a return on any basis, this may not be appropriate where glasses are specifically ordered and created for you.

In essence, statutory consumer rights state that if the service or product supplied is defective then you are entitled to a refund or replacement. If you are unhappy in any way, the statutory authority suggests speaking to the optician and explain your concerns. Most opticians will work with you to resolve matters once they understand why you are dissatisfied.

If you need help or guidance on how to present your concerns to an optician, you can contact the OCCS. We would recommend that if a complaint cannot be resolved informally, then it is put in writing, and you ask the practice to follow their complaints procedure. This will hopefully lead to any concerns being allayed or the necessary adjustments undertaken.

To summarise, if the glasses are an off-the-shelf purchase (non-prescription) you as a consumer are more than likely eligible for a refund. However, should the gift be bespoke or tailored to the individual then it is important to engage in a dialogue with your optician should the recipient or wearer be unhappy.

Often most opticians will be understanding of the matter and attempt to resolve the issue. We suggest being open and maintaining dialogue, to be able to offer specific reasons as to why the item is not fit for purpose. As part of their duty of care, most opticians will want to work with you to adjust the fit or strength of the prescription to ensure they fit.

Of course, sometimes disputes do occur and that is where the OCCS may be able to assist. We help both the consumer and practice to re-engage in dialogue to find a mutually beneficial outcome for all involved.

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