View from the AIO: The illegal sale of contact lenses
AIO and its members have long been frustrated that the illegal sale of contact lenses continues on the high street and internet.
While it is the GOC’s job to protect the public against this, they do not have direct responsibility for enforcement of the law – that rests with Trading Standards. Trading Standards are part of hard pressed local authorities across the country and are generally underfunded and very stretched. This means they cannot take a proactive approach to policing the illegal sale of lenses and will only act if specific instances are reported.
So how does the reporting process work? Well, the approach AIO has taken is to report instances of illegal practice to the GOC who will then take the matter up with the offending organisation. If they are unsuccessful in resolving the issue, they will refer the matter to Trading Standards for enforcement action.
While this process is convoluted, and any change would require statutory intervention – the industry has to work with what it has got.
As Halloween goes by, the illegal sale of lenses soars and there often follow stories of damage caused to young people’s eyes as a direct result. AIO believes it is time for a programme to stamp out the illegal sale of contact lenses.
As part of their statutory responsibility to protect the public, the GOC should proactively monitor the internet to identify sites illegally selling lenses, and take direct action to make them stop. If this does not work then Trading Standards should be approached to take down the offending websites.
Alongside this, the GOC should offer a service for optical practices to report offenders on the high street, referring them on to Trading Standards if needed.