Tackling illegal practice
General Optical Council eBulletin 40
February 2019

Tackling illegal practice - working with Trading Standards

In our ongoing work to protect the public, we do a lot of joint work with Trading Standards Officers (TSOs) across the UK to tackle illegal practice, such as the illegal selling of zero powered lenses (ZPLs) or using a protected title without being registered appropriately.

Out of all the complaints we receive, the highest number is about the illegal supply of ZPLs. The Opticians Act provides that “zero powered contact lenses can be sold only by or under the supervision of a registered medical practitioner, registered dispensing optician or registered optometrist.”

However, the Act does not grant us statutory investigation or prosecution powers and therefore, we take a risk-focused approach in managing such complaints.

We inform businesses that are allegedly selling ZPLs illegally about the Opticians Act and our process for managing complaints of illegal practice, and ask for confirmation that they are not involved in selling ZPLs or are doing so under the supervision of a registered optician or medical practitioner.

TSOs assist us by visiting the businesses to confirm sales have stopped, and by informing us of potential cases of illegal selling. We also support them with their work in this area by, for example, providing guidance on the relevant legislation.

TSOs have also been helpful in working with us to promote consumer safety messages surrounding illegal sales - for example, warning consumers at Halloween about the dangers of buying ZPLs without a registered medical professional present.

Through our joint working approach with Trading Standards Officers, we’ve managed to conclude 81 cases since 2016 where different types of illegal practice activity have ceased.

For more information about our illegal practice complaints procedure, click here.


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