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Optical regulator wins case against illegal online contact lens sales

3 Sep 2008

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An Internet retailer was today ordered to pay over £60,000 as the General Optical Council (GOC) successfully concluded a criminal prosecution for illegal sales of contact lenses.
 
Vision Direct pleaded guilty to six offences of selling contact lenses without a valid specification and without the supervision of a registered doctor or optician. Sale and supply of optical appliances are regulated under the Opticians Act.
 
The charges related to test purchases carried out by the GOC’s solicitors in May 2007.
 
Following their guilty pleas at Hendon Magistrate’s Court, Vision Direct were ordered to pay a fine of £3,600 for each offence – a total of £21,600 – and to pay the GOC’s legal costs of £39,296. Passing sentence, the district judge stated: “This is important legislation, which has the protection of the general public at its heart. The defendants appear to have paid lip service to the legislation and to the duty of care that they owed to members of the public.”
 
Dian Taylor, acting chief executive of the GOC, said: “This is a significant result for the Council. The law is designed to protect consumers from eye health problems by ensuring that qualified professionals are involved in prescribing and selling contact lenses. We will continue to take action in the interest of public safety against companies who breach those rules.”
 
“The GOC is currently investigating other alleged offences and will not hesitate to bring further prosecutions in the criminal courts should it be necessary. I would urge all other online retailers to ensure that their processes are compliant with the legislation.”
 
All contact lenses should be fitted by a qualified optician or doctor, and lens wearers are advised to have regular check-ups.
 
Contact lenses sit directly on the eye, and can potentially cause irritation and infection. Wearers could become intolerant, and not be able to use contact lenses in future. However, in the most serious cases, problems could result in vision loss and blindness.
 
 
ENDS
 
For further information please contact:
Kate Fielding
Head of Communications
General Optical Council
t: 020 7307 3472
m: 07826 866567
 
 
Notes to editors:
 
1.Itisa criminal offence to sell or supply powered contact lenses without an in-date specification (provided by an optician following an eye test and a fitting for contact lenses). Suppliers must either have the original specification before supplying lenses or must verify the specification with the practitioner who fitted the lenses. The rules relating to the sale and supply of contact lenses are set out in Section 27 of the Opticians Act 1989. http://www.optical.org/en/about_us/legislation/opticians_act.cfm
 
2. The GOC and British Contact Lens Association recently published a leaflet to help consumers buy contact lenses safely. The leaflet is available from the GOC website:
 
 
About the General Optical Council:
The GOC is the regulator for the optical professions in the UK. Its purpose is to protect the public by promoting high standards of education and conduct amongst opticians. The Council currently registers around 22,000 optometrists, dispensing opticians, student opticians and optical businesses.

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