When we heard that Optical Express customers were losing their money when they had good reason to cancel their laser eye surgery, we knew we had to step in…
Last September we published the results of our undercover investigation into laser eye surgery. We sent undercover researchers into 18 laser eye clinics across England, including Optical Express, Optimax and independents, for their initial consultation.
A third of the visits were rated poor by an expert panel. Reasons included not explaining the risks of laser eye surgery and pressure selling.
What happened next showed the power of sharing your views on Which? Conversation.
Cancelling laser eye surgery with Optical Express
Many of you shared your experiences of laser eye surgery, and there were numerous concerns about market leader Optical Express’s cancellation processes.
Nerys told us about her 20-year-old daughter who booked to have laser eye surgery with Optical Express:
‘She booked her surgery and paid a £400 deposit. The day she actually went for surgery she was told she was not suitable, but they would keep hold of her deposit just in case she became suitable in the future.’
We were concerned to hear that customers who wanted to change their mind after a consultation with their surgeon were being told they were not entitled to a refund. This left us worried that people would feel pressured to go ahead with an operation they weren’t sure about because they’d committed their savings, particularly where they had paid in full in advance.
Even where only the deposit had been paid in advance, we were concerned people could also feel pressured to carry on as the deposits could be significant. It seemed the only way to be sure of getting a full refund was to cancel within 72 hours of signing up. But, for most, this period would elapse before they’d had the chance to speak to their surgeon. This is important because the surgeon could provide new information about the risks or suggest a change in the procedure to be used.
Optical Express changes its T&Cs
We used the stories Optical Express customers had shared with us to write to the company to highlight our concerns. A month later, our lawyers were pleased to see Optical Express had published revised terms and conditions, including:
- You now have seven days – not 72 hours – after booking to change your mind and get a deposit refund.
- You can now get a full refund within 28 days if you cancel for any reason after seeing a surgeon – including if the treatment you need changes.
Better still, Optical Express will apply these terms retrospectively to customers who have already booked – but not yet had – treatment.
However, seeing an Optical Express surgeon before your operation day still incurs a non-refundable additional fee (currently £150), unless the appointment is deemed clinically necessary for your eyes.
Thank you to everyone who shared their story and helped bring about these changes. A special mention goes to Sasha Rodoy and her supporters for raising awareness of this issue and putting pressure on to help secure change.
If you’ve had to cancel your scheduled laser eye surgery following a meeting with your surgeon, please let us know how you get on with getting your deposit refunded.