/ Health

Optical Express changes its laser eye surgery T&Cs

eye close-up

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.

Comments
Malcolm McPartlan says:
26 September 2016

Take them to the Small Clams Court for, breach of contract in that, you felt unable to trust your vital precious eyes to a rude surgeon in their employ who left you feeling no confidence in him and the firm.

Peter says:
5 January 2017

I handed over £400 pound deposit on the 26th November and cancelled the very next morning I waited the 28 working days and have so far called them as they have not returned my calls.
Today they moved the goal posts again telling me that someone will get back to me by end of business on Monday 9th Jan, I have very little confidence that this will happen…and they did not tell me that my money would be held for 28 days and that I may have to keep calling them to get it.
This is just a nightmare trying to get money back for something you haven’t had…I’m frustrated and wound up to dispare……..

Joel says:
19 January 2017

Am in the same boat, almost to the day. Have just addressed a letter to their CEO and now am planning to go to small claims court. Im also going to check with my credit card company to see if they can help.

P Bailey says:
9 January 2017

i paid a deposit of £500 back in October 2016 for lens replacement surgery on both eyes! i had to go to london for a pre surgery appointment with the surgeon before the procedure which was booked in for December 16-17th. email was sent informing that my appointment was for approx 60mins! 4 hrs later we finally left the building having missed 2 pre booked coach journeys home. I lost my confidence in Optical Express because of their attitude towards me and the 4 hour delay and the surgeon informed that he was only going to do one eye not two that i had planned for!if they can’t get an appointment right then what hope have they doing my eyes? i cancelled the following week then i was told the operation had indeed been cancelled the following day? nice of them to tell me? i have been promised a full refund within 28 days from the 1st December! as they changed the procedure and i was not happy with it, I’m still waiting! i have emailed the person i spoke to when cancelling and guess what? no reply! if this company is Britains Number 1 then god help the others that people go to.

PHIL says:
3 February 2017

OPTICAL EXPRESS TOLD ME AFTER MY LENS REPLACEMENT SURGERY THAT I HAD 12 MONTHS AFTERCARE WERE IF I NEEDED ADDITIONAL SURGERY IT WOULD BE COVERED. I HAVE BEEN BACK AFTER 11 MONTHS AND THEY NOW SAY THAT I ONLY HAD 6 MONTHS OF COVER. FOR THE LAST 10 MONTHS THE CLINIC IN MANCHESTER HAVE BEEN TELLING ME NOT TO WORRY, NOT TO RUSH, MAKE THE RIGHT DECISION.. YOU HAVE TIME… I HAVE BEEN RIPPED OFF.. THEY NOW WANT ANOTHER £1300. 00 TO CORRECT MY VISION.. WERE DO I GO … IN DISTRAUGHT AND FEEL CONNED..

After being told I was “100% suitable” for LASIK, the surgeon my second consultation said it was too risky for LASIK and I am still at higher risk with LASEK (he was really good with me and very honest).
I’ve already paid a £1000 deposit and I’m dreading trying to get it back now… it’s ridiculous that they told me to set up my payment plan for the more expensive procedure before even checking if I was suitable.

Ashley Holt says:
27 February 2017

It’s a nightmare! I have been waiting since November 2016 for a refund, they confirm on the telephone that a full refund is due but it never happens. They give me a date when they will ring me but they do not ring. They will not confirm the refund in writing. I have been ringing them on speaker phone whilst recording the conversations on another phone. They have one more chance before I pursue via the small claims court. I will be armed with the recordings so hopefully it is an easy win for me!

Suzanne says:
29 March 2017

I have also had a free consultation with o e, i was told that i can only have one eye corrected and the other would be left as it is. I was fitted with a contact lense and asked to keep it in for 6 days, to see if correction of one eye worked for me. I was then asked to pay £500 deposit for laser eye surgery, i said why, i haven’t decided i want to go through with surgery and that i wanted to wait until my 6 day trial had finished. The sales person said it was a standard and pressurised me to pay , with assurances that a full refund would be given if i changed my mind. I would point out , that i hadn’t made up my mind up to go ahead at that time anyway. After returned to the clinic to get the contact lense removed i told oe i wasn’t going ahead with surgery, as having one eye corrected was making me feel sick and i was unable to focus on my computer screen. They said that was fine and they cancelled all further appointment telling me someone would be in touch to arrange a refund. I have finally spoken to the cancellation department , who basically said sorry to hear you have cancelled, i felt they were trying to pursuade me to think again, however they confirmed that someone would contact me from customer services within 28 working days to arrange a refund, i said why do you need to contact me, you already have my bank details?, I can see this is going to be a long hard fight, i hope i am wrong, but the keeness to get money out of you there and then set alarm bells ringing, i wish i had listened to my instincts and walked away.

Suzy says:
17 May 2017

I am still waiting for my £500 deposit to be refunded after being told at my pre-assessment with the surgeon that I was not suitable for LASIK as advised at my initial consultation but recommended for lens replacement instead which I declined.

My initial consultation was on 8th March, at which I was told that I was suitable for LASIK. I received a call on 10th March and asked to pay £500 deposit over the phone, even though I was still unsure, I was told it would be under no obligation and if I changed my mind I would receive a full refund. I was then given a surgery date of 19th April and a pre-assessment date of 12th April. Also I was booked in for trial contact lenses made up to the LASIK prescription to test how I would adapt to how the finished vision would be. I was again told upon fitting of the contact lenses that I was suitable for LASIK surgery and then again when I had the lenses taken out.

At my pre-assessment with the surgeon it took him 5 minutes to tell me that I was not suitable for LASIK because the procedure wouldn’t correct my reading vision.

I was then told to wait in the reception area to speak to the manager, who proceeded to try to sell me lens replacement, even though I stated several times that I was not interested. The Manager told me that that the reason I wasn’t suitable for LASIK was that Optical Express had changed their policy the day before and would no longer perform laser eye surgery if you were over 50 years old! Excuse me, but they knew my age before I even went for the initial consultation a month before! He even went as far to insinuate that if I didn’t go ahead with the procedure, I would probably develop cataracts within the next couple of years, even though my eye test showed that apart from needing glasses for reading, my eyes were perfectly healthy and showed no risk of developing cataracts. When I asked about refunding my deposit, he informed me that he would sort everything out for me and I would hear from head office within 48 hours. Of course I heard nothing!

7 days later, after trying to contact them several times a day I eventually got to speak to someone, I was appalled to be told I had to wait 28 working days, ie working days as in Monday-Friday, not including weekends or Bank Holidays.
Why? :
When Optical Express are open 7 days per week, including Bank Holidays.
I didn’t cancel the surgery, they did because the procedure they recommended was unsuitable.
They wanted the deposit a month before surgery date so why do I have to wait nearly 2 months.
Their response “it’s Company Policy”!

In hindsight I wish I had done some research before jumping in and deciding to sign up for the procedure but they talk the talk and make you think that it is the best decision you will ever make and like many people, I was totally sucked in!

After reading some of the reviews, I am quite relieved that it was cancelled and think myself lucky that I have had a lucky escape.

[Sorry, Suzy. Your comment has been edited to align with our Community Guidelines https://conversation.which.co.uk/commenting-guidelines/. Thanks, mods.]

Elisabeth Bickerton says:
18 June 2017

In mid-April I had a consultation to see if I was suitable for laser surgery, and was told No (because of previous treatment on one eye), but I would be suitable for lens replacement. I would have to go to London. I paid in full – £6,590 on 2 credit cards and in cash. I went down to London on 5th May, waited 4 hours! and was told I wasn’t suitable for lens replacement either. In this case, I would be given a full refund as it was the consultant’s decision, not mine to withdraw. The 28 working days were up on the 14th June and I am still waiting. I have been told that that ‘due to an internal problem’ my refund will be delayed a further 8-10 working days. I expected a phone call to tell me when it would be repaid, but the Customer Service person chickened out and emailed me instead. I have twice emailed and told her the delay is unacceptable and am waiting for a replay to the second.
I will be taking this further if my money is not repaid very soon.

Sarah says:
24 October 2017

They are definitely a scam company , zi was told I was suitable for replacement lens surgery then 7 days later unpin talking to the surgeon I was not suitable and now 6 weeks later I am still battling for my £1000 deposit

DONT USE THIS COMPANY IF YOU ARE CONSIDERING THEM !!

Maria S says:
30 June 2018

I have been interested in laser eye surgery for a lot of years and the other week plucked up the courage to go to the Norwich Branch. Myself and my partner were warmly greeted and offered hot drinks and shown to the seating area. An American woman then came and introduced herself and brought us to a room and asked me to fill out a form on her computer, after giving only 5 minutes to fill out a 15 minute form the woman then snottily said she would help fill it in because she had other people to see.
We then had to wait in the waiting area until the same woman took me to another room and ran some tests on my eyes, not forgetting to mention that they’re equipment has been used on astronauts. The room was small and cramped and another patient was brought in for tests at the same time! I was then seen by another woman who did some more checks and used the drops to dilute my eyes. Once these tests had been done it was back to the American woman who was asking me to sign things although my eyesight was blurry! She then proceeded to ask for a £400 deposit, never asking if I needed time to consider. She discussed payment options and said she would speak with her manager to allow me interest free repayments for 2 years..she clearly says this to everyone.
I want the surgery done so paid the deposit and was told this is the best decision I will ever make…as if they know me and my life!
I am due my phone consultation in 2 days time but am questioning my decision. I have hated the way Optical Express are trying to sell the surgery, I dont trust them when it comes to my money. But if I change my mind now how do I go about getting my full deposit back?
They have stated that if my vision isn’t 20/20 or better that I will be refunded…but will I really!? I don’t trust all of terms and conditions and feel that I’m missing a loophole in it all. Do I call today and ask questions and say I’m thinking of opting out or wait until after the phone consultation?

STOP Maria !!!! After more than 2 years of attending NHS hospitals for eye operations , talking to staff/professor of Ophthalmology /doctors/nurses can I ask ?? are you signed up for laser surgery for EYE CORRECTION not glaucoma or cataracts ? If so think long and hard about this type of operation just so you dont need to wear glasses , I have it straight from ALL the staff NONE of them will advise any of the many patients who come to them to get this operation of laser cutting a section out of your cornea — no none of the surgeons will get it done on themselves as years later their waiting rooms are filled with patients with eye problems which are HARD to correct entirely due to this operation and yes I have spoken to many myself as I make a point of talking to both staff and patients . I do not care is the whole of the private eye surgery industry try to boo me -mark me down by the score -condemn me en masse –just remember -do you want to go blind in later years due to vanity of not wearing glasses ? I have had IOL lens replacement -both eyes – glaucoma -eyes lasered for holes to allow pressure to drop and come out the other end SUCCESSFULLY ! entirely due to the NHS . I can now see clearly for miles – see small print on the side of food tins with NO glasses ! 97 % success in the NHS -2 % fixable only 1 % unfixable . You have been Warned ! I am posting this without glasses with normal size screen print. Its up to you at the end of the day but that is my advice from ACTUAL experience -not supposition-not checking up on a website -etc no– reality Maria.

To show you how unprofessional Optical Express are ,when I get a letter from the hospital asking me to go for an eye test after a peripheral vision test called a Humphrey visual field test I get told in the letter that due to the drops expanding the iris – do NOT drive for several hours /or that day . I also get told THERE and THEN the pressure on my eyes and the results of the visual field test . This then goes into a NHS folder on the condition of my eyes along with multiple photographs done on a very expensive German eye camera machine which is able to take pictures of every vein and condition of the eye. Your eyes are the “Light of the World ” would you leave them in the hands of a fast talking saleswoman Maria ?? –not I .

See (or not ) -same operation as you might be getting Maria https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/optical-express-considering-appeal-after-500000-pay-out-to-woman-left-with-sensitive-eyes-following-9759284.html and https://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/jan/03/top-eye-clinic-faces-claims and for those that think I am biased this website = NHS.UK gives a couple of 5 stars to them BUT the rest — 1-1-1-1-1 and read the reviews Maria the first one mirrors your experience and notice all up to date -07-6-2018 https://www.nhs.uk/Services/opticians/ReviewsAndRatings/DefaultView.aspx?id=91980

Daniel Cooper says:
30 July 2019

The article is incorrect. Optical Express either; have never formally changed their Terms and Conditions, or have changed them straight back again after the spotlight on them faded away again. As of July 2019, Optical Express only give you 3 days to cancel your surgery before the deposit is lost (£400-£500 in most cases). It also takes 28 WORKING days to refund! Why? Quick to take money, snails to return it!

AVOID THIS SCAM ARTIST COMPANY AT ALL COSTS!