/ 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

Good work Which? and Conversation contributors who submitted the evidence.

I am glad Optical Express can see things more clearly now.

Well done Which? Hopefully those who lost their deposits will receive a refund.

The big question remains as to whether Optical Express is fit to continue to carry out laser surgery.

Umeh says:
1 May 2015

I have just rung to cancel my surgery as my mum in law is in hospital and I need to be with her optical express has told they will not be refunding my £400 deposit and will add me to their future list as the three day cooling period is over and now is the 5th day. Please help as I need the 400 as its a lot of money.

Its good to see that the Consumers’ Associations ethos is still alive and kicking. Makes me feel slightly prouder of my long membership.

However given the companies track record as listed in Wikipedia you would think that Which? would have continually been on its case since 2010 and that the terms and conditions challenged earlier on inception.

A rather boring aspect of consumer activism maybe but each year a summary of challenges made and changes made would warm the cockles of my heart. Given the number of retired folk perhaps a vigilant group of people could assist by keeping an eye on selected companies.

enda creaven says:
24 February 2015

O E websites are not showing new t & c’s….Customer service knew nothing about it either.

I can live with the fact that, after 2 years of me begging Which? to investigate the laser eye surgery industry, My Beautiful Eyes campaign calling for government regulation didn’t get a mention.
I can live with the fact that I invested considerable time providing researcher Joanna Pearl with the enormous amount of information she requested for the article.
I can live with the fact that dozens of people who sent their stories to Which? at my request were not mentioned.
I can live with the fact that my quote (asked for by Joanna) was dropped just before the magazine went to press because there was: “no space”.
I can live with the fact that one private clinic received valuable free publicity in return for providing an ‘expert opinion’ in the magazine report.
I can live with the fact that there was no attention to the problems so many thousands suffer AFTER surgery.
I can live with the fact that my OERML website and its forum didn’t get a mention.
I can live with all of this because the Which? laser eye surgery report caused BBC London News and the Observer to report on my campaign.
I can live with Which?’s ‘lead lawyer’ Chris Warner claiming credit for allegedly persuading Optical Express to change their refund policy, thanking “everyone who shared their story and helped bring about these changes”.
I can live with the fact that Chris chose not to mention that the majority of these people were MBE clients and campaigners encouraged by me to do so.

What I cannot live with is the fact that this “lead lawyer” did not check his facts before boasting of his team’s success!

According to the Optical Express website, at the time of posting this comment, their ‘customer-care-policies’ page reads:
“Laser Eye Surgery/ Lens Surgery Refunds
Treatments cancelled within 72 hours of a booking being made will be refunded.
Due to the clinical nature of the treatments we offer, our internal administration process can take up to 28 working days for your refund to be processed.”

For reliable updates on Optical Express I recommend you check OERML, and read the Deposit Refund topic on the Forum 😉

Hopefully Optical Express will update their website soon. Perhaps someone should ask OE what the following statement means: “Due to the clinical nature of the treatments we offer, our internal administration process can take up to 28 working days for your refund to be processed.”

As I see it, this Conversation is about making OE’s terms & conditions fairer to everyone rather than getting involved with any personal crusade.

Welcome to Which? Conversation Chris. Some of us would be very grateful for help with persuading retailers to face up to their obligations under the Sale of Goods Act and advice on interpreting ‘durability’ from a legal perspective.

Sasha, without trawling back through these comments, have you lobbied your MP about what you see as defective eye surgery and lack of regulation? Surely what matters is getting results, not arguing about where the credit lies? Teamwork?

Malcolm R. It appears that you cannot have fully researched Sasha Rodoy and her campaign judging from your post. She has been personally running her campaign for over 3 years now, and has had significant success in getting the appalling practices in this industry publicised in various media, inc’ Which?, major national newspapers, radio and TV. She also offers (at no cost) personal help, support and advice to damaged patients like myself, who would be in a very desperate situation otherwise. There is no-one else in the world who is doing anything like this, and I, and many others who support her campaign, cannot commend her highly enough for taking on this massive and vitally important endeavour all by herself. Sasha has actually gone way beyond lobbying her local MP, and if you look at the site ‘Optical Express Ruined My Life’ (& facebook page) that she set up, you will see info’ on how she gained the support of MP John McDonnell, and that they have already met with government ministers, with further meetings to follow.
The ultimate credit for exposing the laser/refractive eye surgery scandal that has caused untold permanent suffering to be inflicted upon so many patients eyes and lives is down to one person, and that is Sasha Rodoy.

Thanks for your comment Sasha. We’ve checked Optical Express’s website and can see that it now says 7 days: https://www.opticalexpress.co.uk/customer-care-policies.html Can you let me know where you’ve seen that it still says 72 hours? We’ve had written assurances from Optical Express that what we set out in the above post is their new process.

Sorry that you didn’t hear this from Optical Express’ customer service team, Enda. If anyone else has a similar experience with Optical Express, please let us know here and we’ll collate your responses and get in touch with them.

Again thank you to everyone who shared comments on the original thread. Thanks especially to Sasha and all of her supporters for sharing their comments and for helping make this happen.

This change has been made sometime this morning. At present the web page cache still shows 72 hours but the current version of the same page shows 7 days.

The curious reason for delay in issuing refunds is still there: “Due to the clinical nature of the treatments we offer, our internal administration process can take up to 28 working days for your refund to be processed.””

mrbadeyes, thank you for your reply. As I said in my original post I had not trawled through the original conversation, simply asked a question. If you wished to look at the original conversation on eye surgery you will see my views.

Thanks Sasha and Wavechange for spotting it wasn’t on the website – we’re glad it’s now changed. Optical Express confirmed to us that the terms were in place for customers, but it’s frustrating for everyone that they weren’t on the website until today. Again thanks to everyone for securing this change.

Miti Agrawal says:
10 June 2015

It still says 3 days “Treatments cancelled within 3 days of a booking being made will be refunded.”

I had booked laser eye surgery and cancelled within 2 hours of coming back from first consultation. Unfortunately I had paid in full almost 3K. Now almost 17 days but no sign of refund. I have phoned them twice and they are saying it might take up to 28 working days.

Verity says:
3 July 2015

Hi, can you help. I’ve had my consultation and booked in today for laser eye surgery. However, I have been told I’m not suitable. Can I get s re fund?

Have you asked the opticians? Who advised you that you were unsuitable for laser treatment? Was it the opticians who carried out the consultation? Your entitlement to a refund might depend on the answers to these questions.

Hi sasha
My partner had a consultation in regards to laser eye surgery with oe…i then took him to a clinic in manchester for the treatment.he was told on the day by the surgeon that it would not be suitable for him as he would not be able to join the police for or do his sports cause if he got caught in the face or eye he would need corrective surgery and also he would suffer from serious dry eyes. He decided not to go ahead and spoke to the receptionist about a refund she said no and gave him the number for head office.
He has been trying continuosly since 12th jan to get a refund to no avail….can you please help

Hi jobowen, thanks for your comment. I’ve checked with our consumer rights team and if the surgeon has identified new or increased risks with the surgery or suggests that the procedure isn’t suitable for you then the provider should allow you to change your mind and offer you a full refund. We have some info about this on our Consumer Rights site here

http://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/problem/i-signed-up-to-laser-eye-surgery-but-ive-changed-my-mind

http://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/action/how-to-get-your-deposit-back-if-you-change-your-mind-about-laser-eye-surgery

Hi Lauren…

In other areas this might be true, but in respect of Optical Express it is not correct that the deposit is non refundable after their ‘cooling off’ period.

There are number of reasons that can negate this T&C.

For example,

• If the customer had eye drops inserted before signing a document they will have been unable to read what they were signing.

• If the person was not ‘fully informed’, not told of the high numbers of patients complaining of problems after surgery for instance.

This means that the customer was mis-sold the product and IS entitled to a full refund no matter how long after the ‘cooling off’ period!

For more information see http://www.opticalexpressruinedmylife.co.uk and contact me if you need further advice.

Hi did you get a refund.

Did you get a refund??

Rob J says:
25 February 2015

I had to LOL when I read the comment from malcolm r who obviously has no knowledge at all of what Sasha Rodoy is doing and had the ignorance to ask her ‘have you lobbied your MP?’! If he looked on Google and You Tube he’d find she has done much more than that!! Even better, have a look at OERML Facebook/website and you might find yourself feeling embarassed for your obvious ignorance. Problem with some people is that they are too quick to judge without bothering to spend some time invetsigating the details or themselves.

Rob – Have a look at the previous Conversation and you will find that Malcolm has made several contributions, including expressing his concern about the risks of trusting our sight to high street companies. This is a very serious matter but this Conversation is focused on the terms & conditions of one company. This is important because anyone reading up on the topic after making a booking for laser surgery might not wish to continue and be able to get their money refunded.

Rob J, if you read my comment I asked the question of Sasha as to whether she had lobbied her MP. A straightforward question that Sasha would no doubt answer straightforwardly. There was no “judgement” in my question.

My concern is that we should have regulation and proper monitoring of this industry because of its potentially serious consequences.

Rob J says:
25 February 2015

Why would Sasha watse time replyiing to questions that are quickly answered by looking at her OERML pages?! If you are so concerned about regulation why not contact your MP and offer Sasha your support? But if you didn’t even know that she works with MP John McDonnell or his 2013 Private Members Bill calling for legislation so I do not belive you have any concern at all. Lucky for thousnads of people that Sasha Rodoy does not sit behind an anonymous computer waffling on as an armchair critic but actually gets out there and fights for her concerns!

Hello all, please can I ask you to be polite to one another and stick to our commenting guidelines: https://conversation.which.co.uk/commenting-guidelines We’re here to discuss these issues and not everyone can be expected to know the full background of every issue before commenting. Let’s please try and give others the benefit of the doubt.

Malcolm R- I would have thought that after all that has been posted on Which? regarding laser eye surgery in the last few months, that you would have carried out web searches on Sasha Rodoy and her campaign. If you had done so, you would have found extensive information from her OERML site etc, that would have meant that you had no need to pose a question that is, in reality, years out of date, as things have gone way beyond and above a local MP’s level as I described in my previous post.
You say that you are concerned that there should be regulation and proper monitoring of the industry because of it’s potentially serious consequences. Well, Sasha was so concerned (and horrified) about this nearly 4 years ago, that she decided to actually do something about it herself, when she realised that no-one else was doing so.

Rob J says:
25 February 2015

Wasn’t aware I was being impolite – but what i don’t unedrstand is how Which can continue to totally ignore mentioning Sasha’s campaign or OERML as it’s been all over the press since January! Can you tell me why this is please?

Rob J- I totally agree with you posing this question. It is somewhat remiss of Which? to say the least, to not include the details of the one person and their campaign who has worked relentlessly on behalf of all damaged patients (that include herself let’s not forget), and all people who may be contemplating undergoing these surgeries. It is a matter of public interest that these details are published as far and wide as possible, and I hope that the Which? organisation will correct this omission as soon as possible.

I am so embarrassed by this treatment of important sources for the story. I actually feel a physical revulsion to the slighting of Sasha and her organisation.

A feeling of incredulity that this organisation [to which I have been subscribing for over 25 years] can be so mean spirited as not to give credit where credit is due.

Hi all, thanks for your comments of support for Sasha’s long running campaign. We intended to credit everyone who had had involvement in the original thread, and most of them were indeed driven here by Sasha. However, I’ll hold my hands up and say that we should have included a mention of this in the post. We have therefore made a change to the copy to reflect all the work Sasha and her supporters have been doing.

My sincere apologies go out to everyone who has been working so hard on this issue.

Of course the focus of his discussion should be on this industry which is causing so much misery to so many people. Sasha has been absolutely pivotal in supporting when there was no information or signposting for the victims like me, and Which? could have mentioned Saha and her website from the onset of this discussion to acknowledge this fact.

I thank Which? to address this subject which is finally getting some attention, including from some of our elected representatives in the parliament.

Very good post, Patrick, and well needed. It is essentially an ethical issue as to whether Which? should take credit for the work of others but Which?’s role is supposed to involve the policing of ethics among the commercial sector, so one would expect them to set the standard for all companies in terms of ethical behaviour. It might be, as was argued earlier, a matter of “…getting results, not arguing about where the credit lies” but Which? is always anxious to take credit when it achieves something (and rightly so), so surely the same rights ought to be accorded to consumer champions elsewhere?

So congratulations to Sasha for the results her crusade against inadequate service have produced and it’s to be hoped that Which? will – as a matter of course – ensure those responsible for changing attitudes and outcomes in consumerism are appropriately acknowledged and recognised in the future.

hazelj says:
5 March 2015

I recently met with Sasha when I had an appointment with a Medico legal for my case against OE for ruining my eyes after lense replacement, she is one of the most caring people I have met if it hadn’t been for her I would probably let OE butcher my eyes further. OERML have helped many people and should not be over looked. As for the subject of returning deposits OE will come up with any excuse not to return your money and it’s people like Sasha who will go out of their way to help you fight this company.

Corinne Sanwell says:
27 March 2015

I am 48 and had a consultation at Optical Express on Saturday 14 March. I was pressured to pay a deposit and book an appointment for laser eye surgery. I then decided not to go ahead and on Monday 23 March called to ask for my deposit back, but they told me I was too late and couldn’t have a refund! I said I was calling within 7 working days but they told me it was 7 days INCLUSIVE of weekends!

If Optical Express take “up to 28 working days” to refund payments then why is it not also 7 ‘working days’ for customers to ask for a refund?

I was misled by the sales people who assured me there are rarely any problems as I know now this is not the truth.

My own optician has advised me that laser surgery is not a good option for me at my age and when I called Optical Express customer services again yesterday asking for my refund I repeated this. The person said I could have refractive lens exchange instead!

What kind of company is this that allows a customer services person to suggest which surgery I should have?

Optical Express owe me £395 and I will fight for my refund all the way to small claims court if I have to.

Hi Corinne. To get your refund sorted please look at my reply to Julie Poore.

Any luck .?

Julie Poore says:
8 April 2015

I am 47 and just like the person above I too changed my mind about proceeding with surgery for similar reasons. However, I did cancel my surgery within 7 working days. This was on Monday 9th February, and despite numerous calls to Optical Express, whereby they say someone will contact me regarding my refund, nobody ever calls. Hence I am still awaiting a refund! Not sure where to go from here?

Hi Julie. Please contact campaigner Sasha Rodoy via her ‘opticalexpressruinedmylife’ site to get help with your refund being sorted out. If you click on her site, then the ‘forum’, you will see a deposit refund thread which shows that Sasha has got many people their money refunded when they have not been dealt with properly by OE. I am so glad that you decided not to risk your most important sense being damaged.

Natalia Burbano says:
22 April 2015

I am 30 years old. Early in February ’15 I went to the Westfield branch of Optical Express in White City. Because I have high Myopia and Astigmatism they said my only option was to have Natural Lens Enhancement surgery (NLE), implanting Intraocular lens on top of my own and it would cost £6,200, but if I paid £1,000 deposit I could have a discount, but only if I paid immediately. I did so and they scheduled my consent appointment for 17 February. Some weeks later, they rescheduled my appt for 3 March.

At the consent appointment at Harley Street surgeon Dimitris Kazakos told me I was suitable for the procedure and scheduled my first surgery on 18 April for my right eye (my lazy eye) and 25 April for the left eye. They told me that because they had to order the lens from an overseas supplier the surgery might have to be rescheduled but they would contact me if necessary. In fact, a few weeks later they sent a letter confirming both surgery dates.
Two weeks before the first surgery, OE called and told me that they needed to change the time from 8:45 to 8:30am and the surgeon would be Alex George, not Dimitri Kazakos.

On 17 April they called and asked me to pay the outstanding £4,500 balance which I did.

On Saturday 18 April I arrived at the Westfield clinic in time for surgery at 8:30am, but after waiting one hour they told me the surgery would have to be rescheduled (they did not know when) because the lens had not arrived, yet they had taken full payment from me the day before knowing this! I felt I had been misled and that I couldn’t trust them with my eyes so I told them I wanted to cancel.

The person dealing with me ( I don’t remember his name) told me I have the right to cancel – and also to receive compensation as I had to put some medicine in my eyes over three days before the surgery and needed to wear my glasses for more than two months – I don’t see as well with glasses! – because their optometrist, Stephanie, told me I needed to stop using contact lenses before the surgery to hydrate my eyes.

As I don’t trust OE after everything they have done to me, I called the cancellation team that same day and they told me they were not working. I called again three times on Monday 20 April and each time customer services told me that someone in the cancellation team would contact me shortly. Yesterday, 21 April, I called again and finally spoke with Lawrence McLaughlin who told me (in a very rude way) that they may not refund the money because it was the suppliers fault the surgery was not done, not theirs, and they will contact me within 48 hours with an answer.

I told him I don’t want to reschedule the surgery because I cant trust my eyes to a company that doesn’t care about the patients, able to call me the day before surgery to take the payment but telling me the lenses hadn’t arrived and surgery had to be postponed. This makes me feel they only care about money.

I think I have been very lucky because if the lenses had arrived I would not have read of so many problems people have had. This could have been me!

I don’t want to reschedule surgery with Optical Express and I have contacted Sasha Rodoy at OERML who is helping me get my payment refunded.

Natalia Burbano says:
22 April 2015

Dan from OE just called and offered me another £500 discount off the treatment.

I told her that I don’t want treatment and I want my money refunding because I am not willing to risk my eyes with Optical Express. She said they would only refund £4,500 pounds because I signed a disclaimer document that says I can’t get back my £1,000 deposit even if the lenses don’t arrive, and that the document also says that the lenses can take up to 12 weeks to arrive after the consent appointment.

When I went to the first appointment at my local Optical Express clinic in February they put drops in my eyes and did not give me a copy of the disclaimer document. (Dan said she would post a hard copy to me but why did they not give me a copy on the day?)

They also told me that if I did not pay the deposit immediately and schedule the surgery for March, they could not give me the discount. So they made me book my surgery for 20 and 27 March even though they knew the lenses could take up to 12 weeks to arrive just to take my money from me.

I told her that at my consent appointment I was informed that if the supplier advised that they were unable to deliver in time Optical Express would call me to reschedule the surgery, but instead of doing this they sent me a confirmation letter (which now Dan claims was just computer generated) and then the customer service team called me two weeks before the surgery to confirm, and of course they also called to take payment the date before.

Her only explanation for all of this was that there was a problem of miscommunication between the staff in OE.

[This comment has been edited to align with our commenting guidelines. Thanks, mods]

Natalia Burbano says:
27 April 2015

Dan from OE left me a phone message saying that the refund of the full amount of my £5500 payment had been authorised. I told her I wanted my refund immediately as it was their fault I did not have the surgery on Saturday as scheduled, not mine.

Lynn from OE called me on Friday and took the card details of the debit cards used to pay the deposit and the additional balance and said the refund was going to be processed today. She sent me a confirmation email saying that the refund was processed and the money would leave their account immediately and be in mine between 3-5 working days.

I am very happy about this and can’t be more grateful to Sasha for all her help, advice and support. She gave me confidence and empowered me, and I really think that there should be more people like her helping people like me fighting against dishonest companies like OE.

I hope to see the money in my account soon this week,

Kim says:
27 April 2015

I am still waiting on my refund of £500, T&C say 28 working days but even after that they have stalling tactics!!!! Apparently they have ‘internal issues’ and I have now been told it will take yet another 10 working days for my refund to be auctioned!!!! I still don’t think that Optical Express should be able to have this long to do refunds, they are getting away with very bad customer services without any penalties!!!!

Nick says:
19 June 2015

I have just had exactly the same conversation with OE, today is the 28th day and they are now telling me of internal problems

Nina murray smith says:
16 May 2015

I paid £500 deposit to OE for replacement lens surgery – I never signed anything with them but bailed out after reading everything on your site I cancelled my consent appointment and surgery but they now say I can’t have the deposit back.
I also went to an eye surgeon at Stoneygate Eye Hospital today who said because of rippling caused by OE laser surgery 9 yrs ago to my left eye I would not be suitable for lens replacement. I have also been advised that as I am only 48 yrs old I shouldn’t have been offered replacement lenses
I have contacted OERML for help.
Nina

Dobrinka says:
20 May 2015

Here is and my case, I had a consultation at the beginning of March and they said I am suitable for the surgery. The assistant that did all the paper work said I can book an appointment and still have 7 days to think about because I was not absolutely sure (have another medical problem which is more important). I paid £400 deposit but in 3 days found that have to cancel it so did I. They’ve explained me that there is 28 working days period for the money to be refunded and they will contact me meanwhile. After this period no info at all. I have called them again and with apologises I was explained that there are delays and they will call me for the refund. In 2 weeks still nobody contacted me, after that I am calling them every single week and always receive the same answer ‘I do apologise! We will call you till the end of the week to refund the money.’ Now is middle of May and already 51 working days have gone since the cancelation and every time only promises and nothing else. That’s a lot of money and a very long period of doing nothing I am wandering when exactly they will refund them because that is not small amount of MY money they can work with and I can’t use.

I just wish to remind anyone who has paid OE deposits or upfront surgery fees and needs to get refunds to contact Sasha Rodoy via her ‘opticalexpressruinedmylife’ website for help with doing so.
There are many people (me included) who are of the opinion that OE puts lots of pressure on at consultations for deposits and full surgery fees to be paid as this money is used for ‘cashflow’ purposes.

Mark Thompson says:
22 May 2015

Reassuring to know I’m not alone.

Like so many others, I’m chasing a refund. Every time I ring there’s a different story. After waiting the initial 28 days, I’m now being told to wait a further 7-10 days due to an internal admin error. I’m now waiting the 7-10 days for second time and am worried I’ll never see the money again. I just can’t understand why they are doing this. Their own consultant told me I was not eligible for surgery.

I have contacted OERML for help.