/ 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
Jason Glynn says:
28 May 2015

Can this be checked again please, I Have just reached the 28 days period in which I was told I would receive my refund. Alarm bells are ringing having read these posts!
Following the link posted earlier stating that OE have changed their terms from 72 hours to 7 days, which we were told in store, it now shows 3 days.
Many thanks
Jason

John says:
29 May 2015

went in for a consultation at O.E but found the customer service terrible. I ended up having consultations at 2 private eye clinics and ended up getting tremendous results with Advanced Vision Care.

[This comment has been tweaked for posting personal details and for posting promotional content. Please have a read through our commenting guidelines. Thanks, mods]

Dobrinka says:
8 June 2015

Finally, in 65 working days I’ve received my money back. Which is actually 2 times longer than they said (28 working days). Keep calling them every single time they promise will give you a call and didn’t.

Dobrinka – Thanks for keeping us up to date on your problem. I am glad you have finally received it.

David Hall says:
18 June 2015

Hi, paid a deposit 22/4/2015, for a consultation. Was advised it wasn’t going to be advantageous to go ahead with the surgery, and that the deposit would be refunded, within 28 days.
After 3 telephone calls, given 3 different stories, My case being ” escalated “, to try to bring forward the refund, as at today, 18/6/2015, still nothing.
Either Optical Express have cash flow problems, or they are making money out of holding onto clients money

Dawn Skene says:
20 June 2015

Hi I’ve Been waiting for over a month to get my deposit back.getting sick and tired of getting cobbled off when I call. They keep saying there is a problem with refunds and they will call me back…they never do!!,don’t know what to do.Really need my money back

Miti Agrawal says:
29 June 2015

I had paid full amount of £2795 on Sat 23 May after first consultation meeting itself but changed my mind after coming home and cancelled by email and phone call both. I have called them three times since then to get refund. First two times, they were annoyed why I am calling again and again. Money will arrive in my account by 02Jul. They told me Last Fri (third attempt) that there is delay in refund processing hence it might not be by 02Jul. Reading other comments here, I am almost confident that Optical Express is not going to refund money by 02 Jul (within 28 working days). Is there anything I can do? Ideally, Optical Express should pay interest if they delay anything more than 28 working days.

Hi Miti,
As detailed in my previous posts, there is most definitely something you can do to get your money back from Optical Express. Contact Sasha Rodoy via her ‘opticalexpresssruinedmylife’ website. Go on her site, click ‘Forum’, and you will find a ‘deposit refund’ thread which includes full surgery cost refunds as well. You will see that there are many people who have got their money back thanks to her help. I’m so relieved that you didn’t go ahead with ops.

David hall says:
30 June 2015

Finally, got my deposit back. 72 days after the £500 hit my credit card, the refund is received.
It’s a real pity this has tainted my view of Optical Express. The R.L.E. Procedure I had, along with a
Subsequent laser tweaking has massively changed my life for the better, and the overall cost I regard as money well spent.
The difficulty in getting this deposit back sours my overall thoughts on the company.

EH says:
3 July 2015

David Hall – “Finally, got my deposit back. 72 days after the £500 hit my credit card, the refund is received.
It’s a real pity this has tainted my view of Optical Express. The R.L.E. Procedure I had, along with a
Subsequent laser tweaking has massively changed my life for the better, and the overall cost I regard as money well spent.”

What on earth was the £500 deposit for if you so pleased with RLE & subsequent tweaking??

David Hall says:
4 July 2015

Sorry EH, I didn’t make it clear enough.
I had RLE done, and am very satisfied with all aspects.
My wife decided to go down the same road with OE. She had a preliminary examination at OE in Sheffield, was referred to their Manchester clinic, and at this time, the £500 deposit was paid.
The Manchester clinic decided she would get no benefit having the RLE procedure done, hence the refund procedure.
So, cut the long story short, it took OE 72 days to refund the £500.
Apologies for not making that clear

Verity says:
3 July 2015

What happens if you pay the deposit then they discover your not able to have the procedure due to medical reasons which they failed to discover or bother to investigate in the consultation x

Afternoon Verity, thanks for turning to Which? for advice 🙂

If you’re signing up to surgery while on the provider’s premises, there’s no standard cooling off period that providers are legally obliged to offer you.

However, many will offer a short period of time during which you may change your mind and receive a full refund. Details of any cooling off period will be set out in the provider’s terms and conditions. If you’re unsure, make sure you ask before signing the contract. We’ve published lots of advice which I’m certain you’ll find useful, here:

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

Verity says:
7 July 2015

Hi, thanks for the reply.
I was told I was suitable for laser eye surgery after having a consultations with an optician (not ophthalmology surgeon) in optical express. Payed my deposit,returned for laser eye surgery procedure 3 of July. I was kept waiting four hours to be told they are unsure if I can have the surgery.
The surgeon was unsure and thinks it’s unlikey and to return on the 17th of july.
This is frustrating as clearly nothing was addressed when I pointed out my eye issue in the consultation, then was further kept waiting for four hours!
Completely annoyed!

Charlotte Mac says:
3 July 2015

In November 2014 I paid out a £500 deposit to Optical Express prior to my Harley Street surgeon consultation for lens replacement surgery, At Harley Street I did not see a surgeon or expert but a series of youngsters who did machine tests, I was advised to go back to Optical Express to test out contact lenses (to check my brain could accept the prescription they were suggesting). I had further tests, more eye drops and wore lenses for a week, and reiterated that I wanted to see a surgeon but was advised it wasn’t necessary and I would have ample opportunity to have my queries answered on the day of surgery which they booked in.

I am a photographer and my eyesight is my livelihood, I wasn’t happy with the fact that no one would answer my questions (or phone and web enquiries) and I could not deal with one person. It was only when I emailed every OE address I had AND posted on OERML saying I wanted to cancel altogether if I couldn’t speak with the surgeon, that I was called by the Clinical Care Team and offered a date to see a surgeon. Despite being approved by OE and Harley Street “experts” as being a perfect candidate, surgery booked, and my special toric lenses ordered when I saw the surgeon he said I was not suitable, and he could not recommend the proceedure. When I spoke with the Clinical Care Team on 24th March theyconfirmed I would get a full refund of £500 within 28 working days. I was told the refund process can take up to 28 working days to complete and “we will get in touch to obtain your card details when we are ready to process the funds in to your account.”

I put 5th May in my diary and waited, I heard nothing so called in May and was told that there were internal problems and I would have to wait a further 10 days, I asked them to confirm this by email (she did not) I waited again, and heard nothing, called again and spoke to a different person at the end of May and was fobbed off with the same excuse, I asked for this to be confirmed by email which it was, but in words that made no sense and with zero assurances or timeframe “Unfortunately Optical Express is experiencing an internal administration delay. At this stage our accounts department are striving to resolve this matter. I will do my utmost to escalate your refund and have this processed as quickly as possible ensuring you receive a call back once your refund has been approved” I asked her to confirm how they would be returning my money which they had had for 8 months and she said someone would get in touch to arrange this. I have lost all faith in this company – I cannot believe they are allowed to carry on. It is now 1 July andI will take this as far as I need to to get my money back

[Hi Charlotte, we’ve edited your post so it aligns with our commenting guidelines. Thanks, mods]

Hi Verity…

If you would like my assistance please contact info@mybeautifuleyes.co.uk

Visit OERML website Forum and read the ‘deposit refund’ thread.

Miti Agrawal says:
13 July 2015

After many promises from Optical Express, my money £2795 did not arrive by 02Jul2015. In fact still it is not there. Luckily I had paid using my credit card hence I contacted Capital One disputing the amount under refund category and they have reversed the transaction.

Cynthia O says:
26 July 2015

On April 21, I went to Optical Express for a laser surgery consultation. They convinced me to pay a deposit of £400 pounds. Then I called in to let them know I won’t be going on with the surgery. They claimed that they had started processing my refund.

3 months later and I still haven’t received the refund. I have gone there multiple times for them to say “oh, it has been processed, it takes up to 28 days” !

Please help me get my refund. I wish I knew about this refund problem beforehand.

I received an email from OE asking if i wanted to win the cost of laser treatment i pressed the yes button (as i had been considering it) within minutes somebody phoned me from OE and i booked in for first consultation had tests done and was told i was suitable for laser treatment one eye for long distance and the other for short distance he asked me for deposit so he could book my treatment i said i didn’t have my card on me and i would phone him back to pay over phone .I discussed it with my husband and phoned and paid my deposit for treatment in November was then told there was a cancellation for a week saturday which i agreed to and had to pay the balance because of short notice treatment. i turned up yesterday with my husband and had tests done again then saw surgeon who explained all the complications dry eye and that my brain would have to adjust to the two different eye treatments my husband wasn’t happy and the surgeon suggested trying contact lenses for 4 days to see how my brain adjusts, they did not have the lenses in and said they will phone me when they come in I have now decided to leave well alone and cancel .I have still got the terms and conditions document which i haven’t signed what are my chances of a full refund also i paid over the phone from home

Rebecca says:
17 October 2015

Optical Express are still refusing to give people their money back – why is this allowed to continue? Surely it is theft? I paid for something in advance – I did not get the procedure done – cancelled within the 3 days (whatever they told you, their policy still states 3 days to cancel for a full refund) and far longer than 28 working days has passed with still no confirmation I cancelled (other than verbal) or my money back yet.
This is absolutely shocking!! Everyone is being let down by a company that surely is doing something VERY illegal!! And NO ONE is doing anything about it! My bank won’t even help me as I have no written proof they have said they will refund me in the first place. I am lost. And Optical Express have definitely won.

They haven’t won unless you give up!
Please google OERML/Sasha Rodoy and contact me for help.

Katie Hodkin says:
11 March 2016

Hello,

I am wondering if anyone is in a similar position to myself. I attended Optical Express for a laser surgery consultation. I was talked through the procedure, and asked to give a deposit after a hard sell. No ‘cooling off’ period was discussed, or information given about the deposit being non refundable if I chose to cancel. Therefore, I gave a £400 deposit. About 12 days after I chose to cancel as the armed forces would prefer me not to have the surgery and that is my potential future job. I cancelled, and received an email informing me that I wouldn’t get my deposit back, but they would keep the deposit on file if I wanted to continue. I have emailed to ask for the complaints procedure but received no response. Has anyone else got their deposit back under these circumstances? I paid for it on a credit card, has anyone attempted to get theirs back via the credit card company under section 75 of the consumer credit act and been successful? Any feedback is welcome. The customer service since cancelling has been avoidant and non-existent.

Hi Katie, if you decide to cancel within the provider’s cooling off period, and you’ve paid a deposit then you’re entitled to get your money back. Once the cooling off period has ended though, you’re unlikely to be entitled to a refund if you simply change your mind.

We have some advice on what to do if you’ve changed your mind on our Consumer Rights website http://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/problem/i-signed-up-to-laser-eye-surgery-but-ive-changed-my-mind

This comment was removed at the request of the user

Hi Katie…

Google OERML/Sasha Rodoy and send me and email with your phone number if you still need help.

Keep up the good work Sasha.

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

Best wishes,
Sasha

In Australia the consumer body Choice “award” annually the “Shonky” for the worst examples of consumer diddling. They have been doing this for a decade. I again strongly suggest Which? get with it and become more active in REALLY making it painful for rogue companies. OE would be a shoo-in.

news.com.au/national/choice-shonky-awards-for-2015-finalists-include-kleenex-arnotts-ikea-samsung-and-nab/news-story/e60fc12c28277ab6c2c6a31de718815f

I cancelled my laser the surgery the next day after the free consultation 24/02/2016, I was told I would get my £500 deposit back, but still to date no refund. When you call, your call goes to voice mail, they say they will call you back, but they don’t, when you send emails, they also come back undelivered. Any suggestions?

This comment was removed at the request of the user

Hello all.

Just an update to say that the Optical Express procedure has not changed at all.

I went to Harley Street recently. I met with the saleswoman/tester first. She asked me a series of questions which seemed to be framed to get the most positive answer from me and to be conditioning me towards saying yes to surgery. There was lots of chitchat, and irrelevant conversation to make me feel comfortable. There were also all the normal anecdotes about members of the family who’d had surgery with OE.

I then went with her to have the tests run. The sales pitch continued, and the lady told me how she loved her job and that’s why she pushed so hard. At no point were the specific risks quantified, just the ‘success rate’. I was told that prior to the latest technique, the 20/20 success rate was about 94% and now it’s above 99%. I’m pretty sure that this is an oversimplification of the improvements.

I then waited for the optometrist (plenty of time for her to be told about her client and his sceptical outlook on life). She carried out a general sight test and then told me what would be recommended for me (LASIK). She then gave me the price. Not £3000 as indicated by the online marketing, but £4500. Why the difference? My prescription of -4ish was more expensive. Now Optimax say that there is no difference in cost between -1 and -4, and I have no reason to disbelieve this. The optometrist also explained she had family members who’d had surgery. Then I was made to watch a video of the CEO (I think) of OE, who was advisor the the US military, top gun pilots etc. This was the only time when the list of complications was mentioned.

Very kindly, the optometrist told me that the saleswoman might be able to look up the online vouchers and offer me some kind of discount. I told her that this advertising practice was dodgy, and the response was that it’s normal for most companies. Off then back to the saleswoman. I negotiated, mostly by looking unconvinced, and walked away with an offer of £3600…. the lowest I can go is £3400. Almost the advertised price. IF I booked the surgery RIGHT NOW… ok, before the end of today.

Given all this, I have very little faith in the company. I expect that they will to some extent be careful about who they choose, if simply because they’d rather avoid lawsuits. Yet, given that there must be some significant pressure on the staff to book as many people as possible, I don’t have faith in them rejecting everyone who should be rejected.

Sad that they’ve not changed after such a poor report from Which.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

I don’t blame her, it’s an institutional thing and I don’t hold it against her. My main concern is the pressure to make a decision on the day, which is clearly part of OE standard procedure, and must be a miserable thing to have to do for a living – and something that I think should be illegal for medical procedures.

In fairness, I should add that when she called me later in the day, she put absolutely no pressure on me.

Thanks for a very full report on the process. Illuminating.

If I recall correctly success as to a procedure can be quite high. The downside is that the successful surgery can come with other problems. This distinction could be likened to having a leg removed which could be 100% successful as a surgery but leave problems.

“In the US, the FDA recommends that advertisements for LASIK emphasize the risk of dry eyes (bass) and visual symptoms, the possible need for glasses and loss of visual acuity.”

I cancelled the very next day after seeing the surgeon who I found rude and uninspiring and now 30 days later no refund and optical express customer care personnel saying I will not receive any of my £500 pounds back as it was outside the 7 day cooling off period but Which inform me that I have 28 days after seeing the surgeon have just sent email explaining what Which state but hold up no hope this firm is getting away with daylight robbery and how can they still be allowed to do this if I did this the police would be knocking at my door does this mean I now have to go to the small claims court to try and get my money back

For more information suggest you go to this site Mark.
opticalexpressruinedmylife.co.uk

Sasha has done a great job in protecting/helping consumers with these sorts of problems.