Wary of Watchdog…..

I am not over enamoured with the BBC consumer programme ‘Watchdog’. Some of the presentations are made with a slightly smug attitude. More annoying is the propensity to superficiality and lasy investigating.

So it was with a great deal of apprehension that I watched last Thursday’s edition knowing they were doing a final comment on the problem of flammability and kids Halloween costumes, forty eight hours prior to this year’s Halloween.

What a welcome surprise to see them offering sensible tips on how to prevent potential accidents this year. There, however, were more surprises to come as they added cosmetic contact lenses to the programme.

Apparently, they have been informed by trading standards, that you cannot sell them without an optometrist, or medical practioner,on site. It is against the law. Now being ‘Watchdog ‘ , I had my reservations . However, it seems that  this is the case. As is their want, they visited ten costume/party  shops and were offered contact lenses, without their being an optometrist on site. No surprise there. I have never been comfortable about cosmetic lenses . Being a past wearer of contacts , I know how much of a pain they can be. To wear them cosmetically, in an environment where there the user is likely to be ‘blotto’ before or after, to me is not a good mix. Yet, as far as I know there have been very few, if any, incidents over the last four or five years.

What are the criminal offences involved?

Zero-powered lenses can be supplied only by or under the supervision of a registered optometrist, dispensing optician or medical practitioner.

Supervision requires the registered person to be present on the premises, aware of the procedure and in a position to intervene if necessary. The seller/supplier must also make arrangements for the wearer to receive ongoing care.

Any sales of cosmetic contact lenses that do not meet these requirements are ilegal under the Optician Act.

When we learn about alleged breaches of the Act, we take action. In the first instance, we will usually write to the seller and invite them to cease any illegal activity. Further action may be taken if necessary, for example, a private prosecution or liaison with the CPS or other public prosecuting body.

General Optical Council

This appears quite clear. However, I am sure the retailers in our industry are completely unaware of this. From initial browsing I can see no mention of it on suppliers web sites. If this is as straight forward as it appears then retailers are going to have a good look at what they are selling and how they intend to go forward. 

Whilst the huge peak of sales occur at Halloween, I know a number of retailers are able to sell the product year round. Without wanting to put the frighteners on anyone , I do suggest that , where relevant, everyone has a good look at what is legal and what is not. Watchdog is not known for just looking at a product the one time without returning to the scene. But more importantly, retailers need to sort this out before anything nasty happens.

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