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Careless Eye Examinations and Poor Communication Could Easily Lead to Disputes When Prescribing Glasses Pay Heed to Details to Facilitate Fair Trade

  • 2024.03.14

A right pair of glasses not only enhances one’s vision, but also protects the eyes if the lenses are applied with specific coatings, such as blue light blocking or UV filters. However, the Consumer Council has from time to time received complaints concerning prescription glasses, ranging from wrongfully prescribed new glasses causing blurry vision as a result of careless eye examination; misleading product photos of photochromic lenses that were far from the actual effects; to reflection and double vision issues in blue light blocking glasses which caused the user’s discomfort. The situation is far from satisfactory.

Glasses are individually tailored to the wearer. Even with identical dioptre strength or astigmatic axis, depending on the wearer’s face and nose shape, and distance between the eyes as well as between the ears, a pair of glasses would require precise measurements and adjustments to ensure a comfortable fit. When wearing new glasses, there is typically a brief adjustment period, during which it could be challenging for consumers to determine if experiences of discomfort are due to adjustment or abnormalities in the product. As such, clear communication during the sales process, the quality of prescription glasses and after-sales service are crucial. Consumers should ask adequate questions, make comparisons, and effectively communicate with optometrists about their needs and expectations, so as to successfully prescribe the right glasses and avoid disputes.

Case 1: New Prescription Glasses Caused Blurry Vision Due to Faulty Eye Examination Results

The complainant visited Optical Store A for new prescription glasses. He brought along his past prescription records and informed the optometrist of his conditions of myopia, hyperopia and astigmatism. However, the optometrist refused to reference his prescription history and conducted an examination for him right away, which was completed so swiftly that he found the optometrist sloppy and careless.

In the following weeks, the complainant consistently experienced blurry vision while wearing his new prescription glasses. He thus reviewed his eye examination records, and discovered that the optometrist had failed to identify his astigmatism. He visited Optical Store B for another eye examination, where the optometrist offered more attentive service by using various types of instruments to check his vision, as well as letting him test with lenses of different dioptres and astigmatic axes for each eye. The complainant noticed significant discrepancies when he compared the eye examination results from both stores, which he presented to Store A as he returned to express his discontent. The staff claimed that the Store A data the complainant had on hand hasn’t completed further analysis, and thus was invalid. On the other hand, the complainant held that Store A’s glasses had failed to improve his vision due to its optometrist’s mistake and careless attitude, and therefore sought assistance from the Council and requested a refund. After the Council’s intervention, Store A agreed to evaluate and improve its service, and offered a cash refund to the complainant. The case was thus resolved.

Case 2: Product Photos of Photochromic Lenses Might Be Misleading as Effects Shown Differed from Real Results

The complainant visited Optical Store C to purchase photochromic lenses with a frame. When enquiring about the lenses’ colour-changing principle, the staff showed him 2 product photos to indicate the difference before and after the colour change, adding that the photos were taken with the help of a UV lamp to induce the colour-changing effect. The staff however omitted to explain the variance in the shades. The complainant purchased a pair of non-prescription photochromic glasses, but later found that its lenses adjusted to only a light brown colour under sunlight, instead of dark brown as shown in the photos, and thus reported the issue to Store C. However, the staff only restated that the dark brown effect in the photos was merely the result of the UV lamp, and that under sunlight it was normal for the lenses to turn light brown. Unsuccessful in requesting a refund from Store C, the complainant filed a complaint with the Council.

Store C explained to the Council that the colour of photochromic lenses changes according to the intensity of UV rays in light: turning darker under strong sunlight and becoming lighter under milder sunlight. The complainant did not accept this explanation, opining that the lenses’ colour-changing performance under sunlight differed too much from what was shown in the photos. After the Council’s conciliation, Store C eventually agreed to offer a free remake of non-prescription glasses with tinted lenses or lenses of equal or lesser value. The complainant expressed that he would consider whether to accept this solution.

Case 3: Trader Refused to Refund Blue Light Blocking Glasses with Reflection and Double Vision Issues

The complainant visited Optical Store D to replace his lenses, and was offered 2 options by the staff: regular lenses ($228 per pair) or blue light blocking lenses ($476 per pair). He opted for the latter after trying on the samples. After receiving his order, he noticed issues of reflection and double vision with the new lenses on, but thought that he would just need to wait out the adjustment period. As the problems persisted after 2 weeks, the complainant relayed them to Store D.

According to the staff, the previously tried-on samples had no reflection issue because they had been used for a considerable period. The complainant was suggested to upgrade to higher-quality blue light blocking glasses by paying the price difference, or switch to regular lenses. He chose the latter and requested Store D to refund him the price difference, but the staff refused, saying that custom-made blue light blocking glasses could not be reused, and that the store would suffer a loss if it refunded the difference. The complainant eventually sought help from the Council.

In its response to the Council, Store D stated that each consumer had varying needs for lenses, but acknowledged that there was room for improvement in how the staff had handled the situation. After conciliation, Store D agreed to exchange the complainant’s lenses or offer a refund of $476. The complainant opted for the total refund and the case was resolved.

The Council believes disputes like those in Cases 2 and 3 are preventable if traders could clearly and thoroughly introduce their products’ information and actual performance during the sales process. Furthermore, professional and accurate eye examinations are the most fundamental and crucial steps with no room for error. The industry ought to maintain strict standards and continuously enhance its service quality to gain a reputation. As for consumers, they should pay heed to these tips when buying glasses:

  • Refrain from making purchases solely based on advertisements or special offers. Instead, consider a trader’s reputation and reviews, or take reference from the experience of friends or family. Make sure you are served by a registered optometrist, as they must be registered with and be regulated by the Optometrists Board in Hong Kong. The list of registered optometrists is accessible to consumers on the board’s website;
  • With specific coatings or filters, lenses can be imbued with various additional features, such as colour changing, blue light blocking, scratch-resistant and anti-fog properties. Be aware that different grades or prices of materials may impact the glasses’ function and performance. Ask traders for the actual products or samples for reference, and thoroughly enquire about the after-sales warranty terms and coverage;
  • Try the new glasses on once receiving them. In case of blurry vision or discomfort, promptly approach the trader for adjustments. Also, keep all receipts and eye examination records as proof of transaction in case of disputes;
  • In recent years, some consumers have opted to purchase glasses in the Mainland for lower prices among other factors. Despite the cost savings, it is equally important to pay attention to the reputation of optical stores and qualifications of optometrists, as well as considering the number of times, additional transportation costs and time needed for travelling to and from the Mainland.


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