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Firm faces action for selling contact lenses by mail order

A company selling contact lenses by direct mail is to be prosecuted for failing to provide customers with adequate supervision. The General Optical Council decided it would take legal action against Vision Direct and its directors for selling cut-price contact lenses without the supervision of a qualified doctor or optician.

Customers of the company, which has been operating for four months, can get replacement contact lenses by sending it a prescription and lenses packaging. The General Optical Council claims this breaks regulations requiring a registered doctor or optician to supervise every sale of contact lenses.

A spokesman said: "We believe that the requirement that contact lenses are sold by, or under the close supervision of, an eye-care professional is to safeguard the public interest by ensuring that the clinical care of the patient is an essential element in the supply of contact lenses."

Vision Direct, of Battersea, south London, has a registered practitioner working for the company, but at a separate site from where the contact lenses are sent out. Steffan Rygaard, the managing director, said he wanted to discuss the issue with the GOC before the case went ahead, adding: "I want to change the company to fit in the GOC guidelines."

A breach of the Opticians Act carries a pounds 2,500 fine. Meanwhile, another company announced yesterday that it intended to set up its own mail order service. Direct Lenses said it believed it was within the regulations because it was owned by opticians who would run the service.

Eye specialists are concerned about the development of mail order lens services, warning that without constant supervision potentially blinding eye diseases can develop.