Myopic readers will have noticed that the selling of spectacles has migrated to the internet. There are many suppliers who will take your order, make up your glasses and post them to you for a very reasonable price. They don’t do eye tests obviously but you can have one done elsewhere and the optician will give you a copy of your prescription which you can take to any other optician including the web. So money savers everywhere will take up this option and consequently will save money on their next pair of specs. They may not hold them in their hands or perch them on their nose until they are finished but they will save money. After sales service is another issue and I have no experience of this.
What high street opticians do is take other measurements when doing the test and use these to tailor the spectacles to each individual. They will have a range of frames for people to try on and they will crucially measure and use your Pupillary Distance when preparing your spectacles. They’ll use expensive accurate machines to do this and it will make better fitting lenses for you.
You can do it yourself with a ruler, a mirror and a large dose of optimism or you can find a friend to help you. Unsurprisingly there are web opticians who will guide you.
But when the optician hands you your prescription as they are required to do they don’t volunteer your Pupillary Distance. Web opticians will suggest you ask for it but intimate that your optician may charge you for a figure fairly close to 63mm. If you’re Mr or Mrs Average this may not be a crucial issue but anyone with a strong prescription may need to have the best data available to make up their new spectacles.
But is your Pupillary Distance your personal data? It certainly relates to you and may even be sensitive data. If it is why can’t you have it without charge? What gives opticians the right to withhold it from you? I’ve squinted at the Opticians Act 1989 and the sight testing regulations 1989 but nowhere does it say what must or must not be done. Can you make a Subject Access request for it? Is the going rate the £10 that Subject Access can cost? Shouldn’t it be free? Or is it not Personal data? Can an optician tell me he holds no personal data on me?
Just because it’s easy to measure it yourself (badly) but hard to measure it accurately (at an optician) and will have a significant impact on your vision does it make it special in any way? You can weigh yourself every morning and know the result without anyone charging you for it.
Other health providers will carry out measurements of various parts of your body (and mind) and will give you the results. What makes Opticians different? Is there a legal power to charge? Or is it protectionism that keeps the high street Opticians trading and holds back the web offshoot?
A trawl through the web shows plenty of blogs and opinions where optomotrists either label their customers as morons or cheapskates or alternatively (and encouragingly) suggest a small fee for a professional service in the hope they will retain the customer but the issue doesn’t seem easily resolved. More like on a case by case basis (that’s spectacle cases to you…).
Hmmm. If only there was an access mechanism I could use to obtain information from public bodies. Spoiler Alert.
What about Freedom of information? Surely Opticians involved with General Ophthalmic Services are covered by the Act?
If an Optician fails to answer my SAR on the grounds it isn’t personal data they cannot thereafter cite section 40 (or 38) as a valid exemption. The cost of using FOI might even be lower than the £10 the DPA allows.
My two requests are in. By the very nature of DP & FOI surely one must succeed or maybe I’ll find a philanthropic myopic interested in the topic and he’ll see his way to giving me what I want without a charge.
Watch this space between my eyes.