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Laser eye surgery advice misleads consumers

Which? finds laser eye consulations unsatisfactory

laser eye surgery

Laser eye surgery is not without risks

Some high street clinics are giving unsatisfactory advice about the risks of laser eye surgery, and pressuring customers into treatment options that cost hundreds of pounds more than the advertised prices, reveals an undercover investigation by Which?.

More than half the clinics visited by Which? researchers gave unsatisfactory advice, and none of the consultations were rated as ‘good’ by Which?’s panel of laser eye experts.

Clinics played down the level and possible duration of risks and complications, which can include permanent poor night vision or some loss of sight in extreme cases.

Laser eye surgery advice lacking

Almost half of Which?’s researchers weren’t told that even if they had laser eye surgery, they’d probably need glasses when they’re older. Existing dry eye problems weren’t take into account in half the cases, and a branch of each of the major high street chains failed to ask the right questions to spot binocular vision.

Playing down the risks of laser eye surgery, comments from clinic staff included: ‘Things cannot go wrong’. One clinic incorrectly minimised the long-term risk of night vision, saying: ‘This only lasts up to about two months.’

Laser eye surgery costs

Optimax and Optical Express both advertise surgery from £790 for both eyes, but the lowest price offered to Which? was £1,090. One Optical Express worker said: ‘We keep the lower prices for advertising, really.’  

Premium treatments were heavily promoted and discounts of up to £200 were offered for reasons including quick booking, including one case where a 19 year old was repeatedly asked to contact her parents to get a deposit.

Long term risks of laser eye surgery

Martyn Hocking, editor of Which? magazine, says: ‘Laser eye surgery can be an attractive option for people who want to be free from glasses or lenses, and in most cases it gives good results with few side effects. But people need to be aware of the potentially serious and long-term risks, so that they have realistic expectations and commit to the procedure with their eyes open.

 ‘Clinics must give accurate information and ensure customers are fully aware of the risks, the benefits and the likely price tag.’

The full article ‘Eye-openers’ appears in the April 2009 issue of Which? magazine. If you’re not already a Which? subscriber, you can try out three issues of Which? for £3 here.

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