Home Eye Test Policy & Procedure
Spectacles bought during a home visit fall under the regulations of doorstep selling.
In many cases, this form of selling is convenient and effective for both traders and consumers alike. If the patient cannot attend the practice then a home visit for an eye can be arrange and is a free NHS service for eligible patients.
On 13th June 2014 The Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013 came into force, superseding the Cancellation of Contracts made in a Consumer’s Home or Place of Work etc Regulations 2008.
The Regulations offer protection to consumers in doorstep sales transactions. In particular, traders must provide customers with certain information before they enter into a contract, and customers are given a statutory cancellation or “cooling off” period of fourteen calendar days, provided the value of goods or services purchased exceeds £42. The right to cancel applies regardless of the consumer’s reasons for choosing to cancel. Prior to 13th June 2014 the cancellation period was 7 days.
Provision of Information by Traders
Traders are required to provide a range of information to customers before, during and after transactions. The key details are the following:
– The main characteristics of the goods, services or digital content purchased;
– A full breakdown of pricing, itemising tax, delivery and other charges;
– The trader’s identity including contact details;
– Delivery arrangements;
– The customer’s rights to cancel and withdraw from the contract (including the cooling off period); and
– The duration of the contract.
This information must be given either on paper or, if the customer agrees, on another “durable medium”. Depending upon the nature of the transaction, “durable medium” may include an email or storage in a customer’s online account. Whatever the form, however, the information must remain accessible and readable by the customer. A link to a trader’s standard terms and conditions, then, will not suffice as URLs or indeed the content of such terms may be changed at any time, thus cutting the customer off from the information.
The trader must also give the customer either a copy of the signed contract or confirmation of the contract within a reasonable time after the contract is made. Again, this must be on paper or on another durable medium.
The Cooling Off Period
The 14 day cooling off period is calculated as follows:
– For the sale of goods, the 14 days begin on the date that the customer takes possession of the goods. Refunds will be given within 14 days of the customer returning the goods (or providing proof of postage) and must include the original delivery cost (though only the standard cost – express delivery, gift-wrapping etc. do not need to be refunded) and, unless the seller expressly states otherwise in their terms, the costs of returning the goods;
The cost of receiving the good from the customer will be deducted from the refund. So if products had to be collected or a return address label organised this would be deducted from the refund.
– For the sale of services, the 14 days begin on the date that the contract between the seller and the customer is formed;
– For the supply of digital content which is not supplied on a tangible medium, the 14 days begin on the date that the contract between the seller and the customer is formed.
The cooling off period for the sale of goods is relatively straightforward as goods will reach the customer whole and can be easily returned (unlike services or digital content).
Exemptions do, however, apply for certain types of goods – for example those that are in sealed packaging for hygiene reasons, which cannot be returned if the packaging is opened. Also exempt are personalised goods and those which are likely to deteriorate rapidly. In addition, if goods are reduced in value as a result of any handling that exceeds that which would reasonably be allowed in a shop, refunds can be reduced accordingly.
Spectacles are a bespoke item. The prescription lenses and made to the exact personalised measurement during the eye examination. The lenses are set into the glasses specific to the patient’s pupillary distance. The frame is specifically adjusted to the patients features. Once worn, the frame is not considered for resale. Therefore the 14 day cooling off period does not apply.
The 14 days cooling off period also does not apply when a patients signs an order that request the immediate initiation of the order and therefore waiving the 14 day cooling off period.
Supplying Services within the Cooling Off Period
In the case of services, it may well be the case that the services are capable of being performed within 14 days of the customer’s order (and are required to be by the customer for that matter). In such cases, the customer must make an express request and acknowledge that by agreeing to the provision of the services within the cooling off period, the right to cancel will be lost.
If services cannot be fully performed within 14 days but are still to begin within that period, traders cannot prevent customers from exercising the right to cancel. Again, the customer must expressly consent to the commencement of service provision within the cooling off period, but this time the best a trader can do is be paid for the services as provided up until the customer chooses to cancel (within the 14 days, that is – outside of the cooling off period cancellation and refunds are for the trader to determine), calculated as a reasonable proportion of the full service / charging period.
Supplying Digital Content within the Cooling Off Period
With the supply of digital content, the customer is likely to want the content supplied straight away. If so, the customer must give their express consent and acknowledge that by agreeing to the provision of the services within the cooling off period, the right to cancel will be lost. This consent and acknowledgement must be included in the confirmation of contract referred to above.
The Regulations include a model cancellation form, which must be provided to customers (whether online or on paper). Customers need not use the model cancellation form, however; they can cancel the contract by making a clear statement setting out the decision to cancel.
Regardless of when the cancellation notice is received and read by the trader, provided it is served within the cooling off period, it will be valid. Notices sent by post or delivered personally are deemed served on the day they are sent; email notices are deemed served at the time of sending.
Trader’s Failure to Provide Information and Advise Customer of the Right to Cancel
Failure to provide the information referred to in the Regulations constitutes a breach of contract by the trader (because the Regulations provide that contracts include an implied term that the relevant information has been given). A customer can therefore seek a remedy for breach of contract. This would also be the case if the information given were incorrect.
If a trader fails to advise a customer of the right to cancel, the cancellation period will be extended either until 14 days after trader does provide the information or (if the trader does not provide the information within 12 months) until the date 12 months after it would ordinarily have ended.
Related Contracts, Including Credit Agreements
In cases where a consumer purchases goods or services and enters into a related contract, such as a credit agreement, any such agreement will be cancelled automatically upon the consumer’s exercise of the right to cancel under the 2013 Regulations. Any payments made by the consumer in relation to the credit agreement must be repaid unless otherwise stated in the Regulations. Further, the consumer must repay any credit and interest received. Beyond this, the credit agreement is cancelled. If the consumer has provided security of any kind, this must be returned.
If the trader is the creditor, it is their responsibility to take the appropriate action with respect to cancelling the credit agreement. If the creditor is a third party, the trader must inform that party immediately upon receipt of the cancellation notice from the consumer.
Where credit was to be repaid in instalments and the total borrowed is not repaid by the due date of the first instalment, the trader or creditor must take appropriate action to recover monies and interest due from the consumer.
There are certain categories of goods and services to which the provisions discussed above do not apply. These are as follows:
• Spectacles are a bespoke item. The are made to measure to the patient’s prescription, pupillary distance, vertex distance and facial measurements. Therefore they do not apply to the cancellation rules once the order has been signed to confirm placing the initiation of the order and so waiving the right to cancel. Also when the order has begun manufacture. [Please not if the good are faulty they will be repaired or replaced]
• Any goods or services whose value is less than £42.