The Consumer Ombudsman and optical industry have joined forces to update the industry’s marketing guidelines, with the objectives of increasing the transparency of marketing with regard to, e.g. the contents and limitations of offers. The Consumer Ombudsman has placed marketing in the optical industry under special scrutiny and will take further action if necessary.
In addition to the furniture and sports equipment sectors, the optical industry is one of the sectors that generate the most complaints to consumer protection authorities. One frequent object of complaint is that the consumer has not been informed clearly enough of the contents and limitations of offers on glasses.
Advertisements must provide consumers with sufficient and accurate information on any limitations applying to the offer. For example, it is vital to specify the lens strengths or features and frame brands the offer applies to. In other words, if the offer is only valid for standard single-power or varifocal lenses, or only to certain frame brands and not the entire selection offered by the vendor, this must be clearly indicated in marketing. The terms ”standard lenses” and ”basic lenses” must also be explained so that the consumer understands what is meant by them.
Long sale and discount campaigns are another common feature of the optical sector. According to established judicial practice, the maximum duration of a sale in a single place of business is 2 months and the annual maximum for sales 3 months. Special offers, on the other hand, have been limited to one month.
The Consumer Ombudsman has discussed the optical sector’s problems with the trade organisation NÄE ry and the companies Instru Optiikka Oy, Specsavers Finland Oy, Fenno Optical Oy and Silmäasema Oyj. The Consumer Ombudsman's guidelines on marketing in the optical industry were also jointly updated at these meetings. The guidelines are based on currently valid regulations, judicial practice and the decisions of supervisory authorities and is intended to inform companies of how the Consumer Ombudsman applies the law in its supervisory activities.
Now that the guidelines have been published, the Consumer Ombudsman will monitor the development of marketing in the optical sector. If the problems persist, the Consumer Ombudsman will institute legal enforcement measures. As a last resort, charges for illegal marketing can be brought against companies in the Market Court.
”Updating guidelines in cooperation with stakeholders is an efficient way of reinforcing the consumer’s market position. We are satisfied with the sector’s constructive input in the matter. When the rules are clear to all parties, market disruptions can be efficiently prevented through enforcement measures”, says Consumer Ombudsman Antti Neimala.