SA optometrists may be cleared to sell contacts and glasses online – but you’ll have to collect

Business Insider SA
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  • The Health Professions Council of South Africa has floated new ethical rules that would okay optometrists to sell spectacles and some contact lenses online – but with restrictions.
  • The online seller must have physical premises, even if they use the services of another optometrist to take the necessary  measurements.
  • And dispensing must be in person, which means you'll have to personally collect the glasses or contact lenses you buy online.
  • Foreign operators are currently selling glasses to South Africans without such restrictions.
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Draft new rules from a regulator will give South African optometrists the ethical okay to sell spectacles and some kinds of contact lenses online, but with restrictions that will keep part of the transaction offline – and may leave local practitioners price-uncompetitive compared to their foreign peers.

The Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) on Friday gazetted draft amendments to its Ethical Rules of Conduct for public comment over the next three months.

That includes new rules on the "online sale of optical assistive devices (i.e. Spectacles, Low vision Optical Devices or contact lenses)" for optometrists and dispensing opticians who sell glasses or contact lenses in the scope of their practice.

There are no limits on the kinds of spectacles that may be sold online, though hard contact lenses are excluded.

However, under the draft online sales "shall only be limited to frame selection and pre-ordering of lenses".

An online seller may arrange for another optometrist to do an eye exam, and may make a sale based on a prescription that is less than one year old.

The online seller must have physical premises – and any glassed or contact lenses must be dispensed at a physical practice, where adjustments or complaints can also be handled.

"[T]he actual dispensing must be physically conducted by an optometrist or dispensing optician," one of the proposed new rules reads.

Various online spectacle sellers in other countries offer shipment to South Africa, and some even price their wares in rands, as long as the buyer can provide a prescription. Some deal in large volumes across several countries, and freed of the overheads of physical premises, their prices can be quite attractive.

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