Registrants Blog

December 4, 2020

Offering free eye exams? You might be violating the Advertising Regulation

 

Advertising by opticians must comply with the Regulation

As an optician, there are a number of rules that you need to follow when advertising your services. The purpose of these rules is to ensure that patients can trust their health care providers to provide them with accurate and reliable information that has their best interests in mind.

The Regulation prohibits opticians from being associated with advertisements that contain:

  • Anything that is false or misleading
  • Anything that, because of its nature, cannot be verified
  • A claim of specialization, if the optician does not hold a Specialty Certificate issued by the College, or
  • The optician’s name or photograph implies that their professional expertise is relevant to the subject matter of the advertisement if, in fact, it is not

Advertisements that mislead patients undermine the public’s confidence and can lead to complaints to the Better Business Bureau and/or the College.     


Opticians must not advertise for services that they don’t actually offer

The College does not regulate how opticians choose to price the products or services that they offer. But, the  Regulation and Standards require you to ensure that your products and services are advertised in a way that is accurate and does not give the impression that you are offering services that fall outside your scope of practice. Advertising for “eye exams”, whether free or for a fee, is misleading because it implies that opticians can perform eye exams when, in fact, they cannot. Instead, advertisements should give an accurate description of the service being offered. For example, it would be appropriate to advertise that the optician or store can arrange for an eye exam with a qualified optometrist or ophthalmologist.    


Advertisements must be verifiable 

Advertisements that include superlatives (e.g. “best”, “greatest”, “most effective”, etc.) or that compare your products or services to another professional (e.g. “Our products and services are better than…”) are considered inappropriate because they include information that, by its nature, cannot be confirmed or proven. 

Instead, advertisements should be based on information that is verifiable. For example, it would be appropriate to advertise that the optician has “over 10 years of experience in opticianry”, if this is indeed the case. 


Opticians are responsible for all advertisements that relate to their practice

Even if you did not create or distribute an advertisement yourself, if it relates to your place of practice, you still have a responsibility to take reasonable steps to ensure that it complies with the rules. This may mean bringing any ads you are aware of to the attention of your employer or dispensary owner and providing them with information about your professional responsibilities. 


Opticians are responsible for being professional on social media and other online forums

Opticians who engage with patients via social media or other online forums (e.g. review sites such as Google Reviews or Yelp) must be mindful of remaining professional at all times. The Standards require that opticians ensure that their communications do not breach patient confidentiality or violate patient boundaries. 

Examples of appropriate interactions might include asking patients for their consent to invite them to follow your business on social media, or responding to a negative online review with an invitation to contact you directly for assistance. 

Examples of inappropriate interactions might include sending a patient a request to connect from your personal social media account, or responding to a negative online review by calling the patient unreasonable. It would also be inappropriate to refer to any details of the product or service provided to the patient, as this would be considered a breach of confidentiality.  


Resources

For more information about advertising your opticianry services, make sure to review the following resources:

  • Ontario Regulation 219/94 under the Opticianry Act, 1991 
  • Standard 9 of the Professional Standards of Practice and Practice Guidelines 

You can also contact the Practice Advisor at practiceadvice@collegeofopticians.ca for any other questions or advice.
 


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