Over recent years, the optical and optometric industry has seen a significant increase in e-commerce. It can extend the reach of traditional practices and professionals and open up new business opportunities. But this implies the need for fair competition and consumers and patients being able to make informed choices. The sale of spectacles and contact lenses via online distribution channels is often driven by competitive pricing and discounts. This has brought uncertainties to some offline businesses and has raised important safety questions for consumers and patients when it comes to products such as medical devices.
In the wake of the growing online presence of optical and optometric services and the advancing European digital single market, ECOO developed guidance documents to establish common principles and reduce uncertainties around professional practice and consumer and patient safety in the online world. Two guidance documents have been issued: one on good online practices; one for professionals, and one for consumers and patients
The guidance document for professionals outlines key principles of good practice when it comes to the provision of online services and e-commerce activities. Touching upon issues of integrity, privacy and data access, communication with patients, and awareness of regulatory frameworks, the main aim of the guidance is to ensure that the online engagement of professionals is driven by needs and benefits of consumers and patients.
The guidance document for consumers and patients focuses on empowering people that seek professional advice by promoting safe and informed online behaviour. The key principles outlined in the guidance document pertain to ensuring that consumers and patients are aware of their rights, both online and offline, and to ensuring that they adopt a careful approach towards the websites and applications they use.