You’ve probably heard of doctors and surgeons getting banned from ever practising medicine again, but how about banned eye surgery ads? There aren’t that many of them but it goes to show how litigious some people are. Besides, it’s not a very good feeling to be misled by an advertisement, or anything for that matter especially when it comes to getting cheap eye surgery.
Probably the most famous example of a banned eye surgery ad is the one by Optical Express. The TV ad has Padraig Harrington, an Irish golfer and 2-time , who says that to improve your game (of golf), you’ve got to have great vision. And to get great vision, he recommends that you should visit Optical Express. I’m paraphrasing, so the actual words he said were: “People often ask me: how can I improve my game? I tell them the secret is to stay focused. And of course it’s important to have great vision. I need to be able to look down the line, focusing clearly on the target. My advice? Visit Optical Express … It could help your game too.” There was also a brochure and a testimonial by Harrington.
Although Mr. Harrington has had laser eye surgery, it wasn’t with Optical Express. I’m guessing it was with Ultralase, since Ultralase was the one who complained about these false allegations. Ultralase argued that the ad was misleading but Optical Express said that Harrington was simply saying how laser eye surgery has benefited him as a golfer and that anyone who wants the same benefits should have laser eye surgery with Optical Express.
Nevertheless, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) upheld 23 out of the 25 complaints made against the Optical Express advertisement and the TV ad was banned.
As a matter of fact, Optical Express has had a several close encounters with the law. A few months earlier, they ran ads for laser eye surgery from £395 per eye. An advertising watchdog for the BBC in the UK, un-interestingly named the Watchdog, did a little case study with the company. They sent 4 Watchdog researchers to 10 different Optical Express clinics that were all advertising the £395 per eye deal. Every researcher came back reporting that while they were qualified to get the eye surgery done on them, the final quote was actually thousands of pounds greater than the advertised price of £395 per eye. Also, when the researchers asked the branches about the criteria to qualify for the deal, 5 of the 10 branches said the prescription had to be less than -1 to qualify, another said that it had to be less than -1.50 and another branch said it had to be less than -1.75. Talk about confusing!
Although technically not illegal, 3 out of the 10 branches attempted to sign up the researchers for the laser eye surgery on the spot. In other words, they experienced pressure selling. Well, I guess it’s not much of a surprise for a company like Optical Express. And as per usual, the company came out with a statement against this little case study by the Watchdog, saying that the £395 per eye was not misleading as it complied with the ASA, the time-limited discounts was a win-win situation for both customer and company and that Optical Express said that 99% of their patients would recommend their friends or family to them, and several other pompous statistics about the company.
Another UK based eye surgery clinic, called Optimax, has also been under fire and was shortly after the Harrington ad. Optimax had sent out a direct mail advertisement saying that it was the “UK’s number one Laser Eye Surgery specialists” and that it had “the best corrective vision treatment in the country”. What is ironic about this case is the plaintiff was actually Optical Express! (So much for letting the sinner cast the first stone!) Anyway, the advertisement was banned by the ASA since there was no evidence supporting the claim that Optimax provided the best corrective eye treatment in the UK.
(Sorry, I couldn’t find the banned ad)
It seems like UK eye surgery clinics has got a lot of problems but it’s not all bad. Just recently, Keith Richards (the guitarist from the Rolling Stones) has gotten laser eye surgery from the London Vision Clinic, just before Christmas last year and is doing very well after the procedure. So, eye surgery ads shouldn’t really get you scared of the procedure. What should make you scared is getting laser eye surgery done by a banned surgeon, promoted by a banned ad!
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