Multi-focal lenses come into focus

Carol Cunningham saw red when the multi-focal spectacles and distance sunglasses she ordered from Torga Optical didn’t measure up to expectations.

The Table View woman shopped around for quotes and the cheapest she got was from Vision Works, R9 035, which she showed to Torga and the consultant “used the information to undercut the quote but not give me the best product”.

“My new lenses are 1.5 and were included in the price of the frame and as far as I know 1.6 are best suited to multi-focals.

“I had a discussion about the thickness of the lenses with the consultant and when the optician at the Table View Mall outlet measured my pupils she found a discrepancy and indicated she would apply her mind which wasn’t very reassuring. When I left I forwarded a prescription from Spectacle World to Torga as I felt uncomfortable after the eye test,” said Ms Cunningham.

“The spectacles didn’t fit properly when I collected them and after a day I had a painful indentation on the side of my nose from the pads which were replaced with silicone ones but it is still painful and I’m not wearing the new spectacles. I wore them for four days and found them uncomfortable and difficult to adjust to. It took me a while to realise the lenses were 1.5 and not 1.6. My previous spectacles were a heavier metal frame and weighed 28g: the new spectacles are a lighter plastic frame and weigh 32g. I got an anti-static coating instead of anti-glare, I cannot see the purpose of anti-static coating,” said Ms Cunningham who wanted Torga to replace the lenses to 1.6 free of charge and the coating to be anti-glare.

“The prescription in the frames are not what I agreed to with the consultant. Who in their right mind would downgrade from a 1.6 to a 1.5 lens?”

Ms Cunningham complained to the consumer protector in Cape Town who advised her to contact the Health Professionals Council but instead she asked me to help.

Charleen Bergh, owner of Torga Optical, said: “It is unfortunate that Ms Cunningham “wrote to you as we have done everything to assist her”.

“Neither have we done anything that is ethically incorrect,” she said and explained about optical lens material.

“Spectacle lenses are made from a 1.5 index material called CR39 which is the best optical quality lens material around. It’s about the same as glass which is not used much today because of the possibility of eye injury.

“If someone has a high prescription, however, we use higher index lenses (1.6 and 1.67) to make their lenses thinner or for a specific frame.

“When you use these high index lenses (which are more expensive) on low prescriptions, there is no noticeable difference to the thickness of the lenses; so it’s a waste of money to use them. High index materials have a slightly lower optical quality than the 1.5 index material, so you are doing someone a disservice if they are given this when it is not necessary.

“It would be unethical to give someone a more expensive product that does not benefit them,” she said.

An ophthalmologist told me the difference between a 1.5 lens and 1.6 lens was negligible.

“Ms Cunningham came to us with a quote from another optometrist and asked for a quote to make multi-focal lenses. She said another practice suggested she get 1.6 lenses.

“We explained that they cost an extra R1 875 over the standard lenses, and because she had a low prescription there would be no advantage to paying extra. She agreed and signed the quote which specifies the lens material and we made her glasses based on her acceptance of the quote,” said Ms Bergh who confirmed that Ms Cunningham told them the glasses were hurting her nose, and they replaced the nose pads.

The new glasses were heavier than her old specs. She weighed them herself and the few extra grams could be the result of a different frame or lens size, Ms Bergh explained.

“Torga offers a 30-day guarantee and we will change your frame and lenses to the same value if you are not happy. I told Ms Cunningham that if the spectacles did not fit properly she was welcome to exchange the frames at no extra cost. Even though it would be a waste of money, we offered to change her lenses and she would only be charged the difference,” Ms Bergh said.

“I have sent numerous emails to Ms Cunningham to see how we can resolve this issue. We tried to arrange a meeting with our lens expert but she has declined this as well.”

Ms Cunningham did not accept the offer but last week she returned the spectacles and sunglasses to Torga and got a refund of R2 300.

“I told them the lenses could be donated to charity,” she said.

Ms Bergh said they are holding on to the lenses in the hope that Ms Cunningham will change her mind and let them help her.