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Contact Lens Scam

Kassensturz reports:

Optician chains attempt to hold onto their customers with their own contact lens brands, however: the packages still contain lenses from large manufacturers. «Kassensturz» reveals all: Opticians’ own brands are mostly identical to other contact lenses - the only difference: they are often much more expensive.

Many opticians sell common lens models under their own brand. Customers who blindly trust their optician to choose their lenses have no idea that these own brands often conceal lenses made by large manufacturers, which can be purchased more cheaply elsewhere. This hostile practice is widespread in the industry.

Same lenses - different name

The use of private labels is widespread: the own brand of the largest optician chain “Visilab” is known as “Cadence”. Dia is the own brand of “Optic 2000”and “Dynalens”is another one.

Some of the differences compared to manufacturers’ branded products include: a different name, different packaging, a different colour. Some large lens manufacturers sell the same contact lenses under a variety of different names.

The customer remains oblivious and the optician cashes in. Private labels can be used by opticians to maintain a hold on their market because customers will end up sourcing products solely from them.

It's the same product, just twice as expensive.

Take a look at the following pricing examples to get an idea: monthly “Contact Life” lenses from the manufacturer “Wöhlk” are available online from as little as 53.55 Francs per package. At the opticians, the own brand “Contaview Premium” costs 86 Francs. “Biomedics 55” from the manufacturer “Cooper Vision” cost 36.50 Francs from the Internet. Identical lenses, “Visilab”, can be bought from the optician for 72 Francs - almost double.

The Internet retailer, «discountlens», amongst others, presented these types of price differences via a comparison on their homepage. These comparisons showed that opticians’ own brands were frequently much more expensive than identical products sold by the lens manufacturer under their own branded name.

Legal challenges to price transparency

The online retailer immediately ‘paid the price’ for this approach to price transparency. With a criminal complaint concerning unfair competition, the country’s largest chain of opticians “Visilab” attempted to put a halt to price comparisons. Jacqueline Urbach of «discountlens» stands firm: “Visilab is attempting to prevent and even eliminate any sense of fair competition.”

Other Internet retailers who made public the unfair practices of own brands have also been pursued by “Visilab” with legal proceedings. “Visilab” says it is about protecting their own brand “Cadence” from misuse.

Visilab managing director Roger Willhalm also says that the own brand offers customers additional safety. “We have noticed a tendency amongst customers to attend examinations more frequently if they have a private label.”

Customer loyalty can be achieved through other means

Michael Bärtschi, president of the Interlens professional association, however, says private labels provide no benefit to users. This expert emphasises that contact lens specialists can encourage their customers to attend examinations more often through subscriptions or discounts, amongst other means.

“Private labels are a marketing instrument for people who are worried that their customers are not loyal, for those attempting to tie customers to their business." Real experts can achieve this by providing a range of products and services which meet customer expectations without needing to “print a made-up name on a box of lenses”.