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Business practices that are a blinking cheek
Specsavers, Issue 1390
derek dyson.jpg
SHORTSIGHTED APPROACH? Specsavers director Derek Dyson, whose involvement in trying to contrive unfounded claims of dishonesty against opticians emerged in court transcripts
A COUPLE of years ago Private Eye reported how the Specsavers group was using heavy-handed tactics and allegedly unfair contracts to oust partners running its local stores if they wouldn’t go along with practices like opening on Sundays (even though the stores are supposedly independent).

Three sets of partners running Specsavers stores as co-shareholders with the Guernsey-based Specsavers group took action in the high court, where judgments were reserved last year.

After several months, two of the high court cases have now been settled confidentially without the need for judgments – even though full hearings and closing speeches were made by both parties – on what Specsavers calls “mutually satisfactory terms prior to a judgment being handed down”.

Contriving events
The terms are confidential but transcripts of hearings from one of the cases show how a plan to get a couple of opticians in Bognor out of the business involved contriving unfounded claims of dishonesty against them. It emerged that Specsavers director Derek Dyson had emailed a colleague asking him if he would “get under the skin of this and develop a plan to resolve and put her [one of the opticians] back in her box or an exit plan?” The true version of events, said the optician’s barrister, included no dishonesty on her part but did demonstrate “the level of Mr Dyson’s dishonesty” in contriving events.

No adverse publicity
Another optician took Specsavers to an employment tribunal where the company’s attitude was again in evidence (Eye 1331). When she tried to have a hearing adjourned two days after a miscarriage, Specsavers contested the proposal. Finding against the company, a judge noted: “It did not in our judgment require any medical expertise whatsoever to realise that an appellant in such circumstance might well be very distraught and distressed and in no fit state to attend the hearing of her appeal.”

The Eye understands that the “mutually satisfactory terms” agreed in the high court amount to massive payments to the opticians who had their businesses taken off them in return for no adverse publicity for Specsavers, which commands almost half the optical care market and runs contracts for government bodies including the DVLA and the Department of Work and Pensions.

It might suit these parties for nobody to know what Specsavers gets up to, but the secret justice doesn’t do much for other opticians who might have suffered at Specsavers’ hands.

More top stories in the latest issue:

CROWN JEWELS
The Eye identifies 120 former Crown Estate properties that, via sale of their leaseholds, have ended up in 14 offshore tax havens.

WAGES OF SPIN
FTSE chief exec Ruby McGregor-Smith says she’s a ‘role model’ for women – but one of her firms pays care staff less than the minimum wage.

DEEPCUT DELAYS
Claims of a cover-up threaten to engulf new inquiries into the death of army recruit Cheryl James, who died of gunshot wounds at Deepcut barracks.

PENSIONS POTTY
Government claims that oldies cashing in on new pension freedoms are being offered lots of good advice are so much nonsense.

WHISTLEBLOWING U-TURN
Why Barts NHS Trust has reinstated a union official and whistleblower it sacked 18 months ago and against whom it waged a costly legal battle.

BENCH MARKS
Chris Grayling provokes outrage sneaking through new court charges that may put pressure on the innocent but hard-up to plead to guilty.

To read all these stories in full, you can buy the latest edition of Private Eye - or subscribe here and have the magazine delivered to your home every fortnight.

Next issue on sale:
28th April 2015.
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For all these stories you can buy the magazine or subscribe here and get delivery direct to your home every fortnight.
Next issue on sale: 28th April 2015.

Private Eye Issue 1389
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