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Smart Consumer: Keep your eye on the price when going for a sight test

'When you go to bed with a stunning blonde and wake up next to fat Bob's granny. It is then that it dawns on you that when purchasing your beer goggles you REALLY should have gone to Specsavers."

This is the explanation of the phrase "should have gone to Specsavers" as given in urbandictionary.com, and it shows how an amazingly successful ad campaign ensured that the name of a business entered our everyday vocabulary.

The other result of their ad campaign is that we are going to their shops. As reported in this paper last week, 10 Specsavers stores around the country received the largest payments from the Government subsidised scheme for eyecare.

But whether the cost of your eye test is covered by your medical card or PRSI payments, or if you are paying out of your own pocket, you should always seek out the best value.

According to a new survey published by the National Consumer Agency (NCA), the costs can vary quite significantly.

The lowest average price for a standard eye test was found in Donegal (€20), rising to €45 in Galway city and to a high of €60 in Dublin 2.

They also found some free eye tests on offer, good news for those in Dublin 1, Letterkenny and Buncrana, where they were discovered.

But bear in mind that even in one geographical area, there can be price choice. The report showed that in Dublin 2 there was a whopping €50 difference between the cheapest and dearest so if you're looking for an eye test in that area be sure to shop around.

If you're applying for a driver's licence and have to get an eyesight exam, you can be comforted by the fact that these tests are generally cheaper; the cheapest found was €8 in the Athlone/Mullingar area and the dearest was €50 in Galway city and (surprise, surprise) south county Dublin.

Why anyone would pay €50 or €60 for an eye exam I don't know. This report found that the national average across all regions was €32, so your aim should be to beat that. That's why it's important that you know what prices are out there so that you can make sure you're not paying through the nose.

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A display of prices for standard examinations in the opticians' would be helpful, and the NCA report that in 62% of cases, a price display was present.

Credit to opticians in Kerry and Waterford and Galway cities, where incidences of price display were as high as 90%. But the 'must do better' award goes to opticians in Kilkenny, Louth and Dublin west where only 33% displayed prices.

Things to look out for (and ask for) at the optician:

•Discounts on set days

•Student discounts

•Discretionary discounts for long-standing customers

•Ask if the eye test fee can be waived if you use the prescription to buy glasses in their store.

For further information on the NCA report: www.consumerconnect.ie