COBC or OAC: Who Does What? (Part 1)

Many registrants often confuse us, the College of Opticians of BC (COBC), with the Opticians Association of Canada (OAC). In order to help us understand where confusion might exist, we conducted a survey in September 2018, which consisted of two sections: We asked registrants to tell us which organization they believed provided certain services, and we also asked them who they would call in certain practice scenarios.

We had almost 240 respondents participate in the survey - most registrants appear to have a solid understanding about how the organizations differ, but the results did reveal some areas of confusion that we hope to address!

The results of the first section of the survey are below, along with the correct answers. We will present the results and answers to the second section of the survey, in a future post:


1.   Who provides registrants with advice on best practices?

Correct answer: COBC                   81% of respondents were correct!

The COBC is responsible for enforcing specific legislation that opticians work under. These include the regulations within the Health Professions Act, the Standards of Practice, the Code of Ethics and Bylaws. As such, the COBC can provide direction, guidance, and practice advice for registrants when needed.


2.   Who organizes and offers continuing education courses/events?

Correct answer: OAC                     70% of respondents were correct!

While there are some continuing education opportunities available directly from certain sponsors and elsewhere, the OAC has an online library of approved, accredited education options that are available to OAC members. These can be used toward your continuing education requirements for the COBC, who does not offer or provide education options. The COBC sets the requirements for opticians to remain competent to provide services to the public, but does not directly provide education, unless it specifically relates to the functions of the COBC.


3.   Who receives and resolves complaints?

Correct answer: COBC                   89% of respondents were correct!

The COBC is responsible for regulating the profession, in the interest of public safety. As such, the COBC has a complaints process in place should members of the public, stakeholders or other opticians have a concern about the conduct or competence of a Licensed Optician. The COBC investigates matters of alleged professional misconduct and determines how the matter should be resolved. The COBC does not have jurisdiction to investigate concerns about business practices, financial matters, or poor customer service unless it is indicated that it could be professional misconduct.


4.   Who advocates for the industry – to government, employers, and other agencies?

Correct answer: OAC                     55% of respondents were incorrect.

This is one area where there does appear to be some confusion. The COBC is the regulatory body that has been appointed by the government to ensure public safety in opticianry in BC. The COBC does not represent opticians, nor advocate for them. The OAC is the advocacy body that registrants may join for representation; the OAC aims to safeguard the common interest of the profession, not the public interest.


5.   Who can provide opticians with professional liability insurance?

Correct answer: OAC                     74% of respondents were correct!

Professional liability insurance is required by the COBC in order for an optician to obtain and maintain their licence, but the COBC itself does not provide insurance. The OAC offers its members free professional liability insurance, or registrants may purchase it from other insurance companies.


6.   Who provides licensing for qualified opticians?

Correct answer: COBC                   91% of respondents were correct!

The COBC provides licensing for qualified opticians in BC, and regulates the profession by ensuring Licensed Opticians are qualified to practice and consistently provide safe, ethical, and competent care to their patients. In BC, anyone wishing to practice opticianry, identify with the protected titles, and conduct restricted activities are required to register with the COBC. 


7.   Who conducts inspections?

Correct answer: COBC                   87% of respondents were correct!

The COBC may conduct inspections as a part of the complaint process, to determine an appropriate resolution. The COBC also conducts right-to-title inspections to ensure that only those registered with the COBC are using the protected titles of “Dispensing Optician”, “Optician”, “Contact Lens Fitter”, and any variation of those titles. These inspections are a result of public reporting to the COBC.


8.   Who provides industry news?

Correct answer: OAC                     62% of respondents were correct!

As part of their mission statement, the OAC aims to publish journals, reports, and other papers in support of the profession. They also have a mandate to review legislation affecting the eye care industry and seek changes where deemed necessary. The only news provided by the COBC relates to its specific functions, such as communications about renewals, past due continuing education, criminal record checks, and case studies.


9.   Who conducts the quality assurance program, for continuing competency?

Correct answer: COBC                   75% of respondents were correct!

The COBC is required to develop and administer a quality assurance program, to support and promote high practice standards amongst opticians. Licensed Opticians meet entry-to-practice competencies when they are first registered and must continue to meet various benchmarks of competence as they progress in their career, with the help of this type of programming.


10. Who establishes, monitors, and enforces professional standards and ethics?

Correct answer: COBC                   84% of respondents were correct!

The COBC has a duty to serve and protect the public interest by overseeing the conduct and competence of Licensed Opticians in BC. The COBC sets and enforces practice standards and responds to complaints when standards are not being met. 


11. Who educates consumers about eye health?

Correct answer: OAC                     55% of respondents were incorrect.

While the COBC can provide some information to the public, it is the OAC that provides consumer education through postings on its website, social media channels, by responding to consumer questions and by initiating and encouraging community outreach programs. The COBC would educate the public about the reasons to see a Licensed Optician, and what they should expect when obtaining services from a regulated health care professional.


Thank you to those registrants who participated in our survey! We hope that the information above provides some clarification on the differences between the COBC and the OAC.

Please be sure to review the results of the second section of the survey, which will be published at a later date.

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