Optic 2000, France's largest optical chain, has asked for deferred payments after a commercial court gave the company a 29.5 million euro fine, to be paid to its competitor Optical Center.
"Billing fraud" to scam health insurance
Optic 2000 was fined because of a billing scam dating back to 2008, when its competitor Optical Center had sent mystery shoppers to Optic 2000. In a dozen cases, these mystery shoppers received a bill that did not reflect the initial quote, which proved - according to Optical Center - that Optic 2000 manipulated the pricing of its glasses and frames to get larger health insurance refunds.
The company, which has 1,200 stores in France, maintained it was a "mistake" by several of its members and that it could not be held accountable for that. The judge however accepted Optical Center's reasoning and considered it a case of "deliberate, organized fraud". The judge felt Optic 2000 could and should have intervened.
Appeal without suspensory effect
Optic 2000 immediately appealed the ruling, but that has no suspensory effect, which means it will have to pay the fine immediately. It has called for the "procedure de sauvegarde" (deferred payment), so that it can spread payments up to 10 years. The group also emphasized that this is not equal to "redressement judiciaire" (guardianship).
This particular case is not Optical Center's first court battle. It wants to become France's largest optician chain and has already engaged in judicial battles with Afflefou, Krys and Atol.