Warning over dangers of cheap online glasses

novelty glassesKirsty Wigglesworth/AP/Press Association Images

The advent of online shopping has brought us all sorts of benefits - from convenience to far lower prices. However, Which? is warning today that when it comes to buying glasses, there are some very real risks.

Researchers bought 36 pairs from 13 online sellers, and discovered problems with 15 of them - some of which could be very risky.


Of the 15 problematic glasses, four were actually classed as 'woeful' by the consumer association. There were a variety of problems, among the most worrying of which was that the glasses did not always match the prescriptions sent to the company.

There were some sets of varifocals which caused the researchers particular alarm. Instead of measuring the distance between the pupils, the companies guessed. Which? concluded that: "If lenses like these are not positioned accurately, the glasses could be unsafe when driving and using stairs." The website concerned rejected the claims, saying that it tells customers to ask their optician for measurement before they order.

Another pair of varifocals combined an inaccurate guess at the heights and distance between the pupils, with the wrong prescription. Which? said it meant the glasses were: "likely to cause headaches and eye strain as well as making the glasses unsafe, for example, when driving."

Can you still buy online?

Which? did, however, accept that very simple glasses, and very low prescriptions were more likely to be fulfilled adequately. Of the nine basic glasses tested, eight were fine. The ninth was for the wrong prescription.

It seems, therefore, that there are more risks associated with buying more complicated glasses online. Those with more demanding needs, may be better off on the high street.

Problems on the high street

It is worth noting, however, that buying glasses is not without its issues, however, you do it. A previous Which? investigation into off-the-shelf reading glasses from high street shops found that half of them were not fit for purpose. Again the prescriptions were often different to the ones advertised, and there were issues about the lens centres - which were often either too far apart or at different heights.

Which? has also tested optometrists in previous tests and found that just under a third of the 40 individuals tested fell short - and only one was rated as excellent.

What can you do?

So how do you go about choosing an optician? Which has previously found that independent opticians - trading on their own name - came out as more reliable in their tests - so these are worth considering.

When you are looking for an optician, it's worth talking to number of people in the area about their experiences - ideally people who have been wearing and testing out their glasses for a while.

Often people will select an optician purely on the grounds they are offering a free eye test or 2-for-1 deals. However, in this instance it's worth considering the full service, the reputation and skills of the optician and the individuals making the glasses too.

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