Marnie Simpson contact lens ads banned

Instagram posts by reality television star Marnie Simpson have been banned for encouraging the unsafe buying of coloured contact lenses.

The Geordie Shore star promoted her range of lenses for retailer iSpyEyes in several posts in September and October last year, mentioning blue and Halloween styles.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) upheld a complaint that the lenses, despite being “zero-powered” or non-corrective, could only be legally sold under the supervision of a registered optometrist, optician or medical practitioner.

An Instagram post by Marnie Simpson for iSpyEyes. (ASA/PA)
An Instagram post by Marnie Simpson for iSpyEyes. (ASA/PA)

ISpyEyes argued that coloured contact lenses could be sold across the UK and EU without the supervision of an eyecare practitioner, supplying legal advice that the products were not covered by the Opticians Act 1989 because they were not designed to correct, remedy or relieve a sight defect.

Simpson’s response, provided by her solicitors, referred to the FAQ section of the iSpyEyes website that stated “you should visit your optician for a lens fitting prior to purchase as all our lenses are one size”.

They added that they did not consider that Simpson was encouraging an unsafe practice.

The ASA said consumers who saw the ads would assume that zero-powered contact lenses could be legally sold by the advertiser in the UK, and that there were no safety concerns associated with buying the product directly from the retailer.

It noted that the Eyecare Trust charity advised that poorly fitting lenses, extended wear and poor hygiene habits could all lead to eye infections, corneal ulcers, abrasions and even loss of vision, while the NHS website stated that people should not “wear any contact lenses, including novelty lenses, that haven’t been properly fitted to your eyes”.

The ASA also consulted the General Optical Council (GOC), which confirmed that the sale of such lenses were illegal if they were not sold by or under the supervision of registered specialists.

The ASA said: “We had not seen any evidence that the lenses were being sold by, or under the personal supervision of, a registered optometrist, registered dispensing optician or registered medical practitioner.

“It was therefore illegal for them to be sold from the website to consumers in the UK.”

It added: “We told iSpyEyes and Marnie Simpson not to encourage an unsafe practice or to imply that they could legally sell zero-powered contact lenses in the UK.”

A spokesman for Simpson said: “Marnie takes the concerns raised seriously and will address the ASA’s ruling in the proper way.”