September 11th 2023

What to Consider if You Purchase Spectacles Online

Recent reports coming to the OCCS have shown an increase in complaints from those purchasing glasses online from unregistered suppliers on the Web.  It is understood that this trend in consumers purchasing online can be linked to the cost of living crisis. However, when buying online it is important to understand and mitigate any risks of ill-fitting or incorrect glasses. In this article, we explore how to manage the risks and what to look out for.

Independent consumer research has shown that it may be in your best interests to buy your prescription glasses and contact lenses in the same place as you had your sight test. This is because you can discuss your particular needs with eye-care professionals who have your clinical records and so know about your eyes. They will also be experts on which frames and lenses suit your prescription and lifestyle. Given the rise in costs and cost of living crises, it is worthwhile to speak to your optician if you are having financial difficulties as they may be able to suggest a payment plan or guide you to organisations that may be able to help.

The Public Perception Survey

The General Optical Council (GOC) has published its 2022 public perceptions research recently which gathers insight into the public’s views and experiences of opticians/optometrist practices in the UK.

The research measures and tracks experiences and perceptions over time. This year, public satisfaction remains high, with 94 per cent of respondents who had had a sight test/eye examination in the last two years reporting they were satisfied with their last visit to an opticians/optometrist practice.

Key findings included:

  • 34 per cent of respondents said they would go to an opticians/optometrist practice first if they woke up with an eye problem – an all-time high for the profession and in line with those who would first approach a GP (35 per cent). Differences were found between nations: 51 per cent of respondents in Scotland would go to an opticians/optometrist practice first, compared to 45 per cent in Northern Ireland, 42 per cent in Wales and 27 per cent in England.
  • 42 per cent of respondents stated that they would consider undertaking their sight test or eye examination remotely, with more than half of respondents (52 per cent) being likely to choose a service in which a computer diagnosed an eye condition without an optometrist being involved.
  • 87 per cent said they were satisfied with the protections in place during their last optician visit to protect them from coronavirus.
  • Steve Brooker, Director of Regulatory Strategy, said: “We are delighted that public confidence and satisfaction in the profession remains high, especially after a particularly challenging couple of years. We want to thank our registrants for their continued hard work and dedication to the profession and for delivering high-quality eyecare to the public.

“It is notable that just as many people with an emergency eye problem would now seek initial care from an optician as a GP. It is encouraging to see the public recognise the ability of registrants to meet a wider range of patient needs, although clearly, for now, the picture is different across the UK.

“We hope to continue seeing high public satisfaction being maintained and encourage registrants to use the insights from this research to help deliver high-quality optical care services.

It goes without saying that, with more complex prescriptions, such as high prescriptions or varifocals, or if there are large differences between each eye, it’s especially important that accurate measurements are taken to properly centre the lenses for your eyes, as this helps make sure your vision is as clear as possible and the glasses don’t cause eye strain or headaches.

We would like to emphasise the  bespoke nature of spectacles and that, in particular, the dispensing measurements relating to varifocals and stronger Rx are critical to safe and effective functioning them.

For these reasons, it is always recommended that you buy your glasses or contact lenses from an optical practice. However, after a sight test, you are free to buy them wherever you choose. If you do decide to buy them online instead, our advice below is designed to help you avoid suppliers who are unregulated and who could be selling poor-quality products or those which don’t fit properly.

What to consider when buying glasses or contact lenses online:

  1. Fitting

Glasses and contact lenses can be harmful if they aren’t fitted and cared for properly. Also, if you buy glasses online you may end up paying more if you then need to pay to have them properly adjusted at your local optical practice. Always get your glasses or contact lenses fitted by an eye-care professional, and have regular check-ups with an optometrist.

  1. Research your supplier

Do your research. Only buy from a reputable supplier who has good reviews and is genuinely based in the UK.

  1. Contact lens specification

If your online supplier is based in the UK, they should check that you have a valid contact lens specification (the details you need to be able to order your lenses). Your specification is provided by your optometrist, contact lens optician or medical practitioner and is valid until your next sight test is due (between one and two years).

  1. Glasses for children

Children’s glasses can only be supplied by, or under the supervision of, a registered optometrist, medical practitioner or dispensing optician, so they should not be available to buy online. This is because an inaccurate prescription or glasses that don’t fit properly can lead to permanently damaged vision in children – especially if their eyes are still developing.


Looking after your eyes

It is important you visit your optometrist regularly. They will always check that your eyes are healthy as part of your sight test. This will help protect your sight and identify any conditions early, when treatment is likely to be more effective.

If you have been affected by any of the issues in our article, our team may be able to assist or advise you. Contact our experienced mediators via or call 0344 800 5071.

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