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Buying Glasses Online Has Its Pitfalls

Online companies have offered free or discounted eyeglasses and contacts in the past.  Should we take advantage of these offers?  Do you really save money at the end of the day?  Whats missing?

The internet may offer consumers the benefits of great selection and lower prices.  But for what cost?  The online companies dont have to answer to anybody.  There is no one there to oversee them to make sure their products' quality standards are up to par.  The consumer is not protected.

The most common problems were incorrect prescriptions and failure to meet minimum impact-resistance safety standards.  This means that the lens you purchase online may crack and shatter, causing a huge safety risk!

STUDY #1:  A Montreal study was conducted to evaluate accuracy of online orders of eyewear.  Four popular sites selling glasses online were selected including Clearly Contacts.  Each participant was asked to perform the entire ordering process alone.  The actual frames and lenses were then analyzed against professional standards.

Results showed prescription strength errors.  The glasses did not come out the way they were meant to be made.  Pupillary distance, frame height, and lens centration was also erronious in a large number of cases.

When the customer rated their satisfaction in comfort, 

70% did NOT give it a passing grade

With standardized parameters set by American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and International Organization for Standardization (ISO) the orders arrived at an alarming:

94% failure rate!

This all equals a big fat waste of money.  Even if it is only $26-495 dollars, its lost money and lost time.

STUDY # 2:  Another study was performed in the United States in 2011.   This study investigated prescription spectacles ordered from online vendors for compliance with prescription tolerances and impact resistance.

Orders were placed by several individuals to 10 of the largest online companies.  A total of 200 orders were placed, and 308 lenses were examined for compliance.

Overall, 44.8% of spectacles failed to meet prescription requirements or safety standards that would be deemed Safe for the customer.

This study showed:  About 50% of online purchases

did NOT meet prescription or

safety impact resistance standards!


Although costs may be somewhat reduced in an online purchase order, the customer does not appear to receive the quality and safety of product that they are believed to be purchasing.   If you want to compare cost of a product, make sure you are comparing apples to apples.

A NIKON, HOYA, or ESSILOR lens is much greater quality than a basic no-name overseas lens made in China.  The coatings of these cheaper lenses will peal, degrade, scratch, and damage quite easily.  You also cannot match the quality of service, care, and knowledge you receive from the assistance of a frame stylist or optician in a local shop or doctors office.


With an online pair of glasses, the consumer may not be able to see clearly at various distances, they can see double vision, and experience eye strain, neck tension, and headaches.  If a lens is not impact resistance to standards, then it can shatter in your eyes and cause permanent damage!

If you are buying contact lenses online, then you are at a four to five times greater risk for developing an aggressive eye infection that can lead to permanent vision loss.  The problem with buying contacts online is that you do not know how the contact lens will fit your eyes. If it fits too loose or too tight, then this will directly impact the health, vision, and comfort of your eyes.  A piece of plastic is essentially rubbing up against your eyeball everytime you blink.  These contact lenses come in a variety of shapes, materials, sizes, and prescriptions. An eye doctor can fit you properly with contact lenses to ensure you are in the right lens.

Each time you want to change contact lens brands, you must be refitted to ensure the new lens also fits correctly.  Online buyers assume that all contacts fit the same, and they also try to self treat themselves by bumping up their rx if their vision is blurry.  If your vision is blurry, its not always due to prescription changes. The eye health may be deteriorating and require medical attention. See an optometrist before you purchase additional contacts.

The take home message is that you should not sacrifice safety just to save a few bucks.  Afterall, there is no pricetag on our vision.  What price would you pay to get your vision back if you lost it?

Resources:   Evaluations of prescriptions and frames purchased from online eyewear vendors.  Dr. Benoit frenette

Safety and Compliance of prescription spectacles ordered by the public via the Internet, by Karl Citek, Ph.D, Daniel Torgerson, MBA,MS,et al.

"The Perils of Internet Dispensing," by JoAnne Sommers, Envision magazine, may 2012