The Risks of Buying Your Glasses and Contact Lenses Online

Buying prescription eyewear is not like buying books or clothes.  In Ontario, only regulated and licensed opticians, optometrists and ophthalmologists are legally permitted to dispense prescription eyeglasses and contact lenses.  These regulated and licensed practitioners are permitted to dispense eyewear via the internet under certain limited circumstances.  There are very good and compelling reasons for these restrictions.  The risks involved in internet dispensing relate to the health of your eyes and to the effectiveness of your eyewear. 

The following is a partial list of the risks and problems posed by internet dispensing:

  • There is no guarantee that you are dealing with a licensed practitioner.  Other countries have different standards for the production of eyewear and poor quality lenses can be very cheap.  Lenses can be ground so thin that they do not pass Ontario’s impact resistance regulations.  Shattered lenses can and do cause serious eye injury.
  • Contact lenses are medical devices regulated by Health Canada.  They can damage the eye even when well fitted and all the rules are followed.  When provided without proper fitting and follow-up the problems compound.  The importance of being under the care of an eye doctor throughout contact lens wear cannot be stressed enough.
  • Eyeglasses and contact lenses are fitted to each individual patient based on measurements of the eye and face.  Improperly fitted eyeglasses and contact lenses can cause headaches, dizziness and nausea. 
  • Prescription eyewear is not ‘one size fits all’.  Frames should fit the individual well, and lenses must be ground to exact specifications.  When you purchase your eyewear from your optometrist, you are paying for a variety of services- assessment of the prescription and your facial features and eye measurements to determine the best lens type for you, assistance in the dispensary to choose a frame that suits your prescription, face and style, ordering of the eyewear, checking the eyewear on its return from the lab to ensure it has been made correctly to our exacting standards, adjusting the eyewear to your face, instructing you in their use, and managing any adaptation issues which arise.  As well, the eyewear can be adjusted over time, as needed.  These are time-consuming steps involving technical expertise which does come with financial cost, and which is not available without additional cost when you purchase your eyewear on the Internet. 
  • With contact lenses purchased online, you may get a counterfeit product (eg. A lower quality product that is falsely labelled as being a higher quality brand).
  • When purchasing online, you may get a product that has been recalled due to safety concerns.
  • When purchasing online, you may get a product that has expired.
  • When purchasing online, you may receive a product that has not been stored properly.  Contact lenses need to be protected from freezing and heat.  Spectacle frames and lenses can warp if over-heated.