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Buying glasses online may be no bargain

Online shopping touts savings and convenience, but when it comes to making an investment in one’s health, should consumers leave their eyesight up to a few hasty mouse clicks?

“. . . it is important for the consumer to be fully informed regarding the potential pitfalls. . .”

A new public relations campaign recently launched by the AOA to hundreds of major media outlets nationwide encourages consumers to be wary of ordering prescription eyeglasses online, and reinforces the AOA’s recommendation to purchase eyeglasses from a local optometrist.

However, if consumers do choose to head online for eyeglasses, the campaign advises them to take into consideration all the factors that go beyond simple price and stylish look—and there are a lot.

Who manufactures the lenses? Do they meet federal standards for impact resistance? Are the frames genuine or counterfeit? Will they fit and be comfortable? Is the website genuine or a front for churning out inferior products—all important questions, says AOA Board member Samuel D. Pierce, O.D.

“The most important thing a consumer can do is make sure their eyes are healthy by seeing their local optometrist,” Dr. Pierce says. “If a consumer believes that ordering a pair of glasses online is in their best interest, it is important for the consumer to be fully informed regarding the potential pitfalls of doing so.”

‘Caveat emptor’ and de facto stats
AOA members can access complimentary patient education brochures online to better inform their patients, and others in the community, about purchasing prescription eyeglasses online. “Let the Buyer Beware” brochures provide a word of warning with statistics from an AOA study published in 2011 with the Optical Laboratories Association and The Vision Council that reinforces the snares of online orders.

According to the study, researchers asked 10 individuals to purchase two pairs of eyeglasses, including pairs for both adults and children, from 10 of the most popular online optical vendors. Of the 200 pairs ordered, only 154 pairs were received, and several of those were delivered incorrectly, e.g., single vision instead of bifocals or with/without selected lens treatments.

But of those eyeglasses received, the study reported:

  • 44.8 percent had incorrect prescriptions or safety issues;
  • 29 percent had at least one lens fail to meet required prescription;
  • 19 percent of adult lenses failed impact resistance testing; and,
  • 25 percent of children’s lenses failed impact resistance testing.

“The peer-reviewed study revealed that nearly half of all glasses ordered online had either prescription errors or failed to meet minimum safety standards. Personally, I find that very scary,” Dr. Pierce says. “My patients deserve better than that.”