Geordie Shore star Marnie Simpson and iSpyEyes have been sanctioned by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) for social media posts promoting cosmetic contact lenses.
In a decision published online, the ASA described how Ms Simpson published a series of posts on Instagram about iSpyEyes zero-powered contact lenses.
Examples of posts included: “Omg I’m so excited for Halloween this year! Ive [sic] got some amazing ideas!! Make sure to follow iSpyEyes for all the latest updates on new style [sic] of lenses available!”
“Pretty blue eyes…From my range @ispyeyes.”
‘Misleading’ UK consumers
A complainant challenged whether the advertisements on social media misleadingly implied that iSpyEyes could legally be sold in the UK.
Zero-powered contact lenses can only be supplied under the supervision of a registered optometrist, dispensing optician or medical practitioner.
A response from Ms Simpson’s solicitors highlighted a section of the iSpyEyes website encouraged customers to visit an optician before purchase.
They also drew attention to safety information on the website and a demonstration video featuring Ms Simpson.
The solicitors argued that Ms Simpson’s social media posts were not directed to those in the UK but her fan base in general, adding that Geordie Shore is broadcast in several other countries.
iSpyEyes told the ASA that they had received legal advice in 2010 that the lenses were not an optical appliance and therefore not covered by the Opticians Act 1989.
The ASA upheld the complaint. The regulator directed Ms Simpson and iSpyEyes not to encourage unsafe practice or imply that they could legally sell cosmetic lenses in the UK.
The ASA accepted that Ms Simpson had fans based all around the world but highlighted that the majority of her Facebook fans were based in the UK.
No evidence had been provided regarding the geographical location of Ms Simpson’s Instagram followers.
The decision highlighted that the iSpyEyes website was “clearly tailored” to UK consumers, with prices in pounds sterling and shipping options included next day UK delivery.
Contrary to the understanding of iSpyEyes, the ASA stated that the cosmetic lenses are covered by the Opticians Act.
“Zero-powered contact lenses were referred to explicitly in the legislation,” the regulator highlighted.
The ASA added that there was no evidence that an optometrist, dispensing optician or medical practitioner was involved in the sale of the iSpyEyes contact lenses, or in supervising the sale.
“It was therefore illegal for them to be sold from the website ispyeyes.com to consumers in the UK,” the decision emphasised.
The safety information and recommendation to visit an optician before purchase was only made available to customers who clicked on the frequently asked question of the site.
“It was irrelevant to the question of whether the lenses were being sold by or under the supervision of an appropriate person, in accordance with the Act,” the decision noted.
The General Optical Council’s director of casework and resolutions, Dionne Spence, welcomed the ASA’s decision to take action against the advertisements.
“We helped them on the case and we are currently exploring further ways of working with the ASA to help tackle illegal online sales,” she said.
Ms Spence added that customers who buy and wear cosmetic contact lenses without getting professional advice risk harming their eyes.
The AOP Board member, Emma Spofforth, said that the decision acknowledged the “very serious risk” that zero-powered lenses can pose to wearers and will hopefully help to discourage people from purchasing them.
“Aside from the promotion of these products via social media, we also know, from member feedback, that many optical practitioners are aware of illegal sales in their local area. If this is the case, and members would like to do something about it, they may be interested to know that an information leaflet, which is designed to look like a formal cease and desist notice, can be downloaded from the AOP website to print and distribute to the relevant shops,” Ms Spofforth said.
Image credit: Getty/Sarinyapinngam