Tackling illegal contact lens sales

The AOP and the GOC have produced a leaflet to help tackle the illegal sale of contact lenses

The Association of Optometrists (AOP) is working in collaboration with the General Optical Council (GOC) to tackle the illegal sale of zero-powered cosmetic and novelty contact lenses.

In the UK, zero-powered cosmetic contact lenses can be supplied only under the supervision of a registered optometrist, dispensing optician or medical practitioner but many High Street shops, who stock them without the required practitioner, are in breach of the law.

The AOP and GOC have jointly produced an information leaflet Do you know the law on selling contact lenses?, which sets out the facts and the GOC’s legal remit in this area to take action. The leaflet has been developed for use by optical practitioners who wish to advise local suppliers of the law around contact lenses, and inform them that they should stop selling them illegally.

Emma Spofforth, Chairman, AOP Independents’ Committee, said: “Cosmetic and novelty lenses, regularly worn for fancy-dress, can pose a very serious risk to wearers if unsuitable or misused. Eye infections as a direct result of cosmetic lenses have been known to cause permanent damage to the eyes and in some extreme cases, even blindness. We are launching this resource to help address the issue of illegal sales which increases the chances of something going wrong for the individuals who wear them, and, in many cases, do not even know they are putting their eye health at risk.

“We know, from member feedback, that many optical practitioners are aware of illegal sales in their local area and want to notify the vendor that they are breaking the law but perhaps feel they haven’t the means to do so. This leaflet gives practitioners a way in and sets out the legalities in plain terms.”

Alistair Bridge, Director of Strategy at the GOC said: “Often we find that sellers of cosmetic contact lenses are not aware of the law, or of the potential risks to patients if a professional is not involved in the sale. The first step to get them to cease illegal sales is therefore often as simple as letting them know what the law is. This leaflet sets the law out for retailers in clear terms and will be a useful aid for anyone who wants to help us tackle the problem in their local area.”

The leaflet, Do you know the law on selling contact lenses?, is designed to look like a formal cease and desist notice, that optical practitioners can print and distribute to the relevant shops. If individuals would prefer not to hand it to a member of shop staff directly, they can put it through their letterbox, and then notify the GOC if they continue to stock the lenses after a period of time.

AOP members can download the leaflet at


For more information, please contact Serena Box, PR and Media Manager, at the Association of Optometrists, [email protected] or telephone 020 7549 2063.

Notes to Editors

Association of Optometrists

The Association of Optometrists (AOP) is the leading representative membership organisation for optometrists in the UK. We support over 80% of practising optometrists, to fulfil their professional roles to protect the nation’s eye health. As a founding member of the Optical Confederation we work with others to improve eye health for the public good. For more information, visit

General Optical Council

The GOC is the regulator for the optical professions in the UK. Its purpose is to protect the public by promoting high standards of education, performance and conduct amongst opticians. The Council currently registers around 29,000 optometrists, dispensing opticians, student opticians and optical businesses.